Bridge, Fail

Fail, fail often, learn. Repeat.

Bridge, stars, moonlight. Canon M6 with Rokinon 12mm

Cold and windy morning on the bridge today. I either missed the manual focus, or the camera and bridge were moving in the wind. Or both. So much to learn, including how to dress when I am standing around fussing with the camera. Oh, and I’m pretty sure I have added Raynaud’s to my auto immune complications…

The Bridge

This is a stitched image – I took 13 images in landscape orientation and rotated them around on a panorama head from one end of the bridge to the other. South is on top, north on the bottom. Montreal to the north is lighting up the sky with light pollution and air glow. Lights from the boathouse to the south are lighting up the trees and the bridge. I learned a ton setting this up and shooting it… got to the bridge at 4:45 am, just a short ride from the house. Setup the tripod, panorama head, and did a few test shots. Camped out as I rotated the camera through the range, using a remote shutter to take the snap, and making sure to not move the tripod, or tweak anything I as I took the images. I processed in Lightroom and then stitched as TIFFs in PTGui.

13 frames, stitched in PTGui Pro. Shot on Canon M6 with Rokinon 12mm f/2 lens (set at f.2,8) – ISO 1600 and 10 second exposures

Processing Orion

Astro processing software / image manipulation is a rabbit hole I don’t think I want to fall down. But, as I have a propensity for suffering – I am giving PixInsight a test drive. Mostly fumbling around in the dark, much like I do with the camera. From the looks of many of the tutorials I’d have to spend several late nights a week for several months to scratch the surface.

Fumlbing around with PixInsight stacking Orion Images

This image is 44 separate raw files calibrated (I think) and registered (I think) then combined into 1 composite (see the ridge and lake images blurred as the stack was aligned and calibrated). I then brought the file back into Lightroom to adjust the brightness, contrast, etc.

Orionids

The 2am alarm felt like it came early. I made a quick check to see if the cloud cover projection has improved – the forecast went from partly cloudy at 70% at bedtime to 25% over a few hours of sleep. I grabbed a backpack with my camera, sit pad, tripod, warm layers, and my 40d summer sleeping bag. On the way out the door I tossed in some Via coffee and my MSR Windburner and a Nalgene.

By 3 I was on the road, by 4 hiking up the ~1.75 mile forest road / trail to Silver Lake. I got set up and snapped the first few test shots and settled in on the shore.

Silver Lake runs north south on the western side of Vermont. It has a ridge to the east and west. Its fairly well protected from light from Middlebury, and Orion would be visible to the south.

I parked at the Falls of Lana trailhead and made quick time of the old forest road to the lake. I scouted from the dam and settled in at the beach. It wasn’t long before I started seeing meteors. After taking a few test exposures I setup a 2 second delay followed by 10 shots.

I varied the shutter time a bit – and I think I either was a few seconds too long or I missed my focus point on some of the images.

After about an hour was quite chilled – so I pulled the 40d summer bag from my pack and wrapped up in it and fired up the stove for some coffee. The light continued to change – it was lovely to see night turn to day, and watch the stars shift slightly to the west as the sky went from dark to blue.

Silver Lake was quite still – there was no breeze at the lake – and the water reflected the stars and the distant ridge.

I was surprised at how clear the reflection was – I was able to make out Orion and the Pleiades in the reflected light on the water, as well as the rocks and the lake bottom just below the surface.

Just before sunrise I packed up and made my way down the hill to the car. I was home before most of the family was out of bed… just in time to make breakfast with the girls, and make another round of coffee for myself.

Orion and the Pleiades

A first attempt at stitching a panorama of the stars. I used PTGui and 5 frames I captured yesterday morning. The meteor is missing – so I need to learn about masking things as the panorama gets stitched.

Learning

Learning to shoot the night sky, with basic, carry everywhere photography kit has become a challenge, and a bit of an obsession. Goal – make nice images with as little equipment and processing as possible. Which may be difficult to achieve, but the learning curve has been fun.

My IF, bridge, and the stars – ‘Daylight’ WB
My IF, bridge, and the stars – ‘As Shot’ WB
This morning I rode out to the bike / pedestrian bridge over the Winooski River in Burlington, VT to use the bridge as a silhouette against the sky. The moon has been shrinking – every day the ambient light becomes a little less than the previous –  so if I get lucky and have a clear night with a new moon I may see more stars.

The bridge and the stars – ‘Daylight’ WB
The bridge and the stars – ‘As Shot’ WB
In addition to re-learning the camera (its been a long while since I shot anything resembling an SLR) – I am also adapting my ‘developing’ process in Lightroom to work with dark images. That learning curve is also a challenge unto itself.

Orion and bridge, and the stars – ‘Daylight’ WB
Orion and bridge, and the stars – ‘As Shot’ WB
Images with 2 different white balances for comparison – ‘As Shot’ – what the camera adjusts to in the field, and ‘Daylight’ – one of the many settings in Lightroom (and also in the camera). There are arguments all over the net for how to shoot the sky. I’m torn between ‘natural color’ (taking into account light pollution (that you see here), air glow, etc. etc. – as well as making an image that works emotionally for a given time / setting place. That process, and mindset will likely evolve the more I wander down this path.

The bridge frame and the stars – ‘Daylight’ WB
The bridge frame and the stars – ‘As Shot’ WB