Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory Overnight

Jan 14, 2016
Greensboro, NC
Real Name
My family used part of the three day weekend to go see some GrandPArents in Blacksburg VA, and I had a new Irix Firefly 15mm F/2.4 that I bought for a backpacking trip in NM this summer that I wanted to try out. After some searching I found the Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory was in good dark sky(for the east coast) and should give an amazing view of the sky as well as the local area as it is on the very top of a ridge and was used as a fire tower from 1955ish-the 1970's. My dad and I headed up there Friday night and these are some of the shots I got. Most are the D3200 w/ Irix 15mm F/1.4 but a few(the ones that include the building) are a borrowed D5100 w/ Nikon 18-140 at 18mm f/3.5. All are edited in LR, including most of the panoramas and HDR's except one of the panoramas was done in image composition editor(the one of the valley with the rail from the building) and all of the composite overlay images were done in Photoshop. In addition you can view the rest of the pictures(around 20) and the 5 timelapses(using LRtimelapse which is anamzing free but upgradable software for anyone interested in timelapse) I did on my smugmug here Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory - Ross Thomas.
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Star trails looking southwest, I wish I had a better foreground for most of these. D3200, 15mm, F/2.4, ISO 3200, 25s, 189 images
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My dad modeling for me on the rocks in the same direction. D3200, 15mm, F/2.4, ISO 6400, 25s.
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Star trails looking north(due to the earths rotation it appears that all the stars rotate around the north star, Polaris, giving the circular effect.) I tried swapping the foreground in Photoshop to reduce noise but I was having problems with blending the two naturally so this is the best I could do. D3200, 15mm, F/2.4, ISO 3200, 25s, 345 images.
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Because I disliked the foreground in the previous one so much but I loved the star trails and I really liked the one of my dad standing out there I blended the two in Photoshop and this was the result. I also did it with one of just the rocks with no dad that is on my smugmug which i also liked. I know many people have very strong opinions about blending images and photoshoping things, and I haven't taken any classes on photography ethics or really developed my ideas about it very strongly but here's my opinion after my short time doing photography. If someone is doing photojournalism or sports etc they shouldn't manipulate in Photoshop to introduce new things, take things out, etc. My current thinking is that if I had gone solely to document the area I shouldn't do it, because it's not possible or real. But as long as I or anyone else say that it is a composite that wouldn't be possible but the photographer wanted to make the coolest/best image they could with their available resources(testing new lens/ software knowledge or what have you) then it's okay with me. Feel free to leave your opinions about this or start another discussion about it as I think it's pretty relevant with the recent Souvid Datta scandal and others I've heard about in recent years.
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I stayed up there and these next few are from the sunrise. A pre-sunrise shot, the purple looks overdone and strange but that's how it really looked that morning. There was a thin strip of super bright purple and pink peeking out below the low cloud cover. D3200, 15mm, F/8, ISO 100, 20s.
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Panorama with the Irix and D3200 showing the sun just peeking out between the horizon and the low clouds.
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One pulled from the a timelpase sequence which shows the building I was shooting from for all the other shots. I just set up on the deck.
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Finally an HDR after the sun crested the clouds. D3200, 15mm, F/16, ISO100, varying shutter speeds.

As a side note if anyone is interested in the Irix I really like it from what I've done with it and it does a much much better job than the Nikon 18-140 F/3.5 for low light and it also has very low distortion from what I can tell especially on the APS-C sensor that doesn't use the extreme corners. The LR lens preset barely does any distortion correction from what I can tell but it does have pretty significant vignetting wide open which easily fixed in LR.

Thanks for looking and any comments/critiques are welcome.
Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory - Ross Thomas
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Cafe Ambassador
Apr 8, 2008
Rutledge, Tennessee
Real Name
Great images and capture details! #5 would be stunning in a pano crop - crop just above the large rock in the foreground! (What is the white spot in the sky......right of center along the top?)
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