WC#935 - Blended - Mesquite Flats Milky Way

I should call this ‘even a blind dog finds a bone sometimes’ - this morning started with walking quite literally in circles among the dunes, even with the aid of my GPS track from the night before, trying to find dunes and compositions that I had picked out for a very early (and moonless) start out into the Mesquite Flat dunes of Death Valley. And while I did find a few of the locations that I attempted to light-paint for foregrounds, ultimately I decided to use what night I had left to adding to my bank of dark-sky MW frames to do some blends with once I got home. Then, just as the first hints of light started adding features to the scene around me, I climbed up to the top of this dune and found this pristine S-curve ridge leading into the distance. Still not sure if this was a dune I’d seen the night before or not, but at the time, it really didn’t matter.

What technical feedback would you like if any?

What artistic feedback would you like if any?

All feedback welcome.

Pertinent technical details or techniques:

2 image focus stack foreground (180sec exposures, f/8, ISO200), one darker frame for the mountains to aid in blending (and it was slightly better focus at infinity). Milky Way frame was blended in from earlier in the night. Full disclosure: I don’t think the MW position is quite accurate, but I was so turned around at this point, I’d have to start comparing mountain ridge silhouettes to day time shots on Google maps to be sure.

Foreground shots were taken at 24mm, MW is actually wider at 14mm as well, I started to use a 24mm frame, but in the context of the dunes it actually felt like it was taken at a longer focal length than the foreground and slightly unnatural so I selected a 14mm frame to use.

I did a lot of color work to make the sky and foreground colors feel harmonious, my MW blends can run a little too magenta in balance sometimes, so tried to avoid that in this edit, while still staying true to the very early blue-hour tones coming off the sand dunes.

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Jon, the color coordination between the sky and the dunes looks great. The big leading S-curve is also great. The brightness just above the horizon might be high clouds or distant city lights. It always amazes me how much light even a small town many miles distant can add to a night sky. It might be worth burning-in the lower sky through a darks mask, but this does look fine as presented.

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Jon, what a fantastic composition. The color on the dunes is great. I know they can take on a pinkish hue on the edges of daylight. I do feel the magenta in the sky is a little strong, and the MW seems a bit densely edited, making it darker than a starfield might be. Really interesting though to have the MW on the horizon like that. Great shot, and super work on the blending choices.

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Jon: This is just wonderful. I love dunes but have only been to DV once. What really struck me on our visit was the clarity of the sky but I was not into any kind of astrophotography then. This looks great to me all around. Superbly crafted image. >=))>

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