Astrophotography The Coming Darkness – the title reflects a few things for me.  It’s almost the end of milky way season here for 2014 with it setting earlier in the night and the sun setting later.  On this night, there was only a couple of brief moments when the milky way core was visible, the clouds overwhelmed me shortly after imaging and it wasn’t possible to shoot the milky way core again.

On this occasion I wanted to do a couple of things.  I wanted to do a milky way arch self portrait using my flash method (but this time with a milky way arch) and also wanted to try a couple of additional things to try to improve image quality, especially around the milky way core (which due to the weather conditions was not successful).

I organised for some members of a local photography groups to come with me on an astrophotography event.  I was quite disappointed with the amount of cloud, because I wanted to just take a couple of tests myself and then spend all my time wandering around to ensure that the other photographers were ok and making myself available to assist.  It isn’t very often that I invite others to come with me on an astrophotography trip as I’m often doing  panoramas.

Weather forecasts appeared to be quite clear but windy.  Strong winds can be a problem for imaging due to causing camera shake during long exposures.  I use both Perth and Jurien Bay to assist with my forecasting because the relative position between the weather stations and also it giving me an idea of what’s on the horizon/what’s coming.

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However the satellite shows a very different picture showing that we were enveloped in clouds and it wasn’t going to get much better.  I didn’t cancel prior to this because the same satellite information showed the cloud was breaking up prior to this, so extrapolating was hoping it would clear.  This was 9:33 UTC which equates to 5:33pm our local time.  Noting that the clouds were moving in a northerly direction.

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Waiting for the milky way allows for some additional scouting and a few images.  Why is all this cloud here >_<

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I was in a rush to image the panorama.  With the clouds moving in a northerly direction, you could see breaks on the horizon to the south.  I had to move quickly (but not using my car due to other photographers in the area) to relocate to one of my sites, doing a brisk walk for a few hundred metres and settling on a spot which wasn’t ideal.  However seeing the pace of the clouds, stopped and setup fairly quickly.  The clouds moved so rapidly – that you can see in the few minutes that it took for the panorama starting at the top left and going clockwise, by the time I was at the bottom left you can see how the clouds have moved.

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PROCESSING

The initial stitch looked very patchwork – as it initially struggled to work out what was what due to the fast moving clouds.  But this is really where PTGui shines – apart from blending, it allows me to mask in or out areas that I want to include or exclude from the final stitch.

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THE PINNACLES

The Pinnacles at Nambung National Park are situated 140-160km north of Perth, Western Australia.  They are limestone formations that have been created by either an aeolian process and/or tree roots and vegetation, and then exposed by erosion.  Access to the location has been made so easy with the creation of the Indian Ocean highway that drives from Perth and passes the entrance to the Pinnacles.  When I originally started shooting milky way images there – I think I saw one nightscape from there.  It’s quite common now due to it’s accessibility and it’s interesting landscape that lends itself to this sort of photography.  I think I won’t be visiting here too often now – while I’ve got a few compositions still in my mind that I will come back for, but it’s a rather overshot place now for astrophotography.  It’s easy to run workshops from here though.

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