In June of 2008 my friend Thomas and I drove to the Shulman Grove in California’s White Mountains to photograph bristlecone pine trees that are some of Earth’s oldest living things. One of the trees named the Methuselah is estimated to be over 4,700 years old and was alive when the Egyptians were constructing the pyramids. My assistant and I arrived just after midnight and began hiking, carrying my 80+ pounds of camera and telescope tracking equipment on the Discovery trail at over 10,000 feet in search of a tree I had seen on my last visit. I was inspired by my late father photographer Galen Rowell to take this challenging image, combining both Earth and space. My dad had taken an image of a different bristlecone pine tree, combined with star trails, over 30 years earlier in 1976.
My vision was to start a long exposure with the horizon slightly out of level, with my camera on a moving motor-driven telescope mount, tracking the Earth’s rotation and keeping the stars from trailing, hopefully with the horizon level at the end. With this technique, I captured billions of stars in our Milky Way galaxy during an 11 minute, single exposure, in which I used an off camera flash near the end to illuminate one of the oldest trees in the world.
The CARMA Array and the Milky Way in the White Mountains, CA
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