Twilight Zone

Aurora Borealis and moon over Eureka in Southcentral Alaska.

I teach night photography workshops in Alaska. After covering the fundamentals of focusing techniques and how to get proper exposure, I then turn to a discussion on depth of field and composition. I tell participants not to abandon the principles of composition just because it is dark outside. A good foreground and middle ground will add to astrophotography subjects, whether it’s the Milky Way, constellations, the moon, or the Northern Lights.

This photo, Twilight Zone, is one I have envisioned for a long time. I wanted to depict a remote road in the dark of night with stars. One could imagine a traveler on foot walking down this road in search of gasoline after their car runs out. How far will they have to walk and what will their fate be, good or bad? It reminded me of the eerie scenes out of the late 50s, early 60s series, The Twilight Zone.

Leading lines are a simple, yet strong, design element in composition. The important thing is that they lead the viewer’s eye to something of interest, in this case, the moon. I used Photo Ephemeris to plan when the moon would be positioned over the highway; around midnight on this mid-September night.

To get the starburst effect, I stopped down the lens to f/11. The light from moon helped to delineate the road, but I still had to expose for 30 seconds at ISO 6400. The icing on the cake was the slow-moving, sweeping line of the Aurora Borealis positioned just above the moon. I was elated with my good fortune!

By the way, there are few places in North America where you can stand in the middle of the road at night and not get hit by a car. And how far would the aforementioned stranded motorist have to walk to find gasoline? Well, on this 138-mile stretch of mostly uninhabited road through the taiga of Southcentral Alaska, there is one lodge that has gasoline, if they are open!

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