A foggy purple lake. A kaleidoscope of star trails. A shadowy, tree-lined horizon. After vigilantly waiting two hours by Reflections Lake at Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington state, photographer and Pittsburgh native Matthew Dieterich was able to capture one of the most stunning time-lapses of the year.
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Services, the United States Postal Service selected 16 photographs to be featured on its newest batch of Forever Stamps. Dieterich’s photo is one of them.
While living within close proximity to Reflections Lake, Dieterich set out on a mission to capture the Northern Lights over a still lake. The result of this mission was extraordinary.
“It’s a compilation of about 200 images,” Dieterich explains. “The northern lights are unpredictable, so it’s something where you have to seize the moment.”
Although Dieterich captured the image with a professional grade DSLR camera (Nikon D750), he says inexpensive DSLR cameras can allow anyone to capture similar images. While the advancement in smartphone camera technology has seemingly turned everyone into a photographer, Dieterich stands by the use of cameras to capture high-quality images.
“Being able to control everything about the photograph is the purpose of a real camera,” Dieterich says.
While the photo captures the stunning landscape at Mt. Rainier, the night sky is perhaps the most striking part of the photo. Dieterich explains that as the night sky rotates and numerous photos are captured over time, the photos can be pieced together with software to create stunning “star trails” images.
Dieterich says he was working as an astronomy ranger at Mt. Rainier, when his boss, knowing of Dieterich’s passion for night sky photography, urged him to submit his gallery for the stamp project. The rest is history.
“I consider myself still an amateur,” Dieterich says, “It’s something I do for fun, and if it’s getting the word out about protecting the night skies, that’s what I care about the most.”
Although the young photographer’s career is still budding, Dieterich says he hopes this experience can leverage him into a position working with a non-profit, educating youngsters about the importance of preserving the night sky.
“That’s the goal of my photography, to get kids involved in this, to share my love for it with them. We need to protect it for future generations.”
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