360 Degree View of Stars at Death Valley National Park

Gone are those days where panoramic images are forced to be displayed flat. Facebook introduced a feature to display 360 panoramic images. This highly interactive medium allows users to tilt and view the image in all directions giving the user a very unique perspective. I can only envy folks that have a virtual reality headset. Also, I am over joyed that one of my images that I photographed in 2013, was featured by Death Valley national park’s official page leading to be shared by over 1500 people and several encouraging and kind comments.

Click to Head over to my Facebook page to view the interactive image.
 

Observation and Imagination in The Starry Night

During my quick 5 day Trip in 2013 to Las Vegas, Death Valley and Zion national parks, one of the highlights was viewing the star studded crystal clear sky at Badwater basin. It is amazing how clear the crystalline salt bed was visible at night once eyes get adjusted to the ambient light. To my advantage – moon was in it’s last quarter and I felt ecstatic as I parked my car  at Dante’s point that night and slept for a few hours.

View of the Badwater salt basin from Dante’s viewpoint. That is one amazing view from a parking lot !

The altitude difference is staggering. The Dante’s viewpoint stands at an amazing 5476 feet and the Badwater basin is at, negative 279 feet making it the deepest place in North America. I woke up a few hours before sunrise and drove an hour ! from Dante’s viewpoint to reach the Badwater basin. Snapped on my trusty headlamp and marched on the amazing salt bed. Few minutes into the walk, my eyes got adjusted to the ambient light, and i no longer needed my headlamp.

Suddenly, I saw the biggest most brightest green streak stretching through the entire sky. Extremely bigger than a meteor flyby. Till date I do not have a convincing answer as to what might have caused the bright streak. Aliens ? Missile testing ? I am unsure. The streak lasted for a few seconds and it was gone.

Zig zag formation unlike a comet streak.
Zig zag formation unlike a comet streak.

Making of the panoramic image 

I used a pair of flashes triggered wirelessly at varying powers to illuminate sections of the salt bed. After a bit of trial and error, I was able to expose the stars and the crystalline salt bed in one frame.I employed slightly higher ISO on my Nikon D7000 at that time, to help me balance out noise vs detail ratio.I took three rows of images, with each row consisting of 13 images, totaling 39 images. I was shooting with a Tokina 11-16mm lens at 16mm to keep the distortion low, and because of the wide angle lens,I was assured of the fact that I had enough overlap.

Individual frames used to construct the panorama
Individual frames used to construct the panorama
Spherical Image constructed using 39 individual frames. Stitched using Photoshop CC.

I hope to make more panoramic images that offer people a unique and immersive experience. I also plan to leverage easier techniques / mobile phones to create panoramic images on the go. Thanks much for reading through. Drop me a line, I would love to know your thoughts.

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