Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Milky Way and Night Sky

A Beautiful Night with the Milky Way Cresting in the Eastern Sky

Last Saturday I was camping away from light pollution in search of clear night sky and hoped for millions of stars.  By leaving the Bay Area and driving about 2 hours south I found a perfect spot with a small campground in the hills above Hollister.

As you might remember from some of my posts from last year,  after discovering how beautiful night sky images can be, I have focused on learning more about the art of capturing the stars and I shared some of my earlier images in the following blog-posts:

November:  Focus Night Sky
August:  Milky Way Video

After settling at the campground and preparing my car as it is my night refuge thanks to my Subaru that serves as my sleeping pad, I first found a spot perfect for a beautiful sunset over the valley towards the west.

Sunset over the Valley with low-hanging thick fog/clouds.

As with all images, finding the perfect composition is important in all images and this is equally important at night since just pointing the camera towards the sky can get a bit boring.  So I had hiked around in the afternoon to find a spot that gave me some nice trees in the foreground.  I went back after sunset and prepared my camera to capture the stars and to create star trails.  Pointing north always adds interest since we can visualize the earth rotation around Polaris.

Star Trails around Polaris

At 3000ft, I was well above the valley and above the valley fog which is illuminated pink by city lights in the lover part of the image.

Changing positions and using another composition later at night, the clouds and light from the valley add a nice glow to the lower part of this image.

Looking over the valley in direction San Jose, the lights in the clouds made a beautiful pattern.  And as I hoped for there were millions of star in the sky!  Unfortunately, when we look up from our homes in the city, so much fewer stars are visible.

 Star Points over the Valley with Clouds illuminated by city lights.

Using a  long exposure - this one was taken over a time period of 50 minutes - we again see the earth rotation in the star trails.  This is taken at the same location as the one above.

These last 2 images were taken at around 2 am in the morning and we can see that our busy cities never sleep and never get dark.

From studying the milky way at this time of the year and its appearance over the horizon, I knew I had to stay up late - or should we say early? - but I was rewarded by ~3 am with a beautiful full profile of the milky way when looking east.  This is a panoramic image stitched together from 4 individual images.

Tired but a happy camper, I was ready to snuggled in my sleeping bag to dream of more stars....

If you are intrigued by the beauty of the night and want to learn more how to make images of the night sky and the milky way, please join me for another night under the stars.  I have planned another night out in August and would invite you to join me for a Photo Workshop 'Under the Stars'.  Please email me if you are interested at  Prior to night fall, I will give a tutorial at the campground in the late afternoon on how to set your camera and how to capture beautiful night sky images.

Til next time,