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David Kingham

Eye of the Needle Geminids Meteor Shower

On Thursday afternoon I drove 5 hours to meet up with Jason Hatfield and Mike Berenson in South Dakota. Our target was in Custer State Park on the Needles Highway, after driving past this rock formation called 'The Eye of the Needle' this past summer I knew I had to come back to photograph it at night. But it needed to be something special. The view faces West, so I knew there was no way to show the milky way behind it. Later in the year I was looking for locations to photograph the Geminids, as soon as I realized that the radiant would be in the Western sky I knew where I needed to go.

Our trip was full of uncertainty due to the heavy cloud cover over the entire region. We nearly bailed on the plan in the middle of Wyoming, the forecasts were looking extremely unfavorable and the clouds still lingered above. We met up with Mike in Lusk, WY and he persuaded us to stick to the original plan. Thankfully, as we entered South Dakota the skies slowly started to clear.

When we arrived in Custer, SD the skies were completely clear of clouds, things were looking up! Then we turned down the Needles Highway. ROAD CLOSED. With the warm weather we've had in Colorado I didn't even think about the road being closed. After a few minutes assessing the situation (freaking out) we realized it was only a mile hike to our location thanks to the gps, disaster averted.

We made our way to the needle and spent several hours light painting the rock formations, watching meteors and BS'ing with good friends.

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Technical Details:
30 second exposures at f/2.8, ISO 6400
Composite of 38 images taken over 8.5 hours, 36 for the meteors, 1 for the stars, and 1 dark frame for noise reduction.
The single image of the stars was selected to have the radiant of the Geminids in the upper left corner. The meteors were then layered in photoshop, masked to only show the meteors, and then rotated to correct for change of the radiant's position as it moves through the night.

2 minute exposures at f/2.8, ISO 400
Light painted with a xeon flashlight
Composite of 7 different exposures using different light painting techniques to highlight each rock with dramatic light

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