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Mike Berenson

Starlight Awakening In Ice Lake Basin

Stars and wildflowers work together in this night-time scene high up in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Sure, I could have captured some more colorful flowers, but there was something about the way these little white puff balls added to the overall comp by pointing to the reflected peak. This turned out to be the scene to remember as the weather denied a good sunset and sunrise. But that's okay with me because the chance to see this scene when I awoke made it all worthwhile.

My wife by the way, deserves a whole lot of credit on this one. She let me talk her into a plan that featured our camping above timberline - a risky proposition with the afternoon storms rolling in. But with a poncho and a whole lot of determination, we made it up through the rain to the upper basin in time to pitch a tent and make some dinner. Fortunately, the ugly weather was all gone leaving us some nice peaceful conditions for the night.

And while the weather was peaceful, the skies were thick with clouds – not a good prospect for night-time starry sky photography. The patterns told me that the morning would be clear and hopefully much of the night so I kept my optimism. I went to sleep with an alarm set for 11:30pm - just as the moon should start rising. When I got up at 11:30, I was disappointed to see a thick layer of clouds from horizon to horizon. So much for the moonrise... I set the alarm again for 1am in the hopes it would clear. When I got up at 1, it was still overcast. Determined not to give up, I set the alarm for 2am and went back to sleep. Finally at 2, I remember looking out of the tent and rejoicing like a little kid in a candy store that had just opened. After all, this was easily the most beautiful scene I’d ever woken up to.

This composite image was captured at an unnamed pond in Ice Lake Basin near Silverton, Colorado. Over the years, I’ve heard nothing but good things about this area and so I knew I had to go see for myself. Now, I can join the ranks of those who’ve been there and know just how cool it really is. On the technical side, two exposures were captured with my D800 and blended together in post-processing with a little help from Star Spikes Pro 2.

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