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Spectacular Bodega photo in National Geographical contest

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 | Posted by
Milky Way over Bodega Schoolhouse and Church (Copyright 2012, Jim Nevill Photography)


By ANDREA GRANAHAN / West County Correspondent

Jim Nevill and his wife Tracy moved to Bodega seven years ago, and he was immediately struck by the clarity of its skies.

“I’ve never seen stars like I’ve seen stars in Bodega,” he said, and so night after night he went up on the widow’s walk of his two-story home, seeking the perfect photograph of Bodega and her stars.

The Nevills bought the old Beale House when they arrived in Bodega and have been rescuing the historic building from self-destruction ever since. It is across the road from the old Potter Schoolhouse, made famous in the movie “The Birds,” and the iconic St. Teresa of Avila Church that Ansel Adams once captured in a famous photograph.

Nevill was convinced that no matter how often a place is photographed, “the diamond is still there,” and there is room for creativity. Finally he got a shot with the potential to become as famous as Adams’ beloved shot of the church.

A professional photographer asked him if he did it by superimposing two shots, one of the buildings and one of the stars, as most photographers would have done. In Nevill’s case, it was a single shot.

He got so much positive feedback for his unusual shot that he decided to enter it into the National Geographic 2012 Photography Contest. You can vote for it by going to  ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest and then liking it on Facebook.

Anyone interested in buying a copy can contact him at jimnevill.smugmug.com.

Over the years, the Nevills had two children — Cambron, 6, and Sonia, 2 — but his passion for nature never wavered. “I want to inspire people by showing them nature,” he said.

To that end, Nevill runs Lifeschool’s Go Adventure, a kids’ outdoor adventure company that works with many local schools and has taken kids to remote areas in California, Hawaii, Costa Rica and the San Juan Islands.

Here’s how Jim Nevill got the shot:

I used a Nikon D-Series DSLR camera and an aspherical wide angle telephoto @ 50mm shot from a quarter mile away.  I shot the image in one exposure: 17″/f5/6400 ISO.  It’s not an overlay of two images, and no Photoshopping has been done.

Since the image is so mixed in terms of lighting and subject, i.e. interior incandescent lights, eco bulb porch lights, dark buildings, distant stars and road headlights all broadcasting different temperatures, I had a hard time focusing the camera and finding the right settings to capture it all in one take.  

In a perfect world, I would have opened the shutter for less than 17 seconds, which registered the slight turning of the Earth via blurred stars, but by doing so, I was able to balance all the variables in the scene.

Writer Spotlight

Andrea Granahan is our West County correspondent.
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