Marshall Point Lighthouse - Aaron Priest Photography

On the night of August 11, 2013, the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, I drove down to Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde, Maine to help out my friend Mike Taylor of Taylor Photography with one of his night photography workshops. I setup a Panoneed robotic panning head with two Promote Controls to take some HDR spherical timelapses so I’d be free to do other things while it shot away in the background. I had never attempted an HDR panorama at night before (other than manually blending two exposures as layers in Photoshop, one for the sky and one for the ground), but it was necessary with this scene to capture the entire dynamic range from the lighthouse to the Milky Way. Each panorama was shot with a Nikon D700 camera & 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, stitched from 91 images, 13 positions x 7 exposures spaced 2 EV apart @ 14mm, f/2.8, ISO 2500, and 1/125 to 30 second exposures. I don’t normally like going as far as a 2 EV step, but I also didn't want to shoot more than 7 photos because the stars would move quite a bit between images for the panoramas. I disabled long exposure noise reduction and shot some dark frames at f/22 with the lens cap on to remove the hot pixels later via PixelFixer. It still took about 44 seconds to shoot each bracket, and a little over 11 minutes to shoot each sphere (13 bracketed positions per sphere for a total of 91 images per sphere). I let the Panoneed run in timelapse mode for half an hour to an hour and then I’d move the tripod to another location for a different perspective. I didn't get enough stitched panoramas as frames for a timelapse movie, but it did give me a better chance of catching some meteors for each panorama, and also to mask out headlamps and such from everyone walking around taking photos. I ended up with six good spherical panoramas. Click the play button in the preview image to see the virtual tour.

The light at Marshall Point is a fixed white light, it doesn't rotate or blink. The window frames cast beautiful long shadows across the sky that show up quite dramatically in a long exposure. We shot all night into sunrise. During the blue hour before dawn I put away the Panoneed and shot a static timelapse from the base of the lighthouse pointed towards the North Star to get some arcing comet trails in the sky. The star trails photo in the gallery below was made from 27 photos taken from 4:09 to 4:26 AM @ 14mm, f/3.2, ISO 1600, and 30 second exposures.

At daybreak I switched to my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and put on a B+W 10 stop ND filter. The orange and purple image in the gallery below was blended from three exposures in two stop increments, taken around 5:46 AM @ 44mm, f/16, ISO 200, and a total of 318 seconds (3 brackets of 15, 61, and 242 seconds). The sun was behind the rocks to the left on the first two frames and just started peeking over them hitting the ocean near the end of the longest exposure, creating a really warm color compared to the cooler white balance of the previous two exposures in the foreground. I liked the effect and added to it with an orange graduated filter. Exposure fusion was done with Photomatix' Merge to 32-bit TIFF for Lightroom. Orange graduated filter and glow was added with Color Efex Pro.

The last photo in the gallery of the sunrise over the rocks was blended from nine photos taken at 5:52 AM @ 24mm, f/16, ISO 100, and a total of 3.6 seconds (1/8 through 1.6 seconds in 1 stop increments). Exposure fusion was done with Photomatix' Merge to 32-bit TIFF for Lightroom. Neutral graduated filter and glow was added with Color Efex Pro.


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