Now here's a technique I've been wanting to try for a while … starfield photography … more specifically trying to capture the spiral arm of our galaxy better known as the Milky Way. Essentially I've been waiting for the opportunity to try out the high ISO sensor on the Nikon D600 but I have also been waiting for a couple of other variables first … a suitably clear sky away from the most obvious light pollution being one … living in the middle of even a small city like Canberra has kinda prevented that. An offer to spend this weekend past down at a quiet part of the New South Wales south coast seemed to tick all the boxes. This part of the coast is about two and a half hours drive from Canberra and it's a beautiful part of the world … bays and beaches amongst rugged coastline. It was forecast to begin raining in Canberra but down at the coast it was extra clear. There was a waxing crescent moon but it wasn't in the sky for very long. We arrived at the house just after sunset and after it got a little darker I set up my camera, tripod and 20mm wide angle lens. I pointed it at the sky, cranked up the ISO setting to the camera's maximum (something ridiculous like ISO25,600!) and set a 20 second exposure and fired the shutter and this is essentially what appeared on the camera's display*…

Galactic spiral arm looking east from Malua Bay toward the South Pacific Ocean

I swore … loudly. The sentiment being largely 'wow!' and I remember looking up at the sky in wonder before setting the next shot.

Then I went down to the beach…

Milky Way spiral arm looking east from Malua Bay ... from the beach this time :-)
Milky Way spiral arm looking east from Malua Bay … from the beach this time πŸ™‚

I think the thing that amazed me most about these pictures was that I have lived every day with such a massive feature in the sky but have, up until the weekend only seen it in glimpses or as a milky haze across the night sky. I also wondered how I could possibly get my eyes augmented to this kind of sensitivity … I'd likely get the ultraviolet and infra-red modules too if they available πŸ˜‰

Wandering back up toward the house I put the fisheye lens on for a greater than 180° field of view … this one was a bit later after the arm had risen and I'd had a cpuple of glasses of wine and also after most folks had retired for the night and turned out their lights…

Fisheye capture of the spiral arm looking straight up
Fisheye capture of the spiral arm looking straight up

Back home again and processing these pictures accidentally converted the first picture to monochrome and I liked where it was pointing me so I went ahead and processed it monochrome too…


I think I like this version the best of all the starfields I captured … what do you think?

*truth be told I tell a little fib … this would be the third exposure after I'd dialled the ISO down to a more respectable setting (still ISO10,000) to reduce the noise.

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