Weekly Photo Challenge: ”One Shot, Two Ways”
I went shooting the night sky for the first time this weekend at the Mt. Mégantic observatory for the annual Perseids meteor shower. The area is ideal for stargazing as the ambient luminosity is controlled over the surrounding region. Villages 20-25 km away are asked to keep the lighting to a minimum during this special time of the year. This is an exercise that I have wanted to do for a long time but ideal conditions are rarely present. The night from Saturday to Sunday was perfect with a very small moon which sets very early and an almost completely cloudless sky.
I was challenged to capture on digital film a shooting star. I made a rookie mistake, I used a exposure time which is too long for the fleeting stars to register. Next time, I will do things differently as try much shorter exposure time at the price of high ISO noise. Better to get a noisy shooting star than none at all…
I set the camera on a tripod obviously and let it shoot a frame every 30 seconds for a few hours until the battery ran out. Only the first hour or so is usable as condensation on the front element progressively obscures the frame. Other lesson learned: bring a small fan to vent the front element.
For this week’s challenge, I used a single frame with the night sky frozen so we can see the Milky Way. For the second, I had to go through every single frame to remove those with the presence of satellites or airplanes polluting the image. I made a composite using the software Startrails. Not only it merges all frames but it also substracts noise by using a dark frame, i.e. a shot taken with the lens cap on.
I really enjoyed the shoot and intend on getting more night sky shots, especially if I can find a more interesting foreground. This type of photography is not very difficult technically but it takes some patience and luck to get ideal conditions. And it does require to sit/lie down in chilly nighttime conditions so one piece of advice: bring warm clothes and lots of them.
Equipment: Canon DSLR 5D Mk II, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L lens, RAW conversion using Lightroom 4.1, Startrails software can be downloaded at: