Here's an image from my camping trip at 20-Mile Bay (on Harrison Lake) in British Columbia last weekend. The image shows the night time view of the sky we had, looking roughly East from the camp site. The very big, bright point of light smack in the middle of the image is Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. If you look closely, just to the left of Jupiter, you can see a faint, sort of cloud of diffuse light – this is our head-on side view of one the spiral arms of the galaxy within which our solar system lies, the Milky Way. This arm consists of millions and millions of stars so distant from us that all we are able to see with the naked eye is a “milky”, homogenous smear of light.

For me, staring up into the heavens and seeing a scene like this is always a very emotional experience. In trying to describe what I feel, some of the words that come to mind are “incredible”, “humbling”, “awesome”, “inspiring”, “beautiful”, “mysterious”, “limitless”… It blows my mind to think about the fact that each of those thousands of tiny points of light that we can see with our naked eyes – which represent only a small fraction of the trillions upon trillions of points that are actually out there - is a whole other world (or collection of billions of other worlds, in the case of galaxies), some possibly similar to our own. Sitting under a starry sky like this, I find it much easier to appreciate the fact that I live on a tiny ball of rock, a mere nanospeck in the unimaginably vast universe – I find this very comforting (despite the fact that, as they say, the universe is constantly trying to kill me).

For those interested in the technical aspects of how I put together this image (I choose my words here very carefully): The image is actually a composite of two separate images, one to expose the stars as points of light (and not get the streaks that result from the rotation of the Earth upon its axis that becomes apparent with long exposures), and one to expose the lake, trees, mountains and so on properly. Going with only a single exposure would not have produced the end result I envisioned here: Either the foreground would have been severely underexposed (producing an image with a lot of “noise” and a stark lack of detail) or, as I mentioned, the stars would have appeared as streaks across the sky (which is an effect I sometimes go for, but not what I had in mind here). The two original photos were individually colour corrected and so on in Lightroom, and were then blended together into a final composite image in Photoshop (a very tedious process, one which I’m JUST starting to get the hang of a little!). The end result is something I feel fairly accurately represents what I actually saw with my own eyes that night.

I hope you enjoy this image, and that it inspires in you some of the wonder I experience myself every time I’m lucky enough to be able to get away from the city lights and set my eyes on the beauty of what’s “out there”.

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