As a kid, I would sneak off to Chicago late at night to photograph rock shows and rock stars. To take this photo, I found myself sneaking out of Chicago late at night to photograph actual stars.
I had to leave because the light pollution in Chicago is so intense that trying to get a photo of a star-filled sky in the city is impossible. I used lightpollutionmap.info to find a deep, dark area of Illinois. The closest/best spot I could find was near the intersection of state Route 26 and Maytown Road, some 15 miles south of Dixon, Ill.
There, without the flood of a million artificial lights, I could stare deep into the Milky Way and see some infinite number of stars while simultaneously not being able to see the fingers on my hands.
I walked along Route 26 until my eye was drawn to a leafless tree and a pole holding power lines overhead. I was looking for some earthbound object to give context to the brilliance above me, and the simple starkness of the tree and pole against the stars seemed appropriate.
Eventually, with unseen hands, I set my DSLR camera on top of my tripod, held my breath and took a 30-second exposure of our universe, during which a car's headlights flowed across my camera’s view, conveniently leaving my foreground rich with details and textures of the wood, wires and road in what would have otherwise been deep black silhouettes of those things against the starry sky.
After 20 seconds I remembered to breathe, and after 30 I had what I came for. I packed my equipment back into my waiting car’s trunk and made my way home back to Chicago and its bright lights.