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Ile-Alatau National Park, Kazakhstan by Olga Kulakova

I have been to this location probably hundred times over the past ten years, but never paid any attention to this point, until few years back became interested in Orion constellation.

Best way for night sky photography is definitely somewhere far from the city and I usually try to escape as far as possible, or climb to the mountains as high as possible, however, this place is located very close to Almaty city and it takes about one hour of driving plus half an hour of hiking.

Two years before I was trying to take a similar shot, weather condition was perfect as never before and I was actually happy with the result, but this time I wanted to get the same one but with a different, new camera. This year winter was extremely cold, and the snow was getting blown from the trees by the wind so quickly that I could never catch the right moment. One and the same place can look completely different depending on several circumstances: snow level, temperature, moon phase, clouds and position of stars in the sky at certain moment of time – everything matters and you never know what you will get in the end even if you try your best. After few unsuccessful efforts, I got completely disappointed and thought that I had no chances to take the picture that I had in my mind all this time: I desperately wanted snowy spruce trees and mountain tops on the background together with dark night sky with Orion constellation shining through the clouds immediately after the snowfall when the moment is most beautiful – it’s almost magical and unfortunately very rare landscape in our mountains.

Eventually, one late winter evening my friend and I were heading towards the glacier and this particular location was definitely outside our plans as it was snowing all the while and our distance was long and hard, but as we were passing by this place I suddenly felt that I wanted to stop here and wait.
Standing in the deep snow in the freezing cold and constantly looking in the sky required a lot of patience, and I had no idea how long that snowfall was going to last, but it has finally stopped and the mist slowly disappeared, and Orion constellation suddenly showed between the clouds.

Camera SONY ILCA-99M2
Lens Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35/F2.8 ZA SSM
Aperture f/2.8
S/S 20sec
ISO 3200
Additional Notes Manfrotto 055 tripod
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Olga Kulakova

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