Astrophotography panoramas with ultrawide angles takes a bit more visualisation when composing the image.  In a way, sometimes astrophotography images are easier than a lot of other landscape images because (apart from more random factors like clouds) – you know exactly where the milky way will be and also where the celestial pole will be.  Even the position of comets and iridium flares are predictable with the resources we have nowadays.

The Dying Earth


Some images it just falls into place – being the “normal” panorama shapes.  In this image:

  • I can see the milky way arch way with my eyes and the location of the core and it just feels like I should place an additional element (my self portrait) where I have.
  • I described in a previous post that I like having a nice shaped milky way arch.
  • I like having a little bit of space past the edges of the arch to create some breathing room for it so that it’s distinct.
  • I also like placing the arch more or less centrally balanced.
  • I wanted to create the element of myself to balance the milky way core in this image.
  • I’ve used the light source with with the knowledge of light falloff  to further pull the attention to the two main components (the core and myself).  In post processing, I exaggerated the light falloff  so that it was more tightly held.
  • I used a CTO gel with the flash to warm up the element and make it feel more like a torch for exploration.
  • I wanted to emphasise the textures of the salt lake – and having the origination of the light source would do that.
  • Did you know that when I’m taking these images I’m wearing basically the same gear? it’s my outfit for these images.  Even though the weather was a bit warm in this image, I wanted to have the same character profile.
  • There is a little bit of thinking of rule of thirds in placement for the balance of the elements.  I generally want to emphasise the sky in landscape astrophotography. so you can see the horizon line is generally set to below the middle.
  • It’s actually a bit of a technique with the self portraits to be far enough away and be non-descript enough to allow the viewer to transpose themselves into the scene and can build a greater connection to the scene.  While I didn’t start doing these with that in mind – after doing a book cover and listening to the processes of doing book covers, it made sense.

The Great Expanse


Again with a “normal” milky way panorama.  Most of the elements of how I saw the image are the same as the Dying Earth image above.  Additionally:

  • I wanted some framing with the milky way reflections.  While the water is too shallow to bring out the full arch properly because you can see the texture of the lake bed underneath – you can see a higher density of stars.  I realise that I could copy and invert, but I choose not to do that level of editing.
  • I wanted to emphasise the scale of the milky way.  Since I’m shooting with an ultrawide lens – I stood further away to make me look more diminutive.



These sorts of panoramas are somewhat more deliberate.  I know I can create a fish-eye effect with the panorama.

  • It works best with the core being higher in the sky – because it then wraps into the stitch more.
  • Knowing that this form of panorama pulls the sides in – created an interesting idea for the dead trees surrounding the lake.
  • This method of panorama sucks everything into the middle.
  • Not only is the lighter parts of the image more central, but the horizon is literally wrapped around and frames the image.
  • The way this form of panorama works is that it stretches the sides as well and creating a defocused effect – this further brings the attention towards the middle.

 Passage of Time


While not a panorama.  The same principles apply in that you know exactly where the celestial pole will be.  From where I am – it’s elevated at about 30 degrees off the horizon facing south.  Therefore knowing the field of view of my lens will be able to work out where the star trails will form (note that I still check with a test though).  For star trails – I personally don’t like having them centralised.  This image was a difficult balancing act for me – because the horizon is only slightly off centre.  There were particular thrombolites that I wanted in the composition as the foam was floating around them in a fashion I liked.

Other thoughts

One fairly important thing for me though in all the compositions is to be careful not to put too many elements into the scene.  Arguably images like “Nightmare” may look a bit crowded, but the effect of the trees is in my mind seen as one element.  The second milky way panorama I ever did had somewhat too many elements in it that I felt it was too unfocused and not coherent.

This off course isn’t comprehensive – just some of the major items that are floating through my mind when imaging.  I’ve currently got a lot of additional ideas which I’ve been wanting to put into test but haven’t had the time or resources to do them yet.  I’m also looking to do some more collaborative stuff – which means I need more than just me 😛