Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Standing on the shoulders of giants - Orion rises over Helvellyn in the English Lake DistrictOrion rises over the jagged slopes of Helvellyn in the Lake District. The figure standing in silhouette on England’s third highest mountain is dwarfed by the constellation.

Taken from the lower slopes of Striding Edge, a friend wilfully volunteered to stand on the edge of a precipice as a setting crescent moon illuminates the distant snow-capped peaks.

Using the barn door tracker at half speed allowed me to effectively double the exposure time before the motion blur of either the ground and the sky became noticeable.

This technique combined with the altitude and the dark skies of Cumbria helped bring out the classic deep sky objects. The Great Orion nebula, Horesehead nebula and Flame nebula all make an appearance. With a hint of Barnard’s loop just visible.

The really comes into it’s own with this type of wide angle constellation shot. Making the reddish gold of Betelgeuse and the brilliant white of Rigel stand out spectacularly in the scene.

Image details: Nikon D7000Nikkor 35mm f1.8G at f2.8. 30 seconds at iso 1600 using didymium filter and softon filter. Tracked at half speed with barn door tracker.


  1. Anil Ketkar Reply

    Hi Nick : I am amazed at many of your pictures and wanted to know what post-processing method you use. I had gone out a few night’s back to capture a similar Full Orion constellation with a 50mm f1.8 lens (slightly less wide than yours), but the picture had a lot more stars that “cluttered” the effect. If you will let me know the software (I do not use Photoshop due to high cost) and the processing steps (if you want, by email), I would appreciate it. Thanks …. Anil

    • Nick Reply

      Hi Anil – glad you like the shots!

      I know whet you mean about the constellation getting lost among the stars. You can make the brighter stars pop out in relative brightness and colour by using a Hoya Softon A filter, which I’ve found works a treat.

      Orion’s also fairly low in the sky from here which it makes processing the stacked image really tricky. The gradients are almost impossible to remove, so I prefer just using single exposures if that’s an issue.

      I use DSS and Photoshop for editing. Each photo uses slightly different methods, but I’ll aim to make a page about my techniques as it’s a common question. I’ll let you know when it’s up! – Nick

  2. William Reply

    This is truly a beautiful image. Well done!!

    • Nick Reply

      Thanks William – I’m really happy with the way it came out.. Well worth the all the climbing!

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