Sunday, September 05, 2010

Big Dipper keeping watch over Wingra Park

Big Dipper Over Wingra Park
I've always sort of used the Big Dipper to get my bearings. Geographically, if you take the right edge of the ladle, extend its length upward five times in the same direction, you're at Polaris, the North Star. Emotionally, the constellation a familiar constant presence in the night sky of the Northern Hemisphere. It reconciles change with continuity as it rotates gracefully around Polaris with the turning of the seasons. Now is when it's especially low in the sky, reaching down practically to treetop level.

My eyes were too big for my stomach at the Taste of Madison last night. I came home feeling like a big lead balloon, and walked into the darkness of Wingra Park to get some fresh air and look at the stars in the clear night sky. I was struck by how serene the Big Dipper seemed, set off by the darkness of Wingra Park and the warm lights in the distance. It seemed to watch over the park like a protective presence. I walked back home to get the camera and tripod.

Sometimes when you're feeling crappy, the best thing to do is to try to make something beautiful -- or at least try to borrow some of the beauty of the universe.


Anonymous said...

Love it!! Can you tell me how you did it?

Madison Guy said...

Thanks. There are many different ways to do it, but they all start with a tripod. The problem is to keep the lights on the ground from washing out if you expose for the stars. So I made two exposures, one for the ground and one for the stars and then combined them. There's software that will do that (HDR), but I prefer to do it manually. And finally, because it was a surprisingly clear night for the city, all the other stars came up brighter than I wanted and the Big Dipper was almost "lost in the stars." So I selected the stars of the Big Dipper and blurred the slightly, making them seem more luminous. Then I inverted the selection, so that all the other stars were selected instead, and then I darkened them a bit. (As I noted on Flickr, it's not very astronomically accurate, but it felt right.) Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is amazing! Thanks for the How-To, though that tutorial is still over my aspiring-yet-amatuer head! I do have a tripod though! This is just gorgeous! Any chance you give lessons? :) I'm right up the block!!

George H. said...

I agree. Nice job, nice explanation, too. Well done.