Meet Stephen Ippolito, our May 2018 #DryTortugas Photo Contest winner. We had the chance to ask him a few questions about his experience at the Dry Tortugas National Park. Read on to learn how he captured his amazing photo!
1. When did you visit the Dry Tortugas National Park? Did you arrive by seaplane, the Yankee Freedom ferry or another way?
I visited Dry Tortuga in April and took the Yankee Freedom ferry.
2. If you arrived by the Yankee Freedom, how was your ferry trip?
The ferry trip was fantastic, it was a nice smooth and relaxing trip out to Dry Tortugas. I would definitely do it again.
3. How did you capture your winning photo? What inspired you to take it? Did you use any cool camera gear?
I specifically went out to Dry Tortugas for night photography because of its amazing dark skies away from light pollution. For this image, I setup my tripod on the moat right before the damaged section from last years hurricane and setup my Nikon D850 with my Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 lens to take continous 30 second exposures facing the North Star. This was done in order to capture the circular star trails as reflected in the image. The total elapsed time was approximately 1.5 hours of continuous images. I then took the hundreds of images and and merged them into one image using a software application called StarStax. As an aside, when I was reviewing the individual images, one of my very last images captured an amazing shooting star in center of frame which left a reflection on the water. I excluded that image from this star trail shot so that the shooting star streak wouldn't impact the final result.
4. What made your trip to the Dry Tortugas memorable?
The amazing night skies, free from light pollution is a night photographers dream. A funny story, within 30 minutes of my arrival, when I was setting up my tent on a campsite, I hit my head on a low hanging tree branch (I will spare you the bloody details), but the Park Rangers stationed on Dry Tortugas and Ferry personel were fantastic and provided A plus level of help promptly.
5. What do you plan to do with your National Park Annual Pass? Which national park would you like to visit next?
I plan to visit a few other National Parks, as I write this I am actually in Utah and will be visiting Arches National Park.