How I Got the Shot: Raquette River Star Trails

Star Trails over Piercefield Flow, Raquette River, Piercefield

Exposure Data:
164 sec’s, F/4, ISO 400
Nikon D300, Nikkor 12-24 mm lens, set at 12 mm.

On a March night, stars blaze over a section of the Raquette River west of Tupper Lake in this 2.5-minute exposure. The length of the exposure allowed the stars to show prominently in a sky aglow with light pollution from the Village of Tupper Lake. Note also, an airplane streaking above the island, at left. 

The river is partially open, but an ice shelf extends from shore to the peninsula at right. During the exposure I “painted” the birches on the peninsula and the island with a one million candlepower flashlight for a few seconds. Light painting is a trial and error technique that often takes several attempts to get the desired result. Subject distance, the strength of the light source and its battery condition all affect the outcome. It worked beautifully here, highlighting the birches. They’re even reflected in the silky water.

Sometimes light pollution benefits night photography, adding some color to the sky. Here subtle bands of blue light radiate outward, as if calling attention to the celestial performance. Since I made this image, new downward-directed street lighting was installed throughout the village, noticeably reducing the amount of light escaping skyward, helping preserve the naturally dark skies for viewers at the Adirondack Public Observatory, located near Little Wolf Lake. The observatory hosts educational programs and star-gazing parties year-round.

Mark Bowie is a frequent contributor to Adirondack Life magazine and a staff instructor for the Adirondack Photography Institute. He’s a much sought-after public speaker, offering presentations to camera clubs, environmental groups and others. See API’s 2015 workshop schedule at For more on Mark’s work, visit his website:


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