On Friday evening I was browsing through Star trail pictures online and got all enthusiastic about it. So, I tried setting up my tripod and camera in my balcony and took a few test pictures (each exposed for about 10 minutes), even liked one of the pictures and uploaded in Flickr. But I was not hugely satisfied due to inherent light pollution in my area (due to shops and commercial establishments). I wanted to go a remote place that’s fairly dark. So, I went to Valley forge national park (though the website said they'll close at dark, I took my chances).
Once I reached there, I expected at least one cop car, but I saw none. So, I entered the park and as I drove very slowly through the park, I saw about 10 to 15 deer every few yards. It was slightly weird as I have never seen so many deer at one place. Most of them were asleep on the roads and got up to move on after staring at my headlights for a moment or two. There is this strange behavior in deer, they stare at you for a few seconds before they make up their mind. The problem is during those few seconds, you can’t say what they are thinking!
I reached the spot where the star trails photograph will be better (or at least so I thought to myself!). That particular spot had completely open skies and a soldier's hut in the foreground (which is important from a reference point perspective in star trails photography). I stopped the car, but was very reluctant to get off the car as there were deer everywhere. I contemplated for a while and then said to myself 'what the heck?! These are deer after all! It’s not like they will attack me!'. Still to be on the safer side, I left my headlights on and took my camera equipment and started walking towards the deer.
In about 5 seconds, my headlights went off (damn those auto off feature!) and I froze right there. Earlier when I mentioned that deer stare at you for a few seconds before they make up their mind, change it to minutes. I stood there and waited for the deer to move out of my way. So did the deer. I wouldn’t say it was pitch dark, but I could not see much except for hazy things (which I assumed were deer!). After a few minutes, I lost my patience and slowly started walking towards them. As I was walking, it dawned on me that deer can see very clearly in the dark. Yet those shitty creatures were staring at me without making any move. As I walked closer, I saw them getting up and slowly moving away from me. Good for me, I setup the tripod and spent the next one hour trying to take photos from different angles, lighting (or the lack of it), etc., It was quite silent and an eerie experience.
As I was taking pictures, I kept all my senses on high-alert observing any slightest movements in the bushes or any noise around. Though the deer pack never came back, it was quite a humbling experience.
A few lessons I learnt from this short adventure of mine:
1. Never try star trail pictures on the day next to a full moon day.
2. Start a little early rather than at midnight. I think around 10pm might be the right time.
3. Select a place which has zero light pollution.
4. If you can, try and stay away from the sleeping deer.
Anyways, this is the picture that turned out:
I most likely will try this again some time!