Behind the photo: night bouldering

Hello! Today I am going to tell you how I took this photo. The primary point is this is one shot, not a composite picture. It wasn’t made from parts of different images. And it makes this photography hard to take.

Why? So, I have done a lot of long exposure photos before, and to capture the Milky Way is not a problem, but usually, all objects on pictures don’t move. For capturing the stars, you have to have exposure something about 20-30 sec, and you should to keep all objects such, let’s say, tents, boulders, trees, immovable. Otherwise, they will be blurry.

But, as you can see there is a man in the photo. And he is not standing; he is climbing a boulder. And ask him to be a statue for 30 sec is impossible.

So I had two questions. How can I freeze a climber on the photo and light up the boulder at the same time? I started to think how I can solve this issue. I could use a flashlight for painting by light and bring up the foreground from the dark, but it doesn’t resolve the first question – freezing the guy.

I decided to use a flash. Usually, a flash doesn’t work for these photos, because even the lowest power gives too much light. So I used just a pilot light. It applies for testing flashes and provides a minimal amount of light.

We spent a few days in preparation. On the first day, we found the boulder, tested out a few positions which will be nice-looking on the photo. I figured out time when the Milky Way will be at the place where it should be for the pictures.

We came to the spot around 2 am and started to work. I set up the camera and made all the settings for capturing the Milky Way.

Then I tested out the flash and figured out which side I need to point it and to be sure the foreground will get a right amount of light.

After that, my friend was climbing up on the boulder, while I was illuminating his way with a regular flashlight. As soon he had reached the right place, I turned off my flashlight, turned on the camera, triggered the pilot light on my flash and the guy jumped off and ran away, while the camera was shooting the rest of the scene.

We repeated it a few times, but not too many, as it wasn’t easy to climb up this route again and again in the dark. And the temperature was freaking cold, by the way!

When I came home, I made my regular “Milky Way” post-processing which includes adjusting the color temperature, saturation, contrast and other typical things for this type of photos.

In the next two blog posts, I am going to dive deeper into technical details and nuances of shooting this kind of pictures, and aspects of post-processing. Subscribe to my email list and don’t miss next posts!

Thanks! I hope you like that story! Don’t hesitate to share it on Facebook, I will appreciate.

And I want to say huge thanks for the help and posing to Kostya Garmash. You rock, man!