Glenn Randall Photography

Extraordinary landscape photography from Colorado and the West

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Milky Way over Bear Lake II



Milky Way over Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Milky Way over Bear Lake II, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

The best way to appreciate the immensity of our universe is to stand alone under a dark and moonless sky and contemplate the Milky Way. In an era of ever-increasing light pollution, many people have never seen the Milky Way, the diffuse band of light created by the hundreds of billions of stars of our own Milky Way galaxy. The Milky Way galaxy is shaped like a plate, not a sphere. We see the Milky Way when we look along the plane of the galaxy. The very brightest part of the Milky Way lies in the direction of the galactic hub, a mysterious region filled with clouds of gas and dust. I used two apps, Sun Surveyor and the Photographer’s Ephemeris, to calculate when the galactic hub would appear in the sky just to the right of Longs Peak as seen from Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.


I arrived in time to shoot sunset and scout the ideal location for the camera. I needed a place with a great view of Longs Peak, of course, but also a place where I could see Polaris, the North Star. To achieve the best possible quality in the image, I planned to use my iOptron SkyTracker Pro, a star-tracking device that counter-acts the Earth’s rotation. Digital noise is the great enemy of night photographers. Using a star-tracking device allowed me to make long exposures with low ISOs and still capture pin-sharp stars. Accurate tracking on the stars requires aligning the tracking device with Polaris. To further reduce noise and increase quality, I used Stack Modes. In brief, using Stack Modes requires shooting multiple identical images, then stacking the images like layers in a wedding cake in appropriate software. The software then drills down through the image stack at each point in the image and chooses the median value of all the pixels it encounters. This effectively eliminates noise.


To employ this technique for this image, I shot four frames tracking on the stars, then registered the stars and reduced noise using RegiStar from Auriga Software. Frames shot as the camera tracked the stars had blurry land, of course, so the next step was to turn off the tracker and shoot four stationary frames for the land. I reduced the noise in those frames using Photoshop’s Stack Modes-Median. The reflections of the stars moved, of course, just like the stars themselves, so I used RegiStar again to register and reduce noise in the reflections of stars contained in the good-land exposures. I then combined the good-sky, good-land, and good-sky-reflection shots in Photoshop. I shot all the frames with a 35mm f/1.4 lens, which gathers a tremendous amount of light per second of exposure. That, in turn, reduces noise still further. The final result of all this digital wizardry was an image that captured both the Milky Way and the land in rich detail, without the gritty digital noise that mars so many night images.

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Glenn Randall Photography  |  2945 Colby Dr.  |  Boulder CO 80305-6303 | Office 303 499-3009  |  Mobile 720 320-7126

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I offer over 100 images on this site, in four or five sizes each and as many as five different presentations (loose, matted-only, framed, gallery-wrap canvas, and gallery float). It is impossible to keep every size and presentation of every image in stock at all times. Accordingly, most of the items I offer for sale on are hand-built one at a time as customers order them. It normally requires between five and ten business days to complete an order, but it may take longer if I am on an extended shoot. Shipping time is in addition to these figures. To get specific information about delivery time for a particular item, please call 303 499-3009 or email me. I will do my best to accommodate rush orders. Thanks for your patience!

All photographic prints, regardless of presentation (loose, matted-only, framed, etc.) are delicate and require careful packaging to be shipped safely. Accordingly, all online purchases will have a 15 percent charge added for shipping and handling. This shipping charge only covers shipments to the continental United States. Please contact me for a quote on shipping to Alaska, Hawaii, or to international destinations. If you would like to pick up your print at my home office in Boulder rather than have it shipped, please call 303 499-3009 (office) or 720 320-7126 (mobile) to complete your purchase and make arrangements for pickup. Alternatively, I can deliver prints in the Denver metro area for $1.00 per mile based on round-trip mileage.

All matted-only and framed prints larger than 24x30 inches, all gallery-wrap canvases and gallery-float prints larger than 30x40, and all framed panoramas wider than 30 inches, are too big to be shipped via FedEx ground and too big to fit in any standard-size art box. While these prints can be shipped, they require a custom-made crate and the cost is exorbitant ($300+). I strongly suggest that all customers who live outside the Denver metro area and who wish to purchase a print larger than the maximums specified above buy the loose version and take it to the custom frame shop of their choosing. Loose prints can be shipped rolled at the standard shipping rate of 15 percent of the retail price. I will gladly provide detailed instructions to the framer on the moulding I use and my preferred method of mounting and framing the piece.

I use elegant hardwood frames on all of my framed prints. The image above right shows the frame I use for the smallest framed size of this image. I use proportionally larger frames with the same color finish for larger prints. The moulding shape will vary, depending on the size. For more information on the frames I recommend for different size prints, please visit my framing page.

Studio Moulding frame 353-125 cherry Studio Moulding Forte 4934 mahogany-finish picture frame Studio Moulding Forte 4834 mahogany-finish picture frame

I allow returns for a full refund (minus shipping) for 30 days from the date of delivery if you are dissatisfied with the print. You are responsible for the cost of shipping the print back to me, including the cost of insuring it for the full retail value, and the print must arrive in salable condition for a refund to be issued.

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