It was gusty around here for a few days last week, and after the wind stopped on Saturday I noticed that the sky was exceptionally clear. So, on a whim, I decided to head out and try my luck at a star trails picture.

However, I didn’t feel like making the long trek out to Anza Borrega, so I compromised instead on Lake Henshaw, which is less dark than Anza but also about an hour closer. I knew this would mean a fair amount of light pollution on a long-exposure shot, so I decided to work with that by deliberately putting some light in the frame. The result is a picture that looks as if it were taken at sunrise. In reality, the yellow glow—from Warner Springs, about ten miles away—is only barely visible to the naked eye. But if you leave your shutter open for three hours, it turns into something very bright indeed.

I’m not sure if I’ll try this again. It has to be done in winter, when the nights are long, and for a really good shot I’d probably have to trek out to Joshua Tree or Death Valley. And even at that, there are limits to what I can get. There’s a lot of noise in this picture, due to my camera’s small, mid-quality sensor. A six-hour exposure would make the noise even worse, and would also require me to spend six hours in my car while the camera is working. I’m not sure that’s worth it.

Still, I’m glad I did this. I like the spot I found, and the orange glow from the light pollution is actually kind of entertaining.

December 29, 2018 — Lake Henshaw, California

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate