Polaris over the Charcoal Kilns Death Valley National Monument

Copyright © 2013 Deborah M Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

A year or two ago I saw my friend Rick Whitacre’s photograph of the Charcoal Kilns with Star-trails and loved it so much I hoped to photograph it myself on my next trip to Death Valley.  The first two nights of my recent visit to Death Valley National Monument I had clouds or partial cloudy skies, but the last night the sky was clear so He-Man and I headed to the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns so I could make a photograph of the kilns with star-trails.

Star Trails over the Charcoal Kilns Death Valley CaliforniaHe-Man and I drove out the Charcoal Kilns arriving just before sunset.  I got my gear out and started planning and plotting my composition. Once I found my composition I started thinking about lighting the kiln doors.  I went inside several of the kilns to check out the size of the opening, and where the best place to stand might be. I’m glad we arrived here while it was light enough to see inside each kiln. If I had arrived in the dark I would have been a little apprehensive about critters sleeping inside the kilns, but they were empty.  On a side note: They’re huge inside!

He-Man was going to light the doors for me so we did a timed test-run to see if he would be able to get all the doors lit in one 2 minute exposure. I had purchased a Brinkman light (thanks Marsha for the model info!) I also brought my Rogue Gels along to use to change the light from white to an orange-yellow  to look like there was fire in the kilns, but  when it got dark enough to start shooting we did another trail run using the light, and it wasn’t quite as bright as I had hoped for. Thinking that might happen I also packed my Nikon SB600 Speedlight. I taught He-Man how to set the flash off then we did another trial run. Loving what I saw using the Speedlight I made my final test shots for my star trails then set up my Intervelometer to begin my series.

It was quite a bit cooler up here than it was down in the valley so I needed my jacket before I wrapped up for the night. There was a Hoot Owl in the trees behind me softly hooting, and there were crickets chirping, but no other sounds. He-Man had gone to the car to read and wait for me.  It was peaceful. I found my “happy place” here.
Thank you He-Man for lighting each door so well and for going with me! I’m really happy with this photo.

Nikon D700| Nikkor 17-35@17mm| f4| 30 frames stacked in CS6| 121 seconds| ISO 200| Manual Priority| Tripod

A couple of my friends have also traveled to Death Valley and made their own photo here please take a look!

Phil McGrew- Startrails over Wildrose Kilns

Alex Baranda- Stars and Kilns

For the History Buffs-

Wildrose Charcoal Kilns

“In 1877 construction on the kilns was completed. The produced charcoal that was used as fuel for two silver-lead smelters  that George Hearst had in the Argus Range 25 miles away.  The kilns operated until 1878 when the Argus mines shut down.

There are 10 kilns which stand 25ft tall, and have an approximate circumference of 30ft. Each kiln held 42 cords of pinyon pine logs, and would burn for a week producing 2,000 bushels of charcoal.” ~Digital Desert.com  http://digital-desert.com/death-valley-history/wildrose-kilns.html

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