White Pocket, Arizona, USA by Michael Blanchette

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White Pocket is a remote region of the Arizona desert that features domes and ridges with wildly contrasting colors and shapes. A “pocket” refers to a relatively small area of land different from its surroundings. White Pocket includes white, grey, and red rocks often interwoven in swirling layers and lines, which make up its photogenic appeal.

Getting out to White Pocket involves a two-hour drive over a challenging and sandy road. David Swindler and his company, Action Photo Tours, offers overnight camping excursions during the summer months, so I decided to join him last August. Although a summer trip was meant to increase the chances of getting dramatic monsoon skies, we ended up getting clear skies for the duration, which created great opportunities for night photography.

Our leader and guide installed a couple of LED light panels to cast soft light on the foreground rocks that resemble brain matter. The bright star to the left of the tree is Jupiter. If you look carefully, you’ll see a silhouette of a volunteer photographer standing on the rocks at the base of the Milky Way. The single tree on the right was a key element of the composition as it represents an anomaly in an otherwise stark desert scene.

This image is a composite of several frames. I took a single three-minute exposure focused on the rocks at ISO 800 to capture the softly-lit foreground. Then I took a sequence of fifteen frames focused on the sky at 10 seconds each at ISO 10000. The sky frames were blended using Starry Landscape Stacker to produce a noise-free TIFF file that was then combined with the foreground photo in Adobe Photoshop.

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