Snow and Stars in Ouray

Ouray, Colorado, San Juan Mountains, stars, panorama, winter
Ouray Starry Night : Prints Available

The lights of Ouray, Colorado illuminate the snow-smothered mountains of the Uncompahgre Gorge, as the stars and Milky Way shine overhead after a heavy winter snowstorm – February.
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After nearly two weeks of dry sunny weather, a hefty storm rolled through Colorado on Thursday dumping over two feet of snow in the mountains! I enjoyed a stormy powder day snowboarding at Telluride on Friday, and look forward to getting out for some more powder turns soon. It seems as if the typical January dry spell is over, with several more storms are forecasted for next week!

Last night the storm broke and skies cleared, so at 10:30 I bundled up and drove a little ways up the road above Ouray to shoot some photos of the stars over the snow-smothered town. It was quite a magical scene, with perfectly calm, silent weather and everything sparkling with frosty crystals under the brilliant stars.

16 thoughts on “Snow and Stars in Ouray

  1. That’s pretty crazy, Jack. Just a really fun, detailed, brilliant image to explore. I’m not sure how you balanced starlight and town light in a night shot, but it’s freaking amazing!

    1. Thanks Dave! The panorama took 15 photos to make: 5 vertical frames with a 17mm lens, each frame comprised of 3 exposures manually blended together in Photoshop, then stitched all together with AutopanoPro. For the blends I started with the brightest exposures (30 sec, f/4, iso 3200) as the base of most of the image, then layered the two successively darker frames on top, which I carefully brush-blended in over the city lights area, along with some curves layers to match the contrasts (by raising the shadows and lowering the highlights). The darkest frames were only used for the very brightest city highlights.

  2. Awesome photo Jack! I have always thought that Ouray is one of the prettiest places in Colorado! I especially love it during the winter when it takes on an almost magical glow! Your picture captured the magic!

  3. Hey Jack!
    An awesome shot as always!
    Thanks for sharing the photo and the story behind it 🙂
    That’s a very nice and seamless blend!
    Did you maintain the same natural curve of the foreground? or did you get some distortion from closer objects?
    (Vertical panos are harder to manage when it comes to maintaining the perspective…)
    I’m also curious – what are the two “tent-like” objects in the snow on the far right of the photo?
    And lastly – why did you choose a high ISO over a longer exposure? which choice would have given a better result in this case?

    1. Hi Yair, in person the foreground was basically straight – a flat slope that goes steeply down towards the town. The super-wide angle of view of the panorama naturally caused the foreground to appear curved like that, which I think is a nice bonus for the framing!

      The objects in the snow on the right side are posts from the guard-rail on the side of the road.

      The high ISO was necessary to keep the exposure limited to 30-sec; any longer and there would be too much star trails. Also, since the panorama took 15 exposures to make, longer exposures would not have been practical either.

      1. Thanks for the explanation Jack.
        And I agree – The added curve adds much to the composition (a bit like a fish-eye view).
        As for star trails – it would indeed be difficult to combine them properly when stitching the pano (especial since you used different exposures for each frame) so yes, in that case high ISO is the only way to go 🙂

  4. Hi, I’m a big fan of your work. Found out about it from Dan C. who I work with at CBC.
    I’m studying the snow & stars shot with amazement. Where did the light in the foreground come from?
    Thanks so much for sharing your work!
    Suzanne

    1. Thanks Suzanne! All the light on the snow (both in the foreground and on the surrounding mountains) comes from the town lights. This night was one day after the new moon, so there was no moonlight at all and the stars were brilliant! The long, high ISO exposures of the camera exaggerate the brightness of the town lights and surrounding snowy mountains.

  5. Just Awesome! Love it! Found your blog a year ago and loved the night shots of Ouray but had never actually seen the town. Drove through on a family trip to Telluride this past fall and wished we could’ve just stayed! Really does look like a real-life “Whoo-ville” from the Grinch that Stole Christmas.

  6. Excellent shot Jack!!! My girlfriend discovered your blog when we moved down to Ouray. Your pictures and posts are extra enjoyable because we are familiar of most of the areas. Its nice to see these mountains represented so well. If you ever want to get out to ski, I am always looking for new partners.

    Thanks again for the wonderful shot of Ouray.

    Jared

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