Post Processing Astrophotography

Delicate Arch: Start to Finish Post Processing
James Brandon

A while back I was leading a photography workshop in Arches National Park. We hiked out to Delicate Arch for a night beneath the Milky Way and while my co-instructor took our group down below the arch to photograph it, I stayed on top to light paint for them. We had walkie-talkies so he’d let me know when everyone started their 30-second exposures and I’d then paint the arch for a few seconds and adjust time on the light as needed.

I didn’t want to walk away from the evening totally empty handed so after sunset I used the time it took for them to walk down into the bowl to set up my Sony a7s on my RRS setup (TVC-24L legs and BH-40 LR II head). Even with the high winds we were having that night, I felt 100% confident my camera wouldn’t budge. I put my a7s into time-lapse mode (the Sony cameras have a time-lapse app you can download so no need for an intervalometer) with 30-second exposures and 1 second in between, got my focus and composition right and then walked over to the arch to paint for the students.

As soon as I walked away from the camera, I was focused on getting good light on the arch for the students; I had no idea if I would end up with any decent shots by the end of the night. I never had time to go back and make sure everything was working so it was really just a shot in the dark (so many puns in the last two sentences).

To my surprise and elation, I ended up coming out with the best image I’ve ever gotten at this location. Since my a7s was in time-lapse mode, I had plenty of images to choose from and was able to take a single image of the Milky Way and combine it with several images of the light painted arch under different conditions. In the video below, I walk through how I processed the final image from start to finish using Lightroom and Photoshop. There’s a LOT of information in the video so if you get overwhelmed just rewind and watch again.

If you’re hungry for more, check out my entire “POST” course where I process a collection of my favorite images from my portfolio in the same way, from start to finish. Be sure to use coupon code RRS30 for 30% off at checkout! James Brandon: Newsletter:

Leave a Comment