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The Milky Way Over The Sierra Thread

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The Milky Way Over The Sierra Thread

Postby ExploreABitMore » Sun May 10, 2015 11:40 am

Hello,

After running across the beautiful Milky Way photography of Michael Shainblum and after spending so much time in the Sierra, while simultaneously getting more and more into photography, I decided to add Milky Way photography to the list of things I like to do in the Sierra. Last year was the first summer I tried this out and it was a blast. Well, it's fun if you can manage to not mind cold sleepless nights! (easier said than done at times)

At first, I thought this was going to be a unique endeavor, but I have since found out I am far from the first person to think of this! So, I thought I would start a thread where folks can post Milky Way photos over the Sierra.

Or, if folks can suggest great spots for Milky Way photography in the Sierra, that would be great too. Typically Southern facing views, slightly to the East or West of South, are best. A lake with a mountain backdrop to the South can be nice.

At the very least, maybe it will inspire/encourage others to try this out too! I don't think I will do as much this year, but definitely plan a few. One area I would like to hit up again is 1000 Island Lake. The Milky Way lines up nicely over the lake and Banner Peak. I tired last year, but ended up getting the stomach flu and having to hike back out in the dark feeling rather sick!

The Sierra can hardly get any more beautiful but why not throw in the Milky Way to top it off :)

Here are a few I took last summer:


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Softly Fading Dream. This one was a fun adventure one for my wife and I. We awoke at Long Lake at 1AM to hike up to Ruwua Lake for photos. It was a moonless night with snow covering much of the trail, leaving us occasionally going around in circles looking for it. Turned out the best photo was near this "puddle" just beneath Ruwau Lake. Taken just after 4AM, the bluish hue is from the coming dawn, which was still invisible to the naked eye.


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Krypton. The greenish glow is caused by "air glow", a natural atmospheric phenomenon that is very hard, if not impossible, to predict. However, it seems to be somewhat common. Long Lake with Mt Goode in the background


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Midnight Vision. A magical moment in Sabrina Basin, just below the outlet of Moonlight Lake.


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Illumination. This one was taken at Lower Lamarck Lake, with a sliver of moon still above the horizon providing the perfect amount of "illumination" on the foreground enabling a single shot.


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Epiphany. Need to clear your head? The Sierra can be a great place for bright ideas. Also Lower Lamarck Lake
Sierra Nevada, Mojave Desert, Night Sky Photography: http://www.evanthomasphoto.com/



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Re: The Milly Way Over The Sierra Thread

Postby gary c. » Sun May 10, 2015 12:52 pm

Beautiful!!
"On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude."
-- Lionel Terray
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Re: The Milky Way Over The Sierra Thread

Postby Jimr » Sun May 10, 2015 4:14 pm

That is exactly why I upgraded my camera body. Needed better ISO performance.
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Re: The Milky Way Over The Sierra Thread

Postby markskor » Sun May 10, 2015 5:15 pm

Nice -
Been around our Sierra some - Whitney to Clouds Rest to Tallac - but the brightest/my favorite Milky Way viewing destination, best ever encountered has always been backside Saddlebag - 11,000 feet - nights of no moon.
Humbled and haunted by the intensity of the purples and yellows rising over Conness...still gives me chills.
Relatively easy to get to too.
Mark
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: The Milky Way Over The Sierra Thread

Postby fishmonger » Sun May 10, 2015 7:56 pm

last summer, Lake of the Lone Indian

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Milky Way above Lake of the Lone Indian
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Re: The Milky Way Over The Sierra Thread

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun May 10, 2015 8:54 pm

Nothing too special here. These sorts of things need something more to make it interesting and getting something to work is very hard which is why I don't take too many standard star photos. I try more for star trails when I can.


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Re: The Milky Way Over The Sierra Thread

Postby ExploreABitMore » Mon May 11, 2015 8:53 am

Rogue, I think I see Banner Peak in a couple of those!! Such a great spot for night sky photography. I gotta get back there this year to try again.

Fishmonger, I'm not familiar with that lake, but sure looks like a nice spot for the Milky Way. Nice shot. Did you use a fisheye lens on that one? That's something I've been looking into, but just can't justify the purchase right now.

jimr, yeah, ISO really helps. I had to upgrade my camera as well for the same reason. My old one just wasn't cutting it for night sky photography. I also splurged enough to get a full frame, which really helps you hold onto that wide angle field of view so important for night sky photography.

Thanks for sharing the photos guys
Sierra Nevada, Mojave Desert, Night Sky Photography: http://www.evanthomasphoto.com/
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Re: The Milky Way Over The Sierra Thread

Postby Jimr » Mon May 11, 2015 12:59 pm

I think you all should share a bit of the details, you know, exposure settings, single shot or multi-shot, etc. Anything that would be helpful on capture. I've tried to keep single exposures under or at 25 seconds. The ISO handling of my 40D was disappointing even after post high ISO noise reduction, so I upgraded to a 60D body.

Mav, those are some nice tutorials on a prior related thread.
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Re: The Milky Way Over The Sierra Thread

Postby ExploreABitMore » Mon May 11, 2015 2:59 pm

I can't remember the exact details on each of those without looking them up at home, but I think I can get pretty close now with what I generally do.

All of the ones I posted were taken with a Sigma f/1.8 20 mm wide angle prime lens. However, funny stuff happens at the corners/edges at f/1.8, so all my night sky shots are taken at f/2.8

Illumination is the only single shot composite, made possible by that crescent moon in the background lighting things up nicely. Like Jim, I try to shoot at 25 secs max, which is what this image is at ISO 4000.

The other photos are a composite of two separate photos - one for the background and one for the foreground. Again, backgrounds are usually 20-25 secs at ISO 4000-5000. (Occasionally, I will go shorter on time and even higher on ISO, but not in any of these photos here) Foregrounds are usually somewhere between 1-3 minutes with a maximum ISO of 3200.
Sierra Nevada, Mojave Desert, Night Sky Photography: http://www.evanthomasphoto.com/
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Re: The Milky Way Over The Sierra Thread

Postby Jimr » Mon May 11, 2015 5:28 pm

Very cool. Thank you Evan.
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Re: The Milky Way Over The Sierra Thread

Postby fishmonger » Tue May 12, 2015 6:10 am

exposure data on mine is under the image (on the Flickr link) - tripod used, remote trigger, mirror up before shutter. All in-camera, no composite. Lake of the Lone Indian is just north west of Silver Pass.

High ISO here, 6400 for the image above, as always with these non-trail star shots. The wider the lens, the longer you can expose (500 rule - 500/focal length = sec of exposure) before getting star trails, but the less light each star produces. My shot above was taken with a 30 year old 16mm f/3.5 fisheye at 24 seconds, the best and sharpest fisheye Nikon ever made, but like any ultra wide, it really could use a longer exposure. Then you need a star tracker, and fake the landscape back in with Photoshop. Don't really care to get that deep into night sky shots, given I go places where even the gear I bring now is considered rather heavy.

Next time up there I may bring a 24mm f/1.4 or 20mm f/1.8, which collect a lot more light and still are very wide. Thing is, I can't justify buying them just for this use, and they are rather heavy lenses. Otherwise, I have those focal lengths fully covered. Where I live, star photography is completely useless.
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Re: The Milky Way Over The Sierra Thread

Postby Jimr » Tue May 12, 2015 9:34 am

Thanks Peter. I assume for a crop sensor it would be 500/focal length * crop factor = seconds of exposure. For 17mm, 1.6 crop factor that gives me only 18 seconds. I have some playing to do between 18 and 24 second exposures.

I made a barn door tracker so I could take pictures of past blood moons and it worked like a champ. I considered making one out of a triangular hinge instead of wood for backpacking, but there is no getting around the need to replace the foreground. May be worthwhile though.
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