This rickety bridge over the Bumbo Creek at Bodalla, Australia, has loads of character and even more gaps between its planks. Walking across it in the dark is not for the faint-hearted! When I visited the location in January of 2019 the Magellanic Clouds–satellite galaxies of our own Milky Way–happened to line up right over the bridge. The stillness of the water in the creek provided a great mirror to reflect starlight from, and a little bit of illumination from an LED lamp helped make the bridge more visible. There was a lovely amount of green atmospheric airglow to provide a pleasant background colour to the scene.
I created this photo by shooting ten overlapping images, then stitching those images into a vertical panorama. For each of the ten individual images I used a Canon EOS 6D camera, fitted with a Rokinon 24mm lens set to f/2.4, and an exposure time of 15 seconds per frame @ ISO 6400.
The Colour of Night
To capture this image I made use of a star tracker, a device that enables you to take photos with exposure lengths measured in minutes, rather than 30 or fewer seconds. In this case, I had the camera’s shutter open for two minutes (and one second), resulting in the capturing of the beautiful crimson hues of the Eta Carinae Nebula region. Wisps of dark interstellar dust dangle down below the nebula, and there’s no missing the opaque gases that make up the Coal Sack Nebula, left of centre down the bottom.
Along with the iOption SkyTracker, I used the following equipment and settings to take this photo: Canon EOS 6D camera, Canon 50mm STM lens @ f/3.2, 121-second exposure @ ISO 800.
Round and round. Again.
I am so used to shooting my nightscape images in the autumn, winter and early spring months that I forgot to take something essential with me on this summer night in the first week of January. Insect repellant is a necessity if there are mosquitoes about and especially if you don’t enjoy being bitten by them. With none of the liquid in my kit, I took the only other measure I could and popped on a parka that lives in the back of my car. When the temperature is somewhere around 25 degrees C (77 F), and the humidity is in the low 70s, a parka isn’t what you want to be wearing. Still, it kept the mosquitoes at bay.
I set my camera up to shoot this star-trails scene and let it run itself for 3.5 hours. The camera was set to take a 25-second exposure, close the shutter for 1 second and then capture another 25-second image, repeating the cycle until I turned off the camera.
All-up I shot 463 single frames over those 3.5 hours, then used the software “StarStaX” to make the final composite photo. For each of those shots, I had my Canon EOS 6D Mk II camera mounted on a tripod and fitted with a Samyang 14mm lens set to f/2.8. As mentioned above, the exposure time for each frame was 25 seconds, and I set the ISO to 1600.
Not a bad start!
One night in February I drove south for around 100 km to a spot that I’ve heard so much about but never visited, Cathedral Rocks, near the coastal town of Kiama, Australia. It’s a gross understatement to say that I struck gold by choosing this location. Not only did I have the famous rock formations to feature in my foreground, with the majesty of the galactic core rising in the southeast to dominate the frame, but I was treated to the presence of the planets Jupiter and Venus as they rose over the Tasman Sea. All of that happening on my first Milky Way shoot for the year was almost too much!
The intensity of Venus’ light is unmissable in the photo, shining both low in the sky and reflected off the waves breaking on the beach. The unexpected bonus for the night was the light from bioluminescent organisms in the water turning the waves a glowing blue colour. I’m ridiculously tired from staying out late and only getting a few hours of sleep, but it was so worth it!
I shot this single-frame photograph with a Canon EOS 6D Mk II camera, a Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM lens @ f/2.8, using a 10-second exposure @ ISO 6400.
Silos full of stars
Even though this is a rural locality–near Goulburn, Australia–there is a car speedway off to the east, and its carpark lighting seems to be left on all night. That was frustrating, but one of the lights did provide a nice “starburst” effect through the support structures that hold up the silos.
Almost as bright as that light below the silos is the planet Jupiter, rising into the heavens and situated above the line between silos two and three (counting from the left). Like all photographs this one doesn’t convey the smells that were assailing my nostrils as I stood outside the compound, clicking away to try to get a few good shots.
For this single-frame photo, I used a Canon EOS 6D Mk II camera, a Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens @ f/2.4, with an exposure time of 15 seconds @ ISO 6400.
A windmill on a windless night
Is a windmill still a windmill if there’s no wind? Is it just a “mill”? There was no wind, nor even a breeze, on the night that I photographed this scene in April of 2019.
The bright spot near the centre and about 1/4 down from the top is the planet Jupiter, its brightness contrasted with the enormous dark dust and gas clouds characteristic of the Milky Way’s galactic core. A little down and to the right of the windmill is the planet Saturn.
This post is a single-frame image that I shot with Canon EOS 6D Mk II camera, a Yongnuo 50mm f/1.4 lens @ f/1.6, using an exposure time of 6 seconds @ ISO 6400.
Coloured Cathedral Circles
My photo here was made by shooting multiple 15-second photos over 2.5 hours at Cathedral Rocks near Kiama, Australia. In that time the camera clicked off 530 shots. Once I got home, I imported the photos into Adobe Lightroom for basic editing, then stacked (blended) them, using the free application StarStaX, to create a single image that shows the trails of the stars on the night sky.
To capture those 530 single frames I used a Canon EOS 6D Mk II camera, a Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens @ f/2.4, with each shot exposed for 15 seconds @ ISO 3200.
When I visited the site and shot this photo (plus a bunch of others) in April of 2019, the Milky Way’s core had not long cleared the decrepit corrugated iron roof that straddles the two concrete cylinders.
Much closer to Earth than our galaxy‘s centre, but looking here to be a bright spot in the dark nebula known as the Dark Horse or the Galactic Kiwi, Jupiter was also climbing into the evening sky.
For this single-frame image, I pushed my Canon EOS 6D Mk II camera’s ISO setting to 12,800, shooting through a Canon 40 mm lens at f/2.8 for an exposure time of 10 seconds.
Cemetery Under the Core
It’s been nearly impossible to find any details online about this cemetery near Pejar, New South Wales, Australia. The only information that I turned up suggests that the oldest headstone there dates from 1875, and the church that shares the same piece of land was built by locals in 1903.
However old it is, the cemetery sure hasn’t been around as long as the Milky Way, seen here stretching up from the horizon to overshadow the countryside. The stars & planets, comets & asteroids, nebulae & dust clouds that make up our home galaxy are at their densest concentration in what is known as the galactic core, seen near the centre of this shot.
Halfway down and about one quarter in from the left of the shot is the brilliant white light reflecting from the planet Jupiter. Another planet, Saturn, had not long risen when I took this shot. You can see it a little above the bloom of white light coming from behind the distant hills.
This image is a single-frame photo that I shot with a Canon EOS 6D camera, a Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens @ f/2.4x, using an exposure time of 13 seconds @ ISO 6400.
Before the sunshine
What kinds of things make up our solar system? big things like the Sun (which accounts for 99.8% of the mass of the solar system), as well as planets, dwarf planets (hello, Pluto), moons, comets, asteroids, meteoroids, and all of the bits of metal that mankind has sent into space. Those answers are all correct, and as well as this big stuff there’s also dust. LOTS of dust spread across the same plane in which the planets orbit the Sun. In the autumn and spring months, it’s common to see this dust lit up in the dawn or dusk sky, depending on the season and whether you’re located north of south of the equator. This glowing dust is called the Zodiacal Light, also known as the “false dawn” because it is so bright it does look as if the first/last rays of sunlight are visible. The glow is sunlight being reflected and dispersed by these minute dust particles. The Zodiacal Light is unmissable in this photograph that I shot this morning (10th June), and it is so bright that you can see that it’s lit up the water and some of the shoreline of Coila Lake, Australia. This lake is a non-tidal, enclosed waterway and its surface was all the more still due to there being no breeze at all, providing a perfect mirror to reflect the Zodiacal Light and plenty of stars.
This image is a single-frame photograph that I took with my Canon EOS 6D Mk II camera, a Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens @ f/2.4, using an exposure time of 13 seconds @ ISO 3200.
Death and light at Big Hill
The predominant green colour of the background sky in this image is the result of the atmospheric phenomenon called “airglow”. To my eyes, the background sky colour looked grey rather than black–a sure sign of the presence of airglow. Our digital cameras excel at seeing and recording the shades of the night that we don’t discern, and this photo is a solid example of that difference.
Can you see orange-brown hues in the sky in the top two-thirds of the image, looking like bruises on the dermis of the heavenly dome? These peculiar patches were caused by the fog that came and went during the couple of hours I was shooting here, mostly hampering but occasionally enhancing my photos. The brilliant glow from Jupiter, our solar system’s largest planet, has been diffused but brightened by the same airborne moisture. That accounts for the large white spot in the sky that’s roughly half-way down my image.
Dominating the foreground is the frame of the tired, expired and lonely tree that was so grand, and seemed to beckon to me, pleading to be featured in a photograph. Without the LED torch that I used to illuminate the tree and the paddocks, all you would see here would be the silhouette of this deceased and exhausted patriarch of the countryside.
The photo is another example of a “vertical panorama”, an image that has been created by shooting multiple frames, covering the view from the horizon to the zenith, which I then blended, or “stitched”, into the final image. I captured each of the seven single frames using a Canon EOS 6D camera, with a Samyang 14mm f/2.4 lens @ f2.4, exposed for 25 seconds @ ISO 6400.
Still and stunning
I can almost hear once again the sound of the quiet that I enjoyed while I shot this scene at the beginning of June on the Tuross River, on Australia's southeast coast. The lack of breeze on the river rendered the water's surface a natural mirror to reflect the light from the sky and the foreground to where I had positioned my camera. As well as numerous stars, you can see the Large Magellanic Cloud–which is a galaxy and not a cloud at all–shining off the top of the water.
At this point, the river forks off to the right into Bumbo Creek, which is broached by the wooden bridge that leads to lush and prized dairy paddocks. Beyond that bridge, you can see the fine layer of fog that hovered over the fields in the post-midnight hour.
Ruling over it all, of course, is the central band and concentrated core of our home in the heavens, the Milky Way galaxy. My attraction to viewing and photographing this section of the sky isn't only the billions of stars concentrated there. The dark filament-like structures known as "dust lanes" that only make themselves visible by the millions of stars they obscure, also captivate me.
I created this image by shooting nine overlapping images, with my camera mounted on a panoramic head that sets a fixed angle between each photo. After capturing the individual pictures and downloading them to my computer, I used some panorama-stitching software to blend the nine images into one. To shoot each of those nine photos I used my Canon EOS 6D Mk II camera, a Samyang 14mm f/2.4 lens @ f/2.4, using an exposure time of 20 seconds @ ISO 6400.
On the last Friday night in June, I headed out from my home in Sydney, Australia, to the southern tablelands region of New South Wales. My first stop was at a farming locality known as Big Hill, a drive of about 180 km (110 mi) from home. With the Milky Way’s galactic core almost overhead, I pointed my camera northward to take in the view over the foggy fields of Big Hill.
The few large puddles that formed the small creek in the foreground excelled at reflecting the starlight for me to capture. The Milky Way’s galactic core might not be in the photo, but there was plenty of interstellar dust-lane detail in the northern heavens to add interest to the scene. The distinctive green hue in the sky was generated by the natural phenomenon known as atmospheric airglow.
To create this image, I blended three individual shots in a process known as “stacking”, which helps to reduce the amount of digital noise in the final photo and also removed unevenness in my foreground lighting. For each of those three single photos, I shot with my Canon EOS 6D Mk II camera, a Samyang 14mm f/2.4 lens @ f/2.8, using an exposure time of 25 seconds @ ISO 3200.
Me, in the mist, after midnight
It took a lot of deft footwork to get across that wooden bridge in the dark when I visited this section of the Tuross River in June, 2019. This area is a Bortle Class 1 location, which means things are very dark and free of light pollution. It's so dark that I could make out the bridge's slats without the help of artificial light, using only the natural atmospheric airglow, and starlight, for illumination.
The Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy is hiding in the top of the tree to the left of the bridge, and in the sky to the right, the crimson hues of the Eta Carinae region of the sky can be seen. The light mist over the fields and the river added a special magical quality to the scene. You mightn't be able to see me too well on the bridge, on the right-hand side, near the tree on the far bank, but I promise you, I'm there.
I captured this image with a Canon EOS 6D camera, fitted with a Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens @ f/2.4, using an exposure time of 15 seconds @ ISO 6400.
As with my bookended original image “Northerly Aspect”, in this one, I am featuring a portion of the Milky Way that isn't as dense and bright as the oft-featured galactic core region. This southerly aspect of our home galaxy still has a lot of prominent features, though. You can see many dark nebulae and dust lanes that show themselves by obscuring light from the stars behind them.
The Southern Cross is right in the centre of the image and the two stars that are known as the "Pointers", Alpha and Beta Centauri, are visible above the Cross. The intensity of the green atmospheric airglow on this night was the most I've ever seen, I think, and that's what has given the photo the coloured background sky.
For today's image, I shot and stacked six individual images. I captured each of those six photos with my Canon EOS 6D Mk II camera, a Samyang 14mm f/2.4 lens @ f/2.8, using an exposure time of 25 seconds @ ISO 3200.
Over the top
The title of this photo describes the position of the Milky Way and Jupiter above the bare poplar trees here alongside the Princes Highway near Bodalla, Australia. The phrase also applies to the fact that I was out shooting photos at 2:00 on a Monday morning. After this, I would have only a few hours sleep, then have to drive for over four hours to get back to Sydney for a client appointment. The dividing line between dedication and obsession becomes less distinct each time I cross it!
I didn’t do any stitching, stacking, or blending for this photo. The shot is a single-frame capture, taken using my Canon EOS 6D camera, a Samyang 14mm f/2.4 lens @ f/2.4, using an exposure time of 20 seconds @ ISO 6400. Lighting was provided by a Litra Pro LP1200 bi-colour LED unit, hand-held by yours truly.
Worth the chase
Wind farms fascinate me, and since the Milky Way’s core was in the right place to include it in a vertical panorama over a wind turbine on this night, I couldn’t pass up the chance to shoot away. The bright glow on the horizon, to the left of the closest tower, is light pollution from the city of Sydney, approximately 160 km (100 mi) distant.
As I mentioned already, this image is a vertical panorama, created from eight overlapping single-images. For those eight images, I used a Canon EOS 6D camera, a Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens @ f/2.4, using an exposure time of 15 seconds @ ISO 6400.
Seen with another's eyes
In June, a friend of mine, a professional truck driver, said that he’d noticed this barn a few times on his trips down south. “You should use it in one of your night shots”, he suggested.
Once he said it, the idea seemed too obvious to have missed thinking of myself. After all, I’ve driven past it probably hundreds of times in the 40+ years that I’ve holidayed in the area. Perhaps familiarity does breed contempt, as the saying goes.
Thanks to my friend Kevin I took the 15-minute drive from my holiday shack to photograph this ageing construction at around midnight a few days later. The location–Bodalla–has exceptionally light-pollution-free skies, and I could make out most of the dark features in the Milky Way, even with my ageing eyes.
This image is a single-frame photograph that I shot with my Canon EOS 6D camera, through a Samyang 14mm f/2.4 lens @ f/2.4, using an exposure time of 20 seconds @ ISO 6400.