September 9th, 2018


September 9--Don't simplify things until hammering is over

I went to my photography class yesterday. Our trip is later this week, so it was all about getting prepared and where we are going to meet up, etc. We spent some time talking about astrophotography, and where the best spots would be to photograph the stars. A night sky photo is one of the required elements.

I spent the other evening researching the area and looking for out-of-the-way places, as I like to do. I found a spot down a dirt road on the north side of Mono Lake with some unusual rock formations and an old abandoned ranch, which would be a great spot to get the night sky from. Interestingly, the woman sitting next to me in class had researched the same out-of-the-way spot, which may indicate that it is not as out-of-the-way as I think it is. We will likely meet up one of the nights and go out there to see if it lives up to our expectations. I will be there for four nights, so have plenty of time to get it right.

Last night I decided to go out and practice the night settings. We live at the southern edge of the metropolitan area, so I can drive about 10 minutes and be out in the country. It doesn't mean I can escape the light pollution, but I can at least see the stars. I drove out about a half hour to a spot along the Cosumnes River called Michigan Bar. I like it out there.

I have a cool little app that tells me where particular stars, constellations, galaxies, etc. will be at any point in time, and the Milky way was rising in the south, which was what I wanted to capture, and where the least amount of light was. I drove out the dirt road until I reached a high area overlooking the valley to the south and set up.

milky way

This is a minimally processed shot--mostly adjusted for light and contrast. The really spectacular Milky Way shots are put through all sorts of post-processing steps, but this one had too much ambient light to make it worth the effort. I mostly wanted to validate my settings, figure out how to focus to infinity in the dark, and try out my new lens, which worked fine. I think that light to the south is the town of Ione, where the good tacos are.

star fence

Another shot looking west, with a fence in the foreground. I could have spent hours out there fooling around, but all of a sudden it was almost 11 pm, and Malida was calling to see when I was coming home, so I packed up and came home.