Star Circles Over Caltech Owens Valley Radio Observatory


In the spring of this year I went out to Owens Valley in California twice to try shooting star circles at this location. Notwithstanding some pilot error, the results were terrible. Between the fact that the big dish spins constantly albeit slowly, the red light on top which washed out the entire image when combined to make the star circles, and light pollution from the town of Bishop not too far away in the distance, the star circles just weren't very good. Rather they were washed out and not worth the extraordinary amount of time it takes to process them.


I still had this lingering idea in my mind of what it would look like were it dark and the dish were still. Then I remembered I had this star circle shot I had done at Eureka dunes in northern death Valley a few years back. The sky there is as dark as I've ever seen anywhere, and the star circles came out gorgeously. So what you're looking at now when you see this image is a composite. The sky is made from approximately 600 images shot a few years back in Death Valley and assembled by me with much experimentation as it's always required in these. The foreground is two images: the radio dish pointed towards the sky is from one image I took as the sun was starting to go down, and if you notice the person at the bottom of the dish, that's a separate image of my friend, Mike Wilson, who’s been a big supporter of my work and came out with me on one of the shoots. I didn’t like the dish in the full image of Mike as it was too bright, so we took mike out of that earlier image and dropped him into the foreground I liked. I have to share some credit with graphics wizard, Paul Marko, who helps me pull these crazy ideas out of my head and turn them into images I'm proud to share.


I wrote a blog piece explaining more about how I put these images together, and you can read it here: https://www.michaelleejackson.com/post/the-story-behind-my-cerro-gordo-star-circles-photograph. There are a few other star circle images and stories in my blog so have a gander if you're so inclined.