Something that amazes me is the fact that you can see details of the bright, starry galactic core of our Milky Way, reflected off the water. Those photons have travelled about 27,000 light-years across space but still have enough energy to bounce off the water’s surface. Single stars are mirrored, too, like the blue star on the middle right. Its reflection is far more prominent than the original blue dot itself. This photo was captured at Black Head, a landmark of the town of Gerroa, on Australia’s south-east coast.
I used a Canon EOS 6D camera, fitted with a Canon 40mm STM lens @ f/2.8, for an exposure length of 10 seconds @ ISO 12800.
Another dam fine view
Luckily the wind that had been blowing for the previous two days abated enough for me to get some reflections of stars in the bottom-right of this pano, although they’re still not sharp. I actually got the stars of the Southern Cross reflected, and their colours show up much more prominently on the water’s surface than they do in the sky.
Look how much detail there is in the galactic core, including the “dancing horse” or “dark horse” nebula, as well as other dust lanes around the galactic centre. You can see the Large and Small Magellanic Cloud galaxies at the lower left, above the bright glow from the lights of the nearby HMAS Albatross naval aviation base. Mars is a prominent feature, and Jupiter’s white light is disappearing into the trees about one third down on the right.
A total of nine overlapping images were used to create this image, each of which I shot with a Canon EOS 6D camera, fitted with a Samyang 14mm XP lens set at f/2.8. The exposure time for each frame was 25 seconds, with an ISO setting of 6400. I processed the panorama using the stitching software Autopano Pro.
Bend and stretch, reach for the stars
I’ve used poplars to frame the Milky Way in several shots over the past four years, and I continue to find them useful. Perhaps it’s because they’re not native trees to Australia, or because they are much taller than other trees of the same width. The warped perspective from using a wide-angle lens seems to be bending the trees towards the mass of light and gravitational attraction present in the galactic core. The location, southwest of Nowra, Australia, was another gem with clear skies, no wind and only three cars passing me in the two hours that I was lurking in the dark with my camera. I just managed to sneak Jupiter into the right-hand edge of the shot, but Mars and its blazing orange light dominate the relatively empty section of sky at the top left. This shot doesn’t quite nail the alignment I was after, and I didn’t manage to get the lighting even across all of the poplars, so I hope you find beauty and interest in it.
I used the app Autopano Pro to stitch together five single, overlapping photos to create this final vertical panorama. For each photo, I used the following equipment and settings: Canon EOS 6D Mk II camera, Samyang 14mm XP lens @ f/2.8, 25-second exposure @ ISO 6400.
Take your pick, if you please, as to which centreline my title is referring to. The centreline of the Braidwood Road, or the centreline of the sky, in the form of the Milky Way? It took me several stops to find a location where this road lined up with the Milky Way in just the way I wanted. I was fortunate to have only one vehicle pass through while I was shooting here, which isn’t usually the case on this road. On weekends it’s particularly busy, so maybe it was quiet due to this being on a weeknight.
The leaves on the trees have been blurred here due to the exposure time of 30 seconds for each photo and the strong wind that was blowing. Mars is very bright up at the top of the picture, but still not at its brightest for this year. If you know the southern skies at all, you might be able to make out the Southern Cross towards the bottom, next to the dark area known as the Coal Sack Nebula.
Seven photos were taken to create this final image, with each picture in the sequence overlapping the one before it. The settings I used for each shot were: Canon EOS 6D camera, Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens @ f/2.4, 15-second exposure @ ISO 6400.
Citrus under the stars
My wife’s sister and her husband live near the rural city of Lismore, Australia. Their property is in a place where there’s very little light pollution so I only had to walk out to their driveway to find a spot to shoot the Milky Way when visiting them a few years back. What a change that was from my usual expeditions of hundreds of kilometres on Friday or Saturday nights!
Amongst the 100 or so shots I captured that night was this seven-image panorama, showing the Milky Way standing almost vertical over their fruit and vegetable garden. The orange fruit on his citrus tree adds some colour to this shot that I don’t normally see in a foreground. Just above and to the left of that tree you can see the Southern Cross and Pointers, with the planet Saturn showing as a white spot on the neck of the Dark Horse nebula.
Created from 7 single frames, each captured with Canon EOS 6D, Samyang 14mm @ f/2.4, 25 sec @ ISO 6400.
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.
I created this vertical pano using eleven overlapping photos, providing enough coverage to capture the Milky Way and its galactic core, accompanied by Jupiter and Saturn, rising over the Tasman Sea at Gerroa, Australia. A bonus was capturing some of the little pools of water that were reflecting the stars.
I shot the 11 single-frame photos that make up the final panorama using a Canon EOS 6D Mk II camera fitted with a Yongnuo 50mm f/1.4 lens @ f/1.4. For each shot, I had the camera set to an ISO value of 6400 and exposed each shot for 8.0 seconds.
The movie “Interstellar” came to mind after I noticed how the use of a wide-angle lens had made the trees at the bottom of my photo look like they’re bending in towards the massive amount of gravity present in the Milky Way’s galactic core. The fields and farmhouse also seemed reminiscent of that movie, although I was fortunate to not encounter any mega dust storms in the area around Jamberoo, New South Wales, Australia.
The photo is a vertical panorama that is made up by taking overlapping images and combining them in a process called “stitching”. I shot nine photos, starting with my camera pointing a little towards the ground and facing to the southwest. Between each shot I moved the camera upwards by 15 degrees, using a panoramic head to do so. Nine shots, each spaced fifteen degrees apart, gives a total sweep of 135 degrees of sky. If I’d shot another four photos I would have covered the view from horizon to horizon, and then some.
Jupiter, our solar system’s most massive planet, is off at the right-hand edge of the photo and Mars is on the left, not far out from the treetops there. The glow on the horizon at the bottom of the picture is from the city of Nowra and the white, washed-out area at the very top of the photo is from the industrial city of Wollongong, about 30km to the north.
I used the following camera equipment and settings to take the nine shots that comprise the panorama: Canon EOS 6D camera, fitted with a Rokinon 24mm lens set to f/2.4, exposing each shot for 13 seconds at an ISO of 6400.
Jupiter, Saturn & Mars were lined up in the eastern sky when I captured this scene. The location is Jerrara, a dairy farming area on the southeast coast of Australia and a little over an hour’s drive from my home in the southern suburbs of Sydney.
The vertical panorama was created from four overlapping images, each shot with a Canon EOS 6D Mark II camera, a Rokinon 24mm lens @ f/2.4, for an exposure time of 13-seconds @ ISO 6400.
Our solar system’s most massive planet, Jupiter, was slipping towards the western horizon when I captured this scene at around 12:30 am on July 14 of this year. There was a stiff breeze blowing across the top of this man-made pond, causing the water to be anything but smooth, and so diffusing the reflection of Jupiter’s light. That light had travelled across close to 737 million km (458 million mi) of space to reach the pond’s shimmering surface before bouncing the few metres up to my camera.
Dwarfing Jupiter in size, magnetic field, brightness and every other aspect is the central band and galactic core of our Milky Way galaxy, owning the top 1/3 of my photo. The sky was exceptionally clear and dark on this night, enabling me to capture lots of fine details in the wisps and filigrees of the Milky Way’s “dust lanes”.
This photo was created from nine overlapping frames. I shot each of those individual photos with a Canon EOS 6D camera, a Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens @ f/2.4, exposed for 15 seconds @ ISO 6400. I used a Nodal Ninja 3 panoramic head, tipped on its side, to take the nine photos with enough overlap between them to create a smoothly stitched vertical panorama.
Look both ways
In July of 2017 I visited this level crossing on a rural railway line and captured a couple of vertical panoramas. It’s probably too small to see here but I caught a meteor as it flashed across the Milky Way’s core region, just underneath the “Dark Horse” nebula, aka the “Galactic Kiwi” for we Southern Hemisphere folk.
This vertical panorama was created using nine overlapping images that were each shot with a Canon EOS 6D, Rokinon 24mm @ f/2.4, 13 sec @ ISO 6400.
Monday Night Magic
The Milky Way’s galactic core is unmissable in this image, with its beautiful glow and obscuring bands of dust and dark gas dominating the upper right-hand quarter of the frame. Jupiter’s stark white orb is also in the same sector of my shot. The two blots of yellow on the horizon indicate the locations of the city of Goulburn and the town of Marulan, situated 85 km and 65 km distant, respectively. Yeah, light pollution sucks.
Dozens of photographers located in the states of Victoria and Tasmania, –both south of my state of New South Wales–photographed the Aurora Australis on this night. Did I capture some of this light show myself, showing as the pink colour just over the headland left of centre? I’ll wait for some of my more experienced online friends to burst that bubble before I get too confident.
To create this image, I shot ten overlapping frames, with each one taken in “landscape” format. After downloading the shots and doing some editing in Adobe Lightroom, I stitched the ten into the final vertical panoramic format using the now-defunct application Autopano Pro. Each of the ten single images was shot using a Canon EOS 6D Mk II camera, a Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens @ f/2.4, using an exposure time of 13 seconds @ ISO 6400.
Starlight. Moonlight. City lights.
The 140+ year-old St Matthias Church looking lovely in the moonlight while the Milky Way is keeling over towards the west. With the 20 second exposures I used to capture the Milky Way’s detail, the camera caught light from the rising crescent moon and so the church and the grass around it look well lit up here. The moonlight was also bright enough to cast a selfie-shadow of me and my camera at the lower right of the shot.
There’s a yellow-white glow coming from behind the church from the lights of Canberra, Australia’s capital city, about 50km (30mi) away. The large, bright and white orb above the power pole on the right is the planet Jupiter, very close to setting for another night. The sky looks a bit mottled and patchy due to fog that was thickening up and on the left you can see a few clouds that were drifting in and starting to ruin the party for me. After this it was time to drive home–with a safety sleep along the way–where I slumped into bed at 8:00am.
This is a vertical panoramic image, created from 7 individual frames, each captured with Canon EOS 6D, Samyang 14mm @ f/2.8, 20 sec @ 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.
The heavens at halfway
Not quite halfway, but it was only a week after the midpoint of 2018 when I was out in the cold of an Aussie winter night, capturing the photos that I used to create this vertical panoramic image. Located near the rural city of Lismore in New South Wales, Australia, this old and former church building is blessed with dark skies on a moonless night. The lack of light pollution, as well as the dry and clear air on that evening, provided excellent conditions for revealing the wispy dust lanes and dark nebulae that characterise the core region of our Milky Way galaxy.
As with so many of my photos from that year, Mars is a dominant player in the scene, looking big, bright and orange over at the top-left of the frame. The Large Magellanic Cloud is peeking out from the bottom edge of the church’s roof on the left, with its sibling the Small Magellanic Cloud making a more conspicuous appearance over the tree near the lower corner of the frame. The short tail of a meteor forms a triangle with Mars and the Small Cloud. For all of the interest that these celestial objects give to the scene, it’s our majestic, magic and magnificent Milky Way that my eyes go straight to, every time I look at this photo.
As I mentioned above, this is a vertical panorama which I composited from ten single, overlapping images. For each of those individual frames I used a Canon EOS 6D Mk II camera, a Rokinon 24mm lens @ f/2.4, and a 15-second exposure @ ISO 6400. I had the camera mounted on a Nodal Ninja III panoramic head, tipped at 90 degrees to allow for the vertical orientation.
This image is a stitched vertical panorama created from five overlapping photos. The Milky Way was doing its thing for another night, while local fishermen did their thing on the rock shelf below. The white glow down there on the right is from the headlamps worn by the fishos, while the red arc is from where one of them cast his line into the water, its attached glowing float on heading for another session of bobbing on the waves.
The big section of rock shelf closer to the camera was pock-marked with small pools of seawater, and some of them reflected starlight back towards me, only barely showing up in the photo.
Each of the five images used to create the panorama was captured with a Canon EOS 6D MkII camera, a Rokinon 24mm lens @ f/2.4, exposed for 15 seconds @ ISO 6400.