Sahara el Beyda, the White Desert Protected Area, is a national park in Egypt, which lies about 450kms south west of Cairo. The white sands of the desert manifests itself as rows of white piles scattered across orange sandy base landscapes, rock spires, and unusual white rock formations making for excellent foreground subjects for astrophotography. The dry desert skies are ideal for astrophotography even though there is haze at the horizon due to the disturbed sands of the desert, affecting seeing conditions. One of the first location a tour operator would take you is to the chicken and mushroom rock formation which has become an icon of sorts of the White Desert.
As a group, we camped in the desert for around 10 nights and conditions were tough especially during the day when temperatures would rise to 50 degrees Celsius and we had to take refuge in small oasis along with snakes and scorpions who had the same idea. Cooking would be out in the open under the starry skies and it was an unforgettable experience to sleep under a canopy of stars with Bedouin music as company…
The foreground rocks were light painted with a Luxli light panel from various directions and strengths and then assembled together using Photoshop’s lighten blending mode and then flattened as one image. The night sky was tracked on an iOptron Sky Guider pro tracker which freezes the motion of the sky and prevents the stars from trailing. The camera I used is astro modified, which basically allows the Hydrogen Alpha wavelengths from nebulae to pass through the filter and allows one to capture the pinkish glow these nebulae emit. I then proceeded to blend the sky with the foreground.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor