There are some images that I’m convinced I’ll go back to over and over again, and this is one of them.  Every time I learn something new about processing Milky Way images, or I get a picture of the night sky that’s a little better than the last, I think of this image.  Easter Island is one of my favorite places on this planet of ours, and the night that Holly and I got to visit the volcano where the Moai statues were created, under the stars, is definitely one of my all-time favorite travel experiences.  It was just amazing.  The reality of the images I got there though is this – at that time I was very early on in my journey of photographing the Milky Way, and frankly I just didn’t quite know what I was doing yet.  About a year after I originally took the images (you can see them here), I revisited those files and tried processing them again.  I was able to squeeze a little more detail out of those files (you can see the 2017 remaster here), and I’ve since gone back to them a number of other times, and I’ve now decided I’ve gotten about everything out of those originals as I can.

Well, I spent some time last week discussing how Milky Way images are processed, and there I mentioned that modern processing techniques make it easy to process the sky portion of an image separately from the foreground.  Now, typically I accomplish this by taking the foreground images on the same night as the sky images, and from the same place (though I may back up a bit so that I can see the whole sky, away from the foreground elements), but of course as artists we’re certainly not limited to those constraints (as I illustrated with this creation I made last year). So, what you’re looking at here in this week’s image is actually the foreground of the Moai I captured back in 2016, along with the night sky I captured in the Andes mountains of Chile last year.  If you really study the differences between this creation and the original images, you’ll note that the Milky Way is just a little higher in the sky here than in the originals, but this is how it would actually be oriented in the sky, approximately one month after I shot it in 2016 (so this is what it would look like in late February, instead of January).  Another thing that’s worth noting is that when I shot this night sky last year, I had absolutely perfect conditions, and I’m not convinced Easter Island ever has conditions quite like this.  The island of course does have very little light pollution, and it does get cloud free nights, but the humidity in the Andes can be very low (as it was when I was shooting), while the island is a tiny spec of land surrounded by the largest body of water we have, which keeps its humidity elevated.  It also gets cold on Easter Island, but not quite as cold as it was in the Andes when I visited, which when combined with low humidity, makes for the best of conditions.  Now, perhaps this would only yield *slightly* lower quality skies, which may or may not be perceptible in the final image… but I say all this to say, I’m not sure you’d ever be able to capture the above image on the island (and given the current political situation on the island, with ever increasing access restrictions, I know you couldn’t right now).  I sure would like to try again though!  🙂

More next week! 

–Dan Thompson

Title Address Description
Easter Island
Easter Island, Valparaíso, Chile

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