Photographing the milky way

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kcflanders
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Photographing the milky way

Postby kcflanders » Tue Sep 23, 2014 5:21 pm

Anyone familiar with Stellarium?
I downloaded the free software and need a little verification I'm viewing this correctly. I will be in Vermont 9/30 - 10/7. Looking at 9/30 it looks like the milky way looks best at roughly SW at 8:00 PM but that puts the moon directly in the frame if I am looking at this correctly. Alternatively on 10/01 the milky way appears to be roughly NW at 6:00 AM.
Could someone verify I am 1) viewing this correctly and 2) suggest a good date and time during my visit? Thank you!


autzig
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Re: Photographing the milky way

Postby autzig » Wed Sep 24, 2014 7:50 am

kcflanders, I am very familiar with Stellarium and photographing the Milky Way. I believe your observations are correct.

Shooting the Milky Way is problematic when the moon is in the sky. I think your best opportunity for photographing the Milky Way will be on September 30. You need a dark sky which means two hours after sunset or before sunrise. On September 30, the sun sets in Burlington at 6:35 PM which means you won't have a totally dark sky until 8:35. The moon sets at 10:52 PM, so the best time to shoot the Milky Way will be after moon set. By October 6, the moon is rising at 5:23 PM, is nearly full and will be in the sky until nearly 6:00 AM so getting a good photo of the Milky Way will be almost impossible.

If you are interested in night photography, you might find my article on the subject helpful. You can see it at: http://www.goldimagesphoto.com/Nightscapes

Here is a link to a Milky Way photo I made last year in early October in Wisconsin: http://www.goldimagesphoto.com/Portfolio/After-Dark/i-DT4dk4Q


Al

kcflanders
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Re: Photographing the milky way

Postby kcflanders » Wed Sep 24, 2014 11:59 am

Thank you for your help. Some really nice photos and an excellent article. Looking at Stellarium during the entire dark periods of night, the milky way does not appear to be very visible. It seems to be only really visible during the 1 hour period before sunrise or after sunset. Any idea why that is? It may be unique to this particular week.

autzig
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Re: Photographing the milky way

Postby autzig » Wed Sep 24, 2014 12:22 pm

The fact that the Milky Way doesn't appear bright in Stellarium is probably due to its setting. Go to the Sky and Viewing Options in the tool bar on the left side of the screen. It should appear when you mouse over it. It is the third one down. Click on it and in the main view window SKY should be the default. The third item down is Milky Way brightness. Increase the brightness to your satisfaction.

Keep in mind that the Milky Way isn't nearly as visible to the naked eye as it is to a long exposure in a camera. You can search the sky and not see it with your eyes, that's why it is important to know where it is. The Milky Way will be equally visible throughout the night, so long as you are between two hours before or after the sun. Don't rely on Stellarium to show you its brightness.

The Milky Way gets less visible based on the earth's movement on its axis. It is best seen in the southern sky late in August or early September when the moon sets around sunset. Then you can get some nice exposures without staying up half the night. I have night shots made in Zion National Park in early November. The core of the Milky Way is below the horizon so the Milky Way isn't so impressive. One of my shots of the Watchman and includes the less impressive Milky Way http://www.goldimagesphoto.com/Portfolio/After-Dark/i-nSC454T was made around 4:00 AM. May and June are also good times to photograph the Milky Way, but it is best seen in the very early morning hours.

Al
Last edited by autzig on Sat Mar 28, 2015 2:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

autzig
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Re: Photographing the milky way

Postby autzig » Wed Sep 24, 2014 12:34 pm

One other thing: Don'l limit yourself to just shooting the Milky Way. A star filled sky can make a great "nightscape" photo. Here's a link to another of my night shots.
http://www.goldimagesphoto.com/Portfolio/After-Dark/i-zpRpHjb

Notice Orion's belt, the Orion Nebula, Capella and the Seven Sisters can be found in the shot. I think it makes a nice photo even if it doesn't include the Milky Way.

Use Stellaium's constellation lines and labels to see what else is in the night sky.

If you can't tell, night photography is really my passion.

Al
Last edited by autzig on Sat Mar 28, 2015 2:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.

kcflanders
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Re: Photographing the milky way

Postby kcflanders » Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:03 pm

Al,
Thank you again for all your help. Brightness definitely did the trick. What a great little piece of software. I really like your photos and your article. Some great tips there I didn't consider, especially how to ensure you have a good composition without blasting the scene with a light. I am bringing a small spotlight for a few seconds of light painting. One scene I would like to try is the Old Red Mill in Jericho. Do you think this would disturb people very late at night? Not sure who would be able to give permission for such a thing.

autzig
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Re: Photographing the milky way

Postby autzig » Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:28 pm

I've never been to the Jericho so I can't comment on the permission question. My suggestion, though, would be to contact the local police and tell them where you will be and what you are doing. I think someone called the police on me once when I was photographing along the Oregon coast at night. I saw someone looking out at me from his beach house. I was wearing a headlamp and I think someone thought I was up to no good. A little while later, a cop drove on the beach looking for something, it appeared. I was doing some time lapse exposures and the lights on the squad car ruined by effort. Another time I met the local sheriff as I was photographing the night sky in Idaho near Yellowstone National Park. It was 20 degrees below zero. Any way, if the police know you will be there, they won't get excited if someone calls.

Here's an alternative to your light painting. Take a long exposure, something like 3 or 4 minutes. Don't worry about the star trails. That exposure should light up the foreground nicely. Then you can take shorter exposures. Choose one and combine it with the long exposure in Photoshop. Make sure you are using a good tripod with everything tightened down. You should also have a shutter release cable so you aren't touching the camera. This photo http://www.goldimagesphoto.com/Portfolio/After-Dark/i-nSC454T is a composite I made using Photoshop to combine a long exposure and a short one.

Light painting can be a pretty interesting technique. I was in Zion National Park for a night photo shoot last November. The guy who was leading the shoot set up a huge strobe that blasted a gazillion foot candles of light. It lit up a huge rock there called the Organ. I always thought of light painting as using a spotlight like you. This was something very unique.

I don't know what kind of spot you will be using but it will most likely generate warm light so make sure you set your white balance to Incandescent or use a custom setting of 3200K.

Al
Last edited by autzig on Sat Mar 28, 2015 2:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

kcflanders
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Re: Photographing the milky way

Postby kcflanders » Wed Sep 24, 2014 7:15 pm

I tried a few different white balance options and tungsten was definitely the best. One thing I hadn't considered was FOV at the Red Mill. It looks to be only 120' or so from the road. I'm not sure how tall it is, maybe 60 feet from the base. That would only leave me with about 40% of sky above the scene. I'll definitely be photographing it during the day, so I'll certainly try to get permission at that time before returning at night. It's not far from my parents home in Bakersfield and I have a couple other scenes picked out along the way.

abby
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Re: Photographing the milky way

Postby abby » Wed Sep 24, 2014 8:14 pm

KC......you read my mind! I am hoping to try to capture the Milky Way as well.

Hi Al, you have come to the rescue once again. I am totally new to this. I will read over the links you posted and I'm sure I will learn something. In the meantime, here is my question:
I have seen some images taken on Oct 3rd 2013 of the Milky Way in Barton. They are really beautiful. So, my question is if the Milky Way was visible on Oct 3rd 2013, would that mean it will also be visible on either Sept 30th, or Oct 1st or 2nd of this year?? And where in the sky should I look? I see you responded that the moon sets at 10:52 pm on Sept 30th so I should shoot after the moon sets, correct? Should I be looking in the Southwest sky?
Thank you in advance.

autzig
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Re: Photographing the milky way

Postby autzig » Wed Sep 24, 2014 8:55 pm

Carol, the Milky Way is always there and will be visible, assuming clear skies. It will be visible in the southwest sky early on the night of September 30. As the earth rotates, it will gradually appear in a more westerly direction. It will appear in the northwestern sky by 4:00 AM. It isn't like the moon in that it sometimes can't be seen. It is always there. Technically, the Milky Way forms an arc with the dominant core in the southwestern sky at this time of the year but it can also be seen in the northeastern sky but not nearly so well. As the earth tilts on its axis, the main core of the Milky Way is below the horizon in the northern hemisphere by November. It reappears in its full glory in the spring. That said, I have photographed the night sky at all times of the year and have never been disappointed.

I highly recommend Stellarium. (Do a Google search to find it.) It is free software and easy to use. You can literally see where the Milky Way, the planets and stars will appear in the sky. Also consider getting the app "Photo Pills" for your smart phone. It has some really good photo tools including night time tools. It has what is calls "Night A/R". You can choose the date and time you want, stand where you want with your camera and it will show you what will appear in the night sky at that date and time in your exact location as you look through the camera. I don't know how well I am explaining it. You just have to see it or visit their website.

Moonset in Barton on September 30 is at 10:47 PM and 37% of it is visible. You should wait until the moon sets because it generates so much light that it dims the sky making it harder to capture the Milky Way. If you are going to be in Barton this weekend, the sky will be much better for photographing the Milky Way. On Saturday the moon sets at 9:06 PM which is almost exactly two hours after sunset. You can get sunrise/sunset/moonrise/moonset data here: http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.php

Read my article and make sure your focus is set to infinity. I don't think Nikon has an infinity mark on its lenses so you will crank the focus all the way to the end and then move back a little.

Once you see your Milky Way photo, you will have a sense of excitement ten times one of CT's foliasms. :D

If you have questions let me know. I love night photography and I want to help anyone who wants to learn.

Al

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Re: Photographing the milky way

Postby Andy » Sun Sep 28, 2014 7:49 am

KC: Al is definitely the "guru" when it comes to night photography. He has studied it extensively, and has lots of empirical experience.

I have spent a fair amount of time shooting the Old Red Mill. You should not have any problems there. The Mill is actually a craft shop these days and there probably won't be anyone there during the evening hours. If you have not been there, you might be surprised at its setting. It is tucked relatively close to the main highway (SR-15). If you look on Google Maps on Satellite View, you get a pretty good idea of the setting. The big curve you see is actually on a very steep hill, so at the bottom, where the Mill is, is blind. Be careful about oncoming traffic from the Northeast. There is a parking lot just off the road, and to the East of the parking lot is the river that the mill is set on. The road crosses the river and the bridge is set very high above the water, which is a waterfall.

I have climbed down the embankment there IN THE DAYLIGHT. It is muddy and a fall there would likely be fatal, so use EXTREME CAUTION, especially at night. I would definitely recommend a headlamp. There was no sidewalk to shoot from when I was there some years back (and the Google satellite view confirms that. There is really no other vantage point to get a decent angle on the mill (assuming you want it in the photo :) ) and both sides of the road only have a very narrow "shoulder." Not sure I would advise setting up there at night, as it is one of the major highways coming into Burlington (SR-15).

I DO think Al's suggestion that you alert local law enforcement of your purpose might be good. Somebody around the mill at night with a headlamp might arouse suspicion. OTOH, its a commercial area. There is a party/convenience store immediately West and some other commercial establishments to the East.

During mornings and afternoons, there is a non-stop stream of commuters along the road passing in front. I would expect that at the time of night you are speaking of, three would be very little of that (and thus, not a constant stream of headlights).

Good luck and please share your results with us.
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

Utah Baker
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Re: Photographing the milky way

Postby Utah Baker » Sun Sep 28, 2014 4:14 pm

I have included this picture I took last year for reference so that those reading will know what we are talking about. As Andy stated it is on a very busy road with no side walk, Don't know if it lit up at all at night, and besides the gift shop, it is the museum for the "Snowflake" Bently collection, photographs taken abt the turn of the century of snowflakes, I found very interesting and amazing! Look forward to seeing what you come up with.

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autzig
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Re: Photographing the milky way

Postby autzig » Sun Sep 28, 2014 7:48 pm

Janice, your photo was really helpful. I am going to make some assumptions about it and that might help KC. I assume you made this photo with a 50mm lens. If that is the case, a nightscape photo could be made with a 50mm lens that excludes the rocks in the foreground but starts at the base of the lower right part of the building. That would open a fair amount of the sky. With a 24mm lens, considerably more of the sky would be visible. Nighttime shots should use a very wide angle lens. I usually use a 21mm or 14mm lens.

The one potential problem I see here is what I suspect is a streetlight on the power pole to the left of the building near the parking lot. If lit, it will give off a lot of light. Not enough to spoil the sky but it will light up parts of the building while other parts are in the shadow. The solution to that problem might be to photograph the mill before the light comes on and use that exposure and one with a good night sky to make a composite.

Al

autzig
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Re: Photographing the milky way

Postby autzig » Wed Oct 08, 2014 8:19 pm

Well, KC and Carol. Did you get any Milky Way shots? Will you share them with us?

Al

kcflanders
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Re: Photographing the milky way

Postby kcflanders » Mon Oct 13, 2014 10:39 am

It was cloudy the night I was able to try the Jericho Mill. I was surprised by the amount of traffic at 10:00 PM, and there was construction at the site. It looks like they are preparing a viewing platform off the road. Which is good cause there is no sidewalk on the bridge, you are within a few feet of traffic. Should be nice when they are finished. I was only able to get a long exposure shot, but this site will be good after construction and when there is no traffic after midnight.
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