Chasing the Light

Chasing the Light

Photography is about chasing the light. Always searching for a composition that impacts the viewer and causes a reaction.

Sunsets are always good for that, as is Astro Photography.

Last week, my friend Larry Maddox and I drove down to Mt St Helens, specifically to the Windy Ridge Viewpoint which gives you a view of the Caldera from the east.

Our purpose was to capture some shots of the Milky Way.

The weather was perfect. The moon was a small sliver that wouldn’t show until just before dawn. The galactic core would rise above the horizon around 9:30. All perfect.

First Milky Way Shot

The first time I chased the Milky Way was in August of 2018. My friend Judi Kubes organized an outing at Sunrise, in Mt. Rainier National Park.

This first attempt at the Milky Way was not great. I thought the color cast was due to the smoke floating in the air. The right-hand copy is a newer post processing attempt. Certainly, better color, but it doesn’t correct for the original exposure. This was shot with a cropped sensor Canon 7d Mk II, 20 seconds, f/4.0, ISO 12800, @ 22mm.

Comet Neowise and the Milky Way

Two years later, while shooting the comet Neowise, again at Sunrise in Mt Rainier NP, I turned around to see a glorious Milky Way that was begging to be captured.

Again with the red color cast. This time I was using an EF-S10-18mm at 10mm on my 7d Mk II. Twenty second exposure at f/5.6. A much better result, I think. The recent update is even better, bringing out some of the mountains in the background.

By the way, I believe it is Jupiter and Saturn that are the bright spots in the lower left.

The Latest Shots

Finally, on Wednesday I came home with a lot of captures that do the star-scape justice.

This landscape shot had me thinking that I would be repeating my past attempts, with under exposed, lackluster images.

I was shooting with my Canon R6. A full frame mirrorless camera. The lens, an RF24-105mm set to 24mm. Exposure 8 seconds at f/4.0, ISO 6400.

Larry showed me what he was doing and… much better! Bonus, the galactic core is nicely positioned in the notch on the left of St Helens.

This vertical was shot with the same equipment and settings, except the ISO was set to 20000.

More Better!

Not Portfolio Material

I don’t pretend that this makes me an Astro Photographer. Far from it.

What it does re-enforce is that if you keep trying, and work with friends, you can’t help but improve.

Learnings:

First off, we were late. We should have been there an hour earlier.

Next, we should have climbed to the top of Windy Ridge to take our shots. (Mind you, neither of us were confident to climb all those steps and then come down them in the dark.)

I experimented with an EF50mm f/1.8 lens and found I could get some really sharp and bright shots at a lower ISO. Trouble was that the field of view was way too small. My learning here was that instead of the RF35mm I have been looking at, perhaps I should go for the new RF24mm Canon has just released. They both have similar specifications except for the field of view.

More study is required also. Alyn Wallace, a youtuber who specializes in Astro Photography has some videos that show how to stack multiple exposures to reduce the noise that we get with high ISO exposures.

Travel in Packs

I have to thank Larry for agreeing to drive down to Mt St Helens with me. Google Maps took us in to Windy Ridge along FR-26 which is a wee bit sketchy compared to FR-25. I was getting concerned about the drive back in the dark of midnight.

It’s always good to travel with friends.


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