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Framing the night sky

The night air was warm at Crater Lake National Park when Jesse Smith pointed his camera skyward, the Milky Way’s star-freckled mass captured in his frame.

Smith, of Talent, had driven to the park in July 2018, his first stop on a five-day photography trek. He arrived at about 9 p.m., set up, and took pictures until about midnight.

One of the resulting images, a vertical shot that shows the glittering sky above the lake framed by trees, was recently declared the winner in Crater Lake Country’s third annual photo contest. Crater Lake Country, a Southern Oregon business promotion website, started the contest a few years ago because of the number of images that visitors sent in to the business’s Facebook page, manager Mark Dennett said.

“I said, ‘Gee, maybe I should do a contest,’” Dennett said, adding he opted to let Crater Lake visitors vote on the winning image. The 2019 contest received about 80 entries.

Crater Lake has long been a popular spot for astral photography, with Milky Way photos featured in prominent travel publications such as National Geographic. Now Smith has his own to add to the bunch, captured from the lake’s northwest side.

“I just stayed out there watching the stars and ended up capturing that,” Smith said of his winning entry. “I have a thing for root systems in Oregon, so that’s why the tree is there in the foreground.”

Smith used a photography method called focus stacking, where the camera captures multiple photos of the same image with different areas of focus. Those resulting images are later combined into a single, fully focused image.

“It’s all true to what the scene was, but that’s just so that it appears sharp across the whole frame,” Smith said. “It’s funny, I don’t usually like the images right away until my vision for it starts to come together.”

Photographers interested in the next contest can find more information at craterlakecountry.com/photo-contest. See more of Smith’s photography at smi77y.com.

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPfeil.

Jesse Smith’s photo of the Milky Way glittering over Crater Lake National Park was the winning entry in Crater Lake Country’s third annual photo contest.