The Stars are not Enough
We are getting into the best season for Milky Way photography as the galactic disk gets higher in the sky at earlier hours. Given the
|Ancient Oak , Alyson's Orchard, Walpole, NH|
The easiest part of night photography is the capturing of the Milky Way. There are many great articles on the web that discuss the
|Milky Way in My Driveway|
This time of year getting the best view of the Milky Way requires getting out in the early hours. Last weekend I dragged my old body out to Dublin Lake in Dublin, New Hampshire between one and four in the morning. My goal was to capture the Milky Way rising above Mount Monadnock from across the lake. I had used “Sky Safari” and “Photographer’s Ephemeris” to find the best location. The night was perfect, a clear sky, comfortable temperatures and only the occasional tractor trailer rumbling by. Sadly, I couldn’t convince any of my lazy friends to accompany me but the night was lovely and for the most part peaceful along the lake. I found a nice pull over on Route 101 and settled in. The Milky Way was right where it was supposed to be and the moon set precisely on schedule just after one AM. I was able to capture a clear view of the Milky Way.
I was tired but happy with the results as I headed home with the first glow of dawn at about 4 AM, but the experience reminded me once more that the Milky Way is no longer enough for a dramatic night sky image. It is really all about the foreground, its interest, lighting, and how it complements the arc of light in the sky. Given this new imperative there are a number of things to consider as you approach a night of galactic photography.
Find Your Foreground
In planning your location it is important to consider both the position of the Milky Way in the sky and the placement of
|Great Stars _ No Foreground|
The combination of wide open apertures and the need to focus at infinity makes it essentially impossible to keep nearby subjects and unimaginably distant stars in focus in the same image. This can be a problem even with the expanded depth of field with wide angle lens’. The solution is to grab an image focused on the foreground to blend with your star frames. The contrast between foreground and sky is usually quite stark making focus stacking relatively easy when you get home. The contrast between sky and foreground can also be enhanced with a little creative light painting.
|Light Painted Barn|
Light Painting the Foreground
|Old Faithful, Yellowstone|
|Pillar of Light|
|Dublin Lake Beacon, Mt Monadnock|
Ok. All of this discussion can be distilled to a single maxim; "Place something interesting in front of the Milky Way in your night sky shots". So get out there and experiment, and remember to take time to enjoy the night. The Milky Way is about 110 thousand light years across and it isn't going anywhere soon.