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Completely ruined night at Ennis Lake - learn from my error
avatar June 30, 2019 05:38PM
Last year I went to John Muir county park about 45 miles from home to take photos of the Milky Way at a location that has a lot less light pollution than my area. I never ventured from the parking lot admittedly from being spooked by the sounds of coyotes pretty nearby in the woods. Wolves are in that part of the state too. But there is a lake at the park for a new set of photos.

First of all, I did not really plan this out. Milky Way photos are best done near a new moon, and the skies need to be more clear than ordinary. I checked the moon phase yesterday (near new phase) and the weather forecast was for clear to partly cloudy skies overnight. So late in the afternoon I decided to put my gear together and go try.

First off, I am still adjusting to a new camera. My intention is to buy a full-frame 20mm f/1.8 lens to do photo shoots just like this, but I have not made that expensive purchase to date. I also have a new tripod in the equation. My plan was to just use my DX format Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 mounted on the FX format D750. I would only have 27mm equivalent view as the images would be cropped right off the bat in-camera, but at least I had the extra f-stops. My only other options were the 24-120mm f/4 zoom (losing 2 stops of light), or else the 50mm f/1.8 (not really wide enough). So I am making compromises right at the start.

I arrived at the park later than I planned. In the dark and with my foggy windows (humid night) I drove right past the park entrance and had to backtrack a lot of miles. I was setting up in total darkness with a flashlight being held in one hand, or cradled in my arm. I got my composition and I initially had the focus about right, set manually by making the stars as small as possible in Live-view. I took some test photos, made adjustments, then set the built-in intervalometer to start taking a few dozen photos. I rotated the camera to portrait mode and recomposed the view, and repeated. Problem was, I must have touched the focus ring right before letting the camera start taking the series by itself.

So for the entire night, I have 2 photos basically in-focus. The first 2. I wanted to stack about 30-40 photos to make my final image. What I have here is a single image processed, then I took the 2 images and did a stack. You really need a lot more photos for a good stack that blends out the ISO noise and smooths out the artifacts.

For the curious, here is the out-of-focus samples. There just is no post-processing that out. First one is a 30 image stack and is close to what I was planning to do.

This is a single image.

So don't rush along and forget to check previous settings when working in the dark kiddies. Sad

BF Hammer - the new and improved screen name of Chris L
Subject Author Views Posted
Completely ruined night at Ennis Lake - learn from my error Jpeg Attachments BF Hammer 493 June 30, 2019 05:38PM
A little redemption on the 4th: Jupiter from my back door. Jpeg Attachments BF Hammer 237 July 04, 2019 09:11PM
I like that you think these are horrible. If I put together that first shot I would be chuffed. (n/t) BobbyMikeRedux 225 June 30, 2019 07:55PM
Actually in a low-res format, not that bad. BF Hammer 206 July 01, 2019 02:47PM

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