Shooting stars: Night photography in Maine by Jack Fusco

Night Guardian by Jack Fusco

Astrophotographer Jack Fusco reveals the results of his night photography shoot and explains how he captured his fantastic shots.

Acadia National Park in Maine is a location known for its dark skies and beautiful views. In my previous article, How to plan a night photography shoot, I had talked about the planning that went in to my trip and some of the shots I had hoped to get while there. Now, we’ll take a look at how all of that planning paid off.  Upon arrival, I was greeted by an even better forecast than I had hoped. There would be clear to mostly skies for almost every night of my stay in Acadia.

In addition to the gear I listed in the previous article, I made a last minute decision to rent a Canon 5D Mark III along with a Canon 16-35 f/2.8 II.

Along the Way by Jack Fusco

Along The Way

I found the Sea Wall area of Acadia to be one of the darkest areas of the park. Unfortunately, there wasn’t too much in terms of foreground interest.  After some wandering, I decided to try and capture something that would express the feel of the Sea Wall area. The yellow lines in the road would provide the perfect leading lines to draw the viewer in to the shot. I found a section of road that would allow me to place the Milky Way on the far left side of the frame allowing the road to disappear in to the darkness.  I used my headlamp to light up portions of the road and trees, while leaving a good part still dark.

Canon 7D, Tokina 11-16 f/2.8

Night Guardian by Jack Fusco

Night Guardian

My initial stop at the Bass Harbor Lighthouse was cut short by the first cloud cover of my trip. Being one of the shots I was determined to get, I made one more trip back to the lighthouse on my last night in Acadia. I took a little over 300 frames, but a few unforecasted clouds forced me to cut the number of images I would use in the final shot.  In post I was able to go through and find the largest window without cloud cover to choose from. In the end, just over 100 images were used in the final shot to create the trails. The foreground was primarily dark and only lit by my headlamp or in this case a late passing boat.  Sadly, this shot did not come free of expense. Somewhere on the rocks in the foreground lays my favorite flashlight for light painting. I’ve accepted it as a fair trade for one of the main shots I had hoped to get in the park.

Canon 5D Mark III, 16-35 f/2.8 II

In a Glimpse by Jack Fusco

In a Glimpse

This shot wasn’t one I had planned out prior to this trip, but this composition was something I had in mind for some time now. I spotted the tree as I was walking and immediately knew I’d be shooting there. I made a note of where it was and what time everything would line in the sky.  When taking the shot, I used my headlamp to briefly light paint just the tree in foreground leaving everything else silhouetted.

Canon 5D Mark III, 16-35 f/2.8 II

Forever Wonder by Jack Fusco

Forever Wonder

A slight jump in the Aurora forecast changed plans for this night and a stop at Jordan Pond was now in place.  Overall, the decision paid off and the slight display from the Aurora glows through towards the bottom of the star trails. For this shot, I decided against light painting any of the foreground, pushing the focus towards the sky and any reflection in the water. To create the final image, 120 exposures were taken and then stacked during post processing.  I had initially planned on including closer to 200, but towards the end of the shoot, a small bit of condensation had built up on the lens rending many of the images unsuitable for use.

Canon 5D Mark III, 16-35 f/2.8 II

Cadillac Mountain Milky Way by Jack Fusco

Cadillac Mountain Milky Way

The peak of Cadillac Mountain sits at 1532 feet and is the highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard. A 3.5 mile road provides a path to the top; where on this particular night the winds were howling. From the top the night sky was absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, the heavy wind would make capturing a sharp image a bit difficult. Knowing this, I set up to capture a vertical image of the Milky Way while doing my best to block the wind from shaking the tripod. In situations like this, it’s good practice to zoom in as much as your camera allows while reviewing your image as ensure sharpness.  I used a Heliopan Cross Screen 4x filter for this shot to create diffraction spikes on the brighter stars in the sky.

Canon 7D, Tokina 11-16 f/2.8

Despite a few unavoidable setbacks, I was able to capture all of the images I had hoped to in Acadia. Having everything properly planned out definitely allowed me to make the most of my time and ensure I could be always be shooting instead trying to figure out my next move.  The lack of ambient light throughout the park would have made trying to find a location to shoot at night incredibly difficult.  Overall, I consider the trip to have been a great success and can’t wait to start planning my next trip with a whole new set of goals to achieve.

View more photography by Jack at his website, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Gallery: Seascape and night photography from Jack Fusco