Astrophotographers and night photography enthusiasts typically choose shooting locations with jagged peaks, camp sites, and curious-looking rock formations to serve as the foregrounds of their snaps of the starry night sky. But, as San Francisco-based photographer and filmmaker Michael Shainblum demonstrates in one of his sets, forests and interesting foliage also lend their own magic touch to astrophotography — especially if it’s an ancient pine forest.
“Location, location, location,” so the saying goes, and Michael definitely picked the perfect spot for his night shoot: the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in eastern California’s Inyo County. The protected area nestled up in the White Mountains is home to the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine. The forest’s name alone is enough to evoke images of an enchanted forest coming to life at night, lit by the dance of countless stars. Home to some of the oldest of their kind, the most famous Great Basin Bristlecone Pine is called Methuselah, aged 4,849 years. The oldest found, however, is 5,067 years old.
What I find most striking about Michael’s work is how he was able to showcase both the beauty of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and the grandeur of the Milky Way. It’s almost like he had seen beforehand how the details will come together beautifully throughout the set to create a fantasy setting. The details effectively lead the eyes throughout the frame, from the mix of textures of the landscape against the swathe of stars, to the eerie silhouettes of the age-old trees seemingly piercing through the night sky. Colors also play a big part in commanding attention in every photo, each one revealing a different visual character.