Since my initial upload one year ago, this photo has got more than 1.6 million hits. It was thousands of times facebooked, twittered, tumblred, and so on. It was published in newspapers and printed on book covers.
Obviously there must be something special with it. Many times people ask me to reveal the secret behind this. Is it a real photo or a photoshop trick? I will tell you the shocking truth. Read on.
A lot of stars, really.
Part One: where and how is it shot?
It was at the west coast of the island Sylt, North Sea. I was there from 4pm to 8pm. Yes, 4 hours. It was November and sunset was at 4:30pm. It was ice cold, with a heavy wind blowing from the sea. I made several great photos until it was getting dark. There was no moon at this time and later on the milky way appeared in it's glory. I shot until I was literally unable to use my fingers any more. Stupid me, I forgot my gloves.
At that time it was pitch black. I walked over the dunes and took the wooden stairs down. I took a last look back. An amazing view showed up. The Milky Way was right above the stairs. But I was so exhausted, hungry and cold. I almost wanted to give up, but then I made a last effort, and tried a final shot.
It looked good, but something was missing there. I first tried to light up the stairs with the flashlight. Looked better, but not what I wanted. It needed a human being in the image. Unfortunately, nobody was there for miles except me. So i set up the self timer, fired it and run up the stairs with the flashlight on. On top, I shut off the light and tried to stand still for 30 seconds, the exposure time.
Part Two: the post processing magic
Now there comes the point where many of you will be disappointed. Because there is simply no special magic. Honestly, at that time my photoshop skills were very limited. Most of the work was done in camera raw. In detail:
1. Adjusted the colour temperature. The raw file had a very brown tone.
Thats all. I've often thought about showing an improved version, but uploading it would result in a loss of 1.6m views and pages full of comments, so I've decided to let it in it's current state.
So the answer to the initial question is: there is no special photoshop magic in it. It's a photo, nothing else. Maybe a good one. The raw file looks pretty much the same. You can go out and do something similar. Maybe today night is a good time for you to start? Go out, shoot.