AN ARTIST IN RESIDENCE AT CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK

Imma

When I decided to pursue a career in landscape and nature photography I already had in mind to combine my biology background, my conservationist leanings and my passion for photography into this art form. As I delved into all my favorite things to capture in nature, I started to feel more and more interested in night photography as it offered a chance to shoot scenes that few ever see and are truly inspiring.

Most of my astrophotography is taken in New Jersey where I live. However, in 2018 I was fortunate to be selected as a volunteer at the Palms Spring Photo festival. This was an excellent opportunity as I had a chance to network with other professionals and learn about accessing grants and in particular the Artist in Residence Programs run by the US National Park Service. Just after the festival, I visited Joshua Tree National Park and it was there where my long-term project was conceived and initiated. My main goal became to capture and document those inspiring landscapes under the night sky as a way to raise awareness and educate others about light pollution as another form of pollution affecting animals and ecosystems in all sorts of ways.

Capitol Reef National Park is in Utah's south-central desert and the closest town is Torrey, just eight miles west of the park’s visitor center, on Highway 24. The area is named for a

line of white domes and cliffs of Navajo Sandstone where one of them resembles the United States Capitol building and the word Reef refers to the rocky barrier making passage difficult.

The park encompasses the spectacular Waterpocket Fold, a wrinkle in the earth's crust that is 65 million years old and extending almost 100 miles, with layers of white sandstone domes, canyons and striking rock formations. Among the park's geological sights are: Chimney Rock pillar, The Castle, Capitol Dome, Hickman Bridge Arch, Cassidy Arch, The Golden Throne and in the north the towering Entrada Sandstone monoliths of Cathedral Valley. In addition, the area is full of history: from the petroglyphs etched in sandstone by the Fremont people who inhabited the land nearly 1,000 years ago to the small Mormon town of Fruita inside the park with more than 2,500 fruit trees, some of which were originally planted by pioneers. Additionally, Capitol Reef is a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park with some of the best night sky viewing opportunities of the western national parks and as part of this designation, staff and volunteers perform ongoing monitoring of night sky conditions throughout the area. The park's commitment to reducing light pollution and educating the public about the night skies is also demonstrated by offering one annual Artist In Residence program exclusively dedicated to night photography.

Hoodos are thin spire of rock protruding from the bottom of an arid drainage basin.

Hoodos are thin spire of rock protruding from the bottom of an arid drainage basin.

Capitol Reef’s program and their goals were exactly what I was looking for to develop my own project so I was delighted to have been selected as the 2019 recipient. During the 20 day period my residency lasted, I was able to explore in-depth the park to identify some spectacular foregrounds from extensive or intimate vistas, to rock formations, to hoodoos and to historic buildings. Cloudy days were dedicated to wildlife observations, in particular, the very cute yellow-bellied marmots, mule deer and birds like the black-chinned hummingbird or the mountain bluebird. I arrived at Capitol Reef during the new moon and as soon as I had unpacked my gear, I headed out to explore the one-room schoolhouse, constructed by Mormon Fruita residents in 1896, which also served as a community center. The weather forecast for the

following night was perfect for the amazing back-country trip to the Cathedral Valley where I spent all night in perfect solitude with the stars admiring the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon. The third night was dedicated to the popular Chimney Rock, an eroded pillar of red sandstone. Subsequent nights included visits to Pectol’s Pyramid (a sandstone monolith just off the main road) and the Gifford’s barn in Fruita, drives along the Notom-Bullfrog Road, and some star trails captured at Twin Rocks and at the Wingate Sandstone capping The Castle. As the nights passed by, the moon’s presence wasbecoming more noticeable but there were still some opportunities available to photograph the Milky Way

closer to moonset at Goosenecks Overlook or at the orchards by the visitor center. On my one “day-off”, I decided to drive to the nearby Goblin Valley State Park, another jewel within Utah’s dark sky region.

Temple of the Moon, an impressive sandstone monolith found in the backcountry Cathedral Valley area

Temple of the Moon, an impressive sandstone monolith found in the backcountry Cathedral Valley area

Fruita schoolhouse constructed by Mormon residents in 1896, which also served as a community center.

Fruita schoolhouse constructed by Mormon residents in 1896, which also served as a community center.

All Artists in Residence are considered volunteers for the National Park Service and therefore I was able to attend some of the training programs set up to educate the public about all aspects of the park including management, its inhabitants and their history and also about its geological and biological relevance. One of my tasks as a volunteer included a presentation of my work as part of the Evening Program at the camp

ground amphitheater. A second lecture was also hosted by the Entrada Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the natural, historical, and cultural heritage of the Colorado Plateau.

Even though my stay was for twenty days and I was able to accomplish my photographic goals, I felt it was over too soon. One could easily spend several months at the park and still find new areas to explore so I am left with no other choice but to go back. And last but not least, my sincere and deepest gratitude goes to all the staff members and volunteers at Capitol Reef National Park who made my stay so unforgettable and to the Entrada Institute for their monetary support.

BIO

Born in Barcelona Imma Barrera is a landscape and nature photographer based in Metuchen NJ. She is a biologist but also a graduate of NY Institute of Photography and has exhibited her photography in a number of galleries worldwide and won several awards. One of her favorite subjects to photograph is the Milky Way and was selected as the 2019 Capitol Reef National Park's Artist-in-Residence for her night sky photography, In addition, she was shortlisted in the Landscape category of the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards’ Professional competition with her series “Under the Night Sky”. She is involved in educational programs about photography and seminars to raise awareness about the need to protect our natural treasures. She has published a photography book about night photography in NJ and NY and is currently working on a book about the night skies at several US national parks. Her work can be seen on

her website www.imma.photo or on instagram @imma.photo.

Light Pollution, Astroklar & Natural Night Filter Review – Do They Really Work?

Paul Reiffer

Light pollution: Increasingly a challenge for city dwellers and photographers alike. Those deep, dark skies that I’m lucky enough to see full of stars out in the countryside are becoming an endangered species in their own right as the world’s population continues to rise and urban areas inevitably expand.

light-pollution-map-world-paul-reiffer-natural-night-filter-review-details-sky-cities-light.jpg

The problem is, with all that light bouncing around, our view of the night sky (and ability to capture it) continues to diminish on a daily basis.

As photographers, of course, the tried-and-tested approach to this has always been to head away from the city lights. “Dark Sky Reserves” have been set up all around the world to allow stargazers to enjoy the night-time environment our species seems to determined to destroy. In practical terms, however, this doesn’t always work for everyone – and what about those little towns and villages which look so photogenic underneath the Milky Way? How do we capture them without their own light pollution spoiling the view?

Well, enter the relatively new kids on the block: “Light Pollution Filters”.

astroklar-filter-natural-night-light-pollution-square-round-options-camera-paul-reiffer.png

“Astroklar” by Rollei, “Natural Night” by Nisi, “Sky-Watcher” by, well, Skywatcher(!) – whatever brand or manufacturer you’re turning to, these slightly pink-blue night pollution filters essentially claim to achieve the same thing:

Cut down light pollution and allow you to focus on the night sky.

So how do they do it?

The science stuff

Usually when we’re evaluating filters, we’re looking for absolute neutrality in colour – we need to capture exactly what is in front of the camera’s lens, with no colour-cast or distortion of reality. In this case, however, that’s not quite how things need to work…

qw.png

The challenge with light pollution is that it comes from different wavelengths of light. Typically, most of it comes from the yellow-orange sodium lamps what most of our cities still deploy (although that’s slowly changing to a cooler LED source over time). Likewise, some of that light bouncing around the atmosphere can provide a cyan-green glow in the sky above.

Add in to the mix, all the infra-red light that is a byproduct of lighting our cities at night, and that’s a lot of specific colours we need to “cut” in the filter. And that’s exactly what these do – as shown in the actual filter output graph above.

For reference, a “perfect” neutral density (ND) filter would have an almost flat line between 400nm and 700nm, and then cut everything else. That’s what makes it “neutral” and is what all filter manufacturers are striving for to create near-perfect glass with almost no “colour cast”.

So, what about these “light pollution filters”?

op.png

Well, that profile is exactly what they’re designed to do. The graph above, and to the right, is from an actual example of one of these filters, and you can clearly see how much of those unwanted colours of light they’re designed to “cut” as those wavelengths enter your lens.

From allowing almost all blue and red light through (90-100%), but blocking almost half of the green hues and virtually stopping all but 5-10% of the yellow-orange polluting light from our cities, these filters help cut down the impact of our need for illumination on the night sky above.

Comparison results

Do they work? Well, yes and no…

Let’s look at a good example of two raw images from Patagonia (one without the filter and one with). Other than profile corrections for the lens, not much has been done to either of these images to give a real sense of the difference this filter can provide:

lpp.jpg

Pretty good, right? I mean, the sky seems to have become clearer, the distracting yellow “glow” has certainly improved, and overall we’re looking at a shot that “pops” more than it would have done, raw, without any filter.

Let’s try another – this time from Lake Wanaka in New Zealand. Again, one straight through the lens, and another with the effect of a light pollution filter:

ko.jpg

Again, a pretty good result, right?

The scene has “cooled down” quite a bit – the stars, again seem clearer and pack more “punch” than without, and the city lights are certainly less distracting. (In fact, the only distraction that remains is the annoying lean on the ultra-wide lens that I would otherwise have corrected!)

So let’s push things just a little bit more – how about some Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) action on-camera? How would the light pollution filter fare in this more challenging scene, where we want to allow as much light to be captured as possible?

kp.jpg

In all honesty, better than I thought it would – after all, it’s still captured the Northern Lights, and while there was very little pollution in the north of Norway to contend with, it did even manage to cool down the moonlight too.

But that, unfortunately, is where my challenges with these filters begin.

The downsides to their use

While in theory a great addition to your kit bag, let’s think about exactly what these filters are doing…

  1. They’re cutting light – at the exact time I want to get as much light into the camera as possible. While it may not seem obvious from the small samples above, in some cases, the dimmer stars in the night sky are missing or faded. Mars, for example, is an orange glow – and what does our light pollution filter do to orange light…?

  2. They have a cooling effect on the overall image, meaning I need to set my white balance to between 500K-900K warmer than reality to counteract it in-camera. All well and good for the colours that it’s cut, but that also means I’m warming up the colours I haven’t affected too.

  3. The filters don’t help with the exposure differential between the brightness of the city lights and the need to capture the relatively dim starlight above – you’ll still need something else (like a GND) to counter any overexposed areas.

  4. It’s another thing to worry about keeping clean, whether round or square, in front of the lens at night. Keeping things clear and reflection-free in the daytime is frustrating enough – at night, errgghhh.

However, with all that said, these pieces of glass do deliver on their promise – and they do a good job of it as well.

Post-processing alternative

While I’m sat thinking I’d rather collect as much raw data as possible in the frame, and “fix” any stray light pollution later, that’s on the back of decades of experience in editing software. What these filters do is make that process a lot simpler, with only minor adjustments being required to achieve a final result that is pretty impressive.

km.jpg

While, of course, we can “dial-back” the specific colours in the image in the same way the filter cuts them, we also then have to introduce some HDR features and clarity enhancements to get close to what the light pollution filters can achieve in-camera.

With that in mind, for general use, while they don’t capture all of the light and do have an impact on the overall colour of the scene being photographed, these filters really can make light work (excuse the pun!) of getting great results at night.

Not just for stars

What if we want to capture the city itself – not just the night sky? Well, they can help boost those shots too.

ji.jpg

Not bad for a single piece of glass in front of the lens, right?

Our dirty yellow atmosphere above Downtown Dubai has all but disappeared, the city seems clearer and more “alive”, and the sky has definitely cooled. This filter isn’t just for use on stars and planets – clearly it has a positive effect on the cities it’s trying to combat too.

Summary

Pro’s:

  • Easy to use, with little post-processing required

  • Instant clarifying effect on images at night

  • Clear cut in yellow-orange “polluting” light in the scene

  • An apparent boost in cooling and contrast for a given image

Con’s:

  • They cut light you might want, as well as that which you don’t

  • White balance is negatively affected and needs to be changed in-camera

  • Personally, I could do a better job in post processing if I needed to

  • It’s another piece of kit to carry with you to shoot

Overall – a great product, for a very specific use, and a good tool to get the best out of our skies at night if you’re not confident in processing the raw output of all the captured light from your camera.

THE GREAT MILKY WAY CHASE!

Austin Dent


My love for astronomy started my sophomore year at Ohio Dominican. I was in Dr. Young's astronomy class. My most vivid memory was going to the Perkins Observatory. Our class got to look through the telescope and seeing Mars take up the whole frame. Even back home in Ohio, I would love being outside on a clear night to see the stars. I've been fascinated by the stars, simply by the fact we're seeing something millions of miles away. Or, I can be honest, I'm a huge Star Wars nerd.

Then I moved to Colorado. Living way up at 9,280ft above sea level; you can find some of the darkest and clearest skies on the planet. My love for astronomy was in part, a large reason why I got into photography. Now being able to see these skies nightly, I wanted to capture the skies I was seeing. 

The very first Milky Way shot I captured was on my Nikon D3400 with a kit 18-55mm f3.5 lens. My settings were; 30' f3.5 and ISO 100. Oh... the noise in the photo is almost unbearable, but I thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread. I TOOK A PICTURE OF SOMETHING IN SPACE!!! Thought it was so cool, I got it printed on 16x20 metal. It hangs above my bed...

As I am with most things in my life, I wanted to learn more. It's been countless long nights, sometimes till the sun rises for the next day. Lot of coffee and Monster energy drinks destroyed. Photography is something you'll never get better at by sitting in your room watching YouTube videos. You have to take what you learn, and apply it. This is why I'm so attracted to photography; I'm constantly learning and growing. This is why I got that first Milky Way picture printed. I know it's bad; you don't need to convince me. It's for days like today, where I edit all my shots from the night before. I turn and look to see where it all started. 

Now, I am armed with a full frame Nikon D610 with the Rokinon 24mm f1.4; and "My Precious" Nikon D500 with the Rokinon 14mm f2.4mm. Gives me the ability to start capturing the Milky Way unlike I've ever done before. Last night was my first time with both cameras, and I'm quite pleased with the results. I look forward to continuing to grow with my new toys! 

I hope you enjoy what I captured last night! I have 5 still frames that are all 10 image stacks. Lastly at the bottom, I attempted my first try at a Milky Way time-lapse! Can't wait to get better at these!


Making Milky Way Panoramas

Ekant Veer

We are about to head into the next stargazing season down here in the Southern Hemisphere – I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about something that many astrophotographers like to do but can seem quite complex – making a panorama of the Milky Way.  In this tutorial I’ll go through a couple of my recent panoramas and explain the process used to capture the frames and the software I used to create the final pano.  If you haven’t done any astrophotography before then make sure you take a look at this awesome tutorial from Lonely Speck before starting.

The software I’ll be using to make my panoramas is PTGui – it’s not free, but suits what I do – it can also stitch RAW files, which works for me.  If you want to try a free option, consider MS ICE – a very powerful tool that works most of the time as well as being quite user friendly.  Another option is Hugin, which is immensely powerful, but a little hard to get your head around first time. I honestly haven’t had much success with Lightroom or Photoshop’s panorama stitchers, but you might have more luck! I generally start with PTGui, then move to MS ICE or Hugin if for some reason PTGui isn’t happy – but this is rare.

Why Even Do a Milky Way Panorama?

First up, why would you want to? There are a number of reasons – firstly, and most commonly, a panorama gives you the opportunity to create a composition that isn’t always possible with a single frame.  Composition is a huge part of photography so getting the right feel to your final image may necessitate a pano.

Secondly, you might want to take a panorama to take advantage of a fast lens, which will allow more light to hit your sensor, getting brighter pictures.  For example, I have a Samyang 14mm f/2.8 lens – a really nice fast lens. However, I also like the sharpness of my Sony 55mm f/1.8 lens, but this obviously doesn’t capture as much of the landscape, so I need to do a panorama to get the same composition.  Also, check out this tutorial on how different focal lengths affect your final astro shot.

Third, doing a panorama with a longer focal length gives you far more detail in each frame, meaning your final panorama will not only be far bigger (pixel-wise) but also allow you to reduce the size of the panorama, reducing the noise.  When trying to capture a large sky with a single frame the noise from taking the shot will need to be reduced in post-production or with layering multiple images (something I’ve not mastered, I must admit!). However, if you take a panorama you can then reduce the overall size of the final image, significantly reducing the noise in the image. To give you an idea of the improvement in detail here is a 100% crop of Antares (the bright yellow star in the centre of Scorpius) with a Sigma 24mm f/1.4 lens and the Sony Sonnar t* 55mm f/1.8 CZ lens.

Lens-Detail.jpg

Two Panorama Styles

There are far more than two types of night time panorama, but I’ll talk about the two most common.  The first is where the Milky Way appears flat and rises straight into the sky.  The second is where the MW arcs across the sky in a semi-circle.  Let me start by saying that BOTH are real. BOTH are taken in the same manner – the only difference is that the arcing panoramas are shot with a much wider view of the sky.  What the photographer is doing is capturing the MW all around them and the final stitching software tries to make sense of the images by keeping the land flat (as it should be!) and the stars arcing in a semi-circle.  If we had eyes that had a field of view that wide it would be how we see the stars, but we don’t, so we are more used to the ‘straight’ MW style.

So, here are two styles I’ve taken recently.  First, the arcing version across Mt Sunday, Canterbury and the second, the more straight MW shot rising out of the Pacific Ocean. Both of these are after I’ve processed them. I’m not going to cover processing here, but if you want to have a go at processing night shots, take a look at my tutorial here (with a downloadable RAW file).

Panorama.jpg
Panorama-8x10.jpg

Tripod Discipline

Taking panoramas at night is NOT easy. During the day you have plenty to see and can easily make sure you overlap each frame. At night, it’s much harder to see the landscape in the foreground and, after a while, all the stars look the same through a tiny LCD lens. Can I recommend you get an indexing tripod that will automatically lock to the pan/pitch you need for each frame or, if you’re cheap like me, use a tripod head that has some etchings (or stickers) that let you know how much you should pan/pitch. I use a birdswing tripod head (can’t afford much else right now) and I printed off some degree marks and stuck them on.  I know exactly how much I should pan/pitch for the lens I’m using and I keep to that when out at night.  Here’s an example of what I have (taken on a hike in the Port Hills when I lugged my huge tripod up and forgot the quick release plate – genius!).

Taking the Individual Frames

Ok, let’s get started with how you take the frames.  This gets harder the longer your focal length. I strongly suggest you practice with a nice wide lens to start with.  What I generally try to do is capture a panorama as normal but allow for a far greater overlap between frames (at least 33% overlap).  So, in the image below, I took the bottom right shot first, then the bottom middle shot, then bottom left.  I then raised the pitch of the tripod to take the 4th image and panned right – this technique is called a serpentine mosaic panorama as it snakes backwards and forwards up the image – it works for me because I can focus on just overlapping with the last image I’ve taken, rather than trying to remember where the first image was and pitch upwards from there.

Sepentine-Mosaic.jpg

One thing to remember is that the earth is rotating ALL the time. So, even if you’re only out taking photos for 10-15 minutes the whole frame will move. This is why I always start at the bottom and go horizontally first.  If you go vertically by the time you get back to the bottom for the next row of frames the earth has rotated and the stars you want to capture have fallen behind the horizon.  Definitely shoot horizontally to avoid this.  As I said, with a longer lens, this is a really risky technique – one dud frame and the other 14 are wasted – check each frame quickly after shooting to check there hasn’t been any shaking or blur that you don’t anticipate before moving the tripod to take the next frame.

With the arcing style of panorama you need to capture a far greater field of view so I strongly recommend you do this with a wide lens.  Again, start at the bottom and pan your tripod across the horizon first, then pitch upwards and take frames of the sky.  The Milky Way will dip into the horizon at two points of the sky – I generally start at one end of the Milky Way and pan all the way to the other size of the horizon where the Milky Way has intersected the horizon.  I might even get a few frames past where the MW stars and stops to give me more data, just in case I want to crop the image later.  You can see I took the ground images first, then went back and got some other extra images of the edges, just to be sure.  I was freezing cold by this time, so don’t blame me for not getting it right first time!

14mm-Arc.jpg

Stitching your Panorama

As I mentioned earlier I’m using PTGui for my stitching.  I export the frames I want to stitch as DNG files and then load them into PTGui and click ‘Align Images’. 8 times out of 10, this is all I need to do and the image stitches beautifully.

PTGui-Align-Images.jpg

However, occasionally, the software doesn’t work nicely. This happens where there isn’t enough information in the frames for the software to make a match between individual frames. This happens a lot more with Astro images because it’s hard to identify stars/foreground etc, as everything is so dark. PTGui and Hugin both allow you to add in ‘Control Points’ – these are when you manually add links between two different frames. So, if there’s a star that looks the same in both frame 1 and frame 2, you can manually tell the software that they’re the same thing and it’ll try to keep linking the images with your control points as a headstart. This can be a tedious job, but it’ll mean you get a panorama out of your frames rather than throwing it all away. As you can see below, the software didn’t see any overlap between frames 4 & 5, even though we can clearly see there’s heaps of overlap. It’s most likely because the frames aren’t level with each other and there’s a lot of distortion with the lens I’m using, so the software gets confused. Also, the lack of light in the images makes it really hard to spot the ‘right’ things to link – after a while, all mountains and stars look the same to the software!

No-Control-Points.jpg

Now, I’ve manually added in 9 control points. You want to have at least 4 control points per linked frame – the more, the better! PTGui gives you a nice magnifying glass to isolate the linked area to make sure you are linking the right things in each frame. Once I’ve added in enough control points I try to have the software fill in the gaps and re-align the images. Usually, this is enough to get a nice panorama. If by this point it still isn’t working then I generally get frustrated and walk away and try again another night – but you can keep adding manual control points until you get it right.

9-Control-Points.jpg

Choosing your Panorama Projection

Once you have enough control points PTGui will spit out a draft ‘projection’ or view of the panorama.  This is where you can really play with your panorama to get the feel you like. PTGui will give you what it thinks is the best look based on the data is has, but I always like to choose different projections and use the one I like the look of.  You can also move the image around and rotate it to suit your composition.  It takes some practice, but play around – I’m sure there are cartographers out there that can help explain what the different projections mean, but I just try them out and go with the one that looks good.  Here are 3 different projections – I finally chose the Mercator projection for this image.

Projections.jpg

Masking In/Out

PTGui allows you to use a masking .to adapt the stitching. This comes in useful when you want to specifically include or exclude a certain frame. In the example below I spotted a satellite I liked the look of – I’d like to have it in my final image, so I’ve used the ‘Green Paint’ tool to force the software to include it in the final panorama. I could equally use the ‘Red Paint’ tool to force data out. I did this to exclude the beach in this image – it was quite close to the edge of the frame, so was a little noisier and more distorted than other frames – so, let’s make sure it’s not used in the final stitch. Again, pretty simple stuff – make sure you experiment to see what suits you.

Masking-In.jpg

Exporting for Post-Processing

The final step is to export your panorama for any post-processing you want to do. I generally export in a Photoshop format so I can edit it in PS with Nix (my preferred editing tools). Tiff is also a good export format. Don’t edit astro shots with jpg – it’s just not powerful enough for the detailing you want to do.  I usually just export the blended image BUT, you can also export the individual layers if you spot something later you want to edit back into the image that PTGui has removed – remember, the more layers, the bigger the file. This file was nearly 2GBs big with just the blended panorama.

Export.jpg

Time for you to have a go…

And that’s it! Time to post-process, which is up to you.  To help you practice, I’m including 6 smaller tiff files of my image ‘straight’ pano image. Use them, abuse them under Creative Commons BY-NC (you can do whatever you want with them, even manipulate the images, just don’t use it for commercial purposes and credit Ekant Veer and www.EkantTakePhotos.com as the source of the images). The images are SOOC (no editing) so you get to play with the entire process.  If you want to do some lens correction and the info isn’t in the EXIF the images were taken on a Sony A7ii with a Sony Sonnar t* 55m f/1.8 lens.

Here’s a dropbox link to the images

MSM Travel Star Tracker & Motion Time-lapse Mount -MSM Rotator

No Star Trails & Noise?

Tired of the trails and Noise?

Want to exposure more than 60 seconds?

Emm.. Star Tracker is what you are looking for, with it, the star will be relatively still with your camera!

Then theoretically, you can do a long exposure at ease.

st.jpg

Pocket Size

Pocket Size

Like all astrophotographers, we painfully know how laborious it is to move equipment around different locations in order to find the best perspective.

Small in size and weight – these were the essential starting-points of our design. These facilitate easy repositioning and recomposition.

At the same time, by incorporating a low center of gravity, the Rotator has a big stability advantage for shooting landscapes.

ms.jpg

Travel-Friendly

We built MSM Rotator around the photographer's work flow. How? We are photographers!

Make it more Travel-Friendly! New Button Version:

15% Smaller than the Knob one.

ms2.jpg

Support All Camera & Phones Easily

It's as simple as install ball head to your tripod, Just pointing the star pointer's beam to the Polaris, and then you are ready to shoot.

As a Star Tracker, it can support all cameras.

ms3.jpg

US & THEM

Compared with 2 other traditional star trackers out there, and you'll see MSM just takes up a little portion space as them. 

ms4.jpg

Work As Time-lapse Mount

It can ALSO be used as professional time-lapse Mount.

It workes in Shoot Move Shoot Manner under timelapse mode - Rotation of the Rotator occurs only after every shot, thus eliminating shake during photographic exposure and the consequent problem of image blurring.

Timelapse Mode supports: Canon, Nikon, Sony cameras.

ms5.jpg

Self-Locking Gear

The Rotator employs an innovative worm gear system that locks into place after every movement, requiring no power to remain in place!

This results in:

- Avoidance of gear and motor shake that might otherwise affect image clarity during photo exposure.

- A super-extended battery life. Expect up to 3000 shots between charges.

Thus you can say good-bye to power banks, external batteries and power cables!

ms6.jpg

Just One Cable for Time-lapse

This cable is used for the time-lapse purpose. For star tracker, this cable is not needed.

In Timelapse Mode:

Connecting the camera’s flash ‘hot shoe’ port with the Rotator, Then the Rotator will work as Slave of your camera.

Travel Star Tracker & Motion Timelapse mount - MSM™ Rotator -Upgraded Button version - FREE SHIPPING TODAY

ms.jpg
ms8.jpg

What has updated in the new button version?

  • Replace the Knob by Button to solve the defectives caused by knob design.

  • Less space than the Knob.

  • Added 1/2 star tracking mode, then you can take the Milkyway in one shot.

  • Remove the less used panorama mode.

If you prefer the old Knob version, please click here to buy the Knob Version

How to Choose the Ideal Gear for Your Astro-Landscape Photography?

Regarding the star pointer:

  1. If you are a new player, we recommend choosing the star pointer as a start. It's easier to do the polar alignment for new players. (Star Pointer's output is <1mw, please check above label)

  2. If you mainly play with a wide-angle lens, then the star pointer is enough and the most convenient for you.

So,

  • If you are new and have a low budget, you can just buy the Basic kit B to start.

  • If you want one ready to shoot Astro kit, then you can buy the Pro kit B.

  • If you are experienced, I suppose you've understood how much you can benefit from the Rotator's portability and it's straight forward design.

Do I need to buy the Polar Scope?

  1. If you play with a long lens, then better add the Polar Scope to do a more accurate polar alignment.

  2. If you are from Australia, then you should buy the Polar Scope due to it is prohibited in Australia to buy the laser pointer.

  3. If you may travel to shoot in Australia or some locations that do not allow laser pointer, then better have one Polar Scope for them.

So, 

How to do the polar alignment?

  1. We have a tutorial in our user manual, also we have a tutorial for Southern Hemisphere

  2. We are online every day to help, just shoot our Email/Messenger anytime.

Does this Tracker support my Camera?

a star tracker, it can support all cameras.

  1. Timelapse, Panorama mode can only work with: Nikon, Canon, Sony.

Satisfaction Guarantee

30 days full refund guarantee.

If you received a defective one, don’t worry, we will resend you a new one instantly. Up until now, the defective rate is within 1%.

If you do not want to buy it anymore within 30 days, return to us, and you will get a full refund, in this case, you just need to pay the returning shipping fee, it may cost $20 from your country to us.

1 Year quality guarantee

If it happens to malfunction,  we will exchange a new one for you at our expense. 

The mechanism for Time-lapse:

It works by adjusting the angle of rotation, not the speed of rotation, with seven options: Star Tracking Mode; Time-lapse mode of 0.05, 0.075, 0.1 and 0.125 degrees per picture. Therefore, you control the camera's rotating based upon the angle selected, and the interval set on your timer (you need a separate timer/intervalometer, which is inexpensive). The longer the interval you set, the slower of the rotation. Once you are done taking a picture (which the rotator ‘knows’ through the hot-shoe cable), the rotator will turn the defined angle, which means that the camera is not turning while the picture is being taken.

Key Features:

Weightless (450g), Compact (1.7" x 3.15" x 3.9")

Thanks to its small weight and dimension, it presents your already heavy bag more space and weight.

One Cable Fits All Your Cameras

Do not need different cables for your cameras. Check Quick Setup

Ultra Long Battery Life


Supports to take 3000 shots. This meets most of the daily usage.

Passive Motorized Design

No confliction with your camera's built-in App, compatible with most cameras that has a hot shoe port. Check Why Passive Design

Innovative Worm Gear System

Our worm-gear self-lock mechanism presents two key benefits: Top-Level Move Shoot Move performance and Super Long Battery Life. Check Worm Gear SystemCheck Move Shoot Move

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Size: 1.7" x 3.15" x 3.9" (4.3cm x 8cm x 9.9cm)

Weight: 1.01 lbs (450g)

Max Load: 3 Kg

Step Options: Star Tracking Mode (360° in 24hrs) | 0.05°/step, 0.075°/step, 0.1°/step, 0.125°/step 

Input: DC5.0V 1.0A Max

Battery Life: >= 24 hrs for star tracking / 3000 shots for time-lapse

Warranty: One Year

PACKING LIST

SiFo Rotator x1

Charging Cable x1

Hot-shoe Cable x1
1/4 to 3/8 Adapter x1

Richard Tatti

My name is Richard Tatti and my passion is Astrophotography, and more specifically creating awe inspiring Nightscape Images. I've spent many years photographing the stars and perfecting the craft of light painting and blending of images. If you're passionate about shooting the milky way and creating unique and inspiring images then I'm here to help you learn how to do that. I am based in Central Victoria in the amazing country of Australia. I spend a lot of the year conducting night photography workshops and never tire of spending time with like minded people out under the amazing milky way.

Peter Zelinka

Peter Zelinka is a nomadic nature photographer originally from Northeast Ohio. As an avid hiker and backpacker, Peter spent most his free time exploring the forests of Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. After spending countless hours hiking with a point-and-shoot camera, Peter eventually became more interested in photography. In June 2014 he purchased his first DSLR - a Nikon D7100. He spent the next few years practicing macro, wildlife, astro, and long exposure photography.

Peter graduated Summa Cum Laude from Youngstown State University in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Science. After graduation, he began working as an Information Systems Specialist at The Vindicator in Youngstown Ohio.

In June 2016, Peter quit his full-time IT job to pursue photography. He spent the next 4 months living out of his car, traveling across the country on a 15,000-mile roadtrip. Upon returning home, he began teaching photography lessons.

Peter has now spent over 1 year living out of his car! In April 2019 he began his latest adventure - teaching people all across America how to take amazing images of the night sky.

The Lough Gur Dark Sky Project

lg1.jpg

The Dark Sky project is a significant undertaking by the Lough Gur group to secure International Dark Sky Association status for Lough Gur. But more important than being able to claim international status is the import task of preserving, not just the physical sites around Lough Gur, but the night skies overhead which has been available to man, woman and child at Lough Gur for over 6000 years.

As such we have embarked on a scientific measurement of how dark our skies are throughout the year and making that information readily available to you our visitors to Lough Gur.

Lough Gur is home to an array of species from insects, to small mammals, fish, birds and bats. We are acutely aware that changes to our ecosystem will have a significant impact on our broad ecosystems. Equally lighting changes will have a direct impact on the insect population and in turn the fish and bats and so forth. As the grounds are managed by Limerick council we are also fortunate to have access and support of our park ranger.

Dark Skies are our Connection with a 6000 Years of History

While no-one fully understands the purpose of the great stone circle, we can only image how our 6000-year-old ancestors pondered on the night sky and how it impacted their belief systems and annual cycles of life. A culture which we believe had at it heart the seasonal movements of sun, moon and stars. We want future generations to be in a position to look up and appreciate those same skies, it’s one of our few links to the past.

Spirit of Place

Visitors to Lough Gur are not only invited to enjoy its mystical presence but are invited to immerse themselves into human spirit and wellness. As part of our annual calendar, we run a “Spirit of Place” event promoting human wellness.

Increasingly critical to our own well-being is understanding the impact of blue light & light pollution on the human body. There is scientific evidence that suggests that for our own wellbeing, humans can greatly benefit from managed lighting and dark spaces.

A Historical Treasure we are passing to the future

Dark Sky certification for Lough Gur is not a point in time exercise. Our Dark Skies have been observed by generations of people over 6000 years, We want to play our part to ensure the skies remain as an inspiration for others over the coming 6000 years. Lough Gur is fortunate to have the backing of Limerick Council and local community in building sustainable model for dark sky preservation We invite you to explore our Dark Sky image above, clicking through to the various aspects of our Dark Sky project and related areas. Lough Gur Science Group.

Dark Sky & Science Education

What can I learn?

The “Dark Sky Project” segment of our website is an educational tool which we are happy to make freely available to everyone, which can be accessed directly by students or as an inspirational teaching guide for the classroom. Our project extends well beyond the stars to numerous disciplines including:

Archaeoastronomy

Understanding Lunar & Solar orbits.

Learning about the seasons

Data Analytics

Ecology and Impact of Light on Flora & Fauna

Astrophotography

Human Wellbeing

Using our Data & Ideas for Students

We welcome you to use our interactive online analytics tools from Tableau Public. Or indeed download our data for your own analysis with your tools of choice. Here are some ideas for class room projects when using our data:

Finding the pattern & impact of Lunar Orbits

Look for the impact of the Earth’s spins and orbit around the sun.

Comparing seasonal numbers by day, month or quarter.

Select a single day and see if you can determine what is happening that day.

Understanding the impact of city lighting, the moon, clouds and sun on our light readings.

How does our data support what we know about our planet?

We encourage you to explore, play and find new answers in our data.

Dark Sky & The

Stone Circle

Ancients Look to the Skies

As our ancestors looked to the sky, it presumably took several generations to identify and map the patterns which existed. We can only speculate that these patterns acted as seasonal indicators to Bronze Age families. 6,000 years ago, in the absence of city lights, our dark sky at Lough Gur would have been even more impressive than it is today, with artefacts like the Milkyway clearly visible.

2017 Archaeoastronomical Report by Dr Frank Prendergast FSCSI FRICS

In July of 2017, the management of Lough Gur commissioned Dr. Prendergast to carry out a review of the Great Stone Cricle (Circle B) at Grange, In the report Dr. Prendergast explores various aspect of how the stone circle would have been of immense social and astronomical significance to the inhabitants of Lough Gur at that time. The following is an extract from that report.

Throughout prehistory, humans would have perpetually gazed at and interpreted the sky – by day and by night – and been acutely aware of their perceived universe. There is little doubt that such practices in the past were an integral part of their cosmology. Mainstream archaeology, with archaeoastronomy, now factors these broader perspectives into understanding ancient societies in terms of everyday life and belief systems in the prehistoric past. Justifiably, an appreciation of the symbolic sky as the natural extension of landscape studies is essential, warranted and rapidly growing in importance. Circle (B) is the logical and appropriate place in which to inspire visitors of all ages by connecting to our distant ancestors. Recognisable astronomical alignments cannot be identified at the site but, nonetheless, it is justifiable to presume that its builders readily understood the passage of time and the seasons and how these were linked to the apparent movement of celestial bodies, planting and harvesting cycles. Additionally, the rituals of death and burial would have been synonymous with the darker months of the year and perhaps marked there. Being located in Circle (B) at the shortest days of the year when the sun’s passage was lowest and shortest would have arguably carried added symbolism as well as deep levels of fear and awe. Modern humans have largely disconnected from their natural world and now exist in a very different environment.

mpact of the Moon on Dark Skies

Even through Lough Gur is fortunate to be located in an area with such wonderful dark skies, the data from our light meter had periodic drops in darkness. Regardless of the weather, seasonal or any other influences these periodic spikes in brightness are attributed to lunar phases – the full moon. On focusing on any given night you do not seem a smooth transition of brightness to dark. On nights of a full moon, cloud cover will darken the skies marginally. Interestingly on a dark night, the overhead cloud has the impact of bouncing ground lighting back to earth and our light meter.

Lunar Cycles

The Moon takes 29.53 days to go from new Moon to new Moon. The Earth travels 72.4 million kilometers around the Sun during the time it takes the moon to orbit the earth. This Nasa Goddard 4K visualization shows the Moon’s phase and libration at hourly intervals throughout 2016, as viewed from the northern hemisphere. Each frame represents one hour. In addition, this visualization shows the Moon’s orbit position, sub-Earth and subsolar points, distance from the Earth at true scale, and labels of craters near the terminator.

5 Reasons to Stargaze at Lough Gur

Proximity to Limerick & Surrounding Towns

Ever got in your car to drive for hours to reach a dark sky site, such as the Burren, to discover when you get there the weather has turned and rain/cloud-cover has put an end to your observations? At only 21km from Limerick city, you can glance to the sky and be at Lough Gur in 30 minutes. And if the weather does turn, you can be back in the comfort of your home 30 minutes later.

Still Air Over the Lake

The water volume of the lake acts as a natural temperature control for surrounding air. As such the air is still and your observations are less likely to suffer from the effect of air movement or changing air temperature. The lakefront provides an ideal location to observe the southerly and westerly skies.

Ample Parking & Safe Environment

As a managed park Lough Gur offers ample parking. Ideal for groups or club meetings. Keep an eye on the Shannonside Astronomy Club who use Lough Gur are an observation location.

A Protected Environment

Lough Gur is protected in many ways. At a government level, the area is a restricted zone for planning permission, guaranteeing we protect our dark sky from needless light pollution. The unique of Lough Gur, while at an elevated altitude, it is further protected from light pollution by surrounding hills which act as a natural barrier to city & local town light.

SQM Readings in Excess of 21

Our Sky Quality Meter measures our sky in excess of 21, with a maximum reading of 22.29 during the past year. The data supports the anecdotal evidence from locals that the skies over Lough Gur are truly unique.

Astrophotography

Not many of us will get the opportunity to observe the Milky Way in its full glory. But when the weather conditions are right at Lough Gur you can do just that. The following photo was taken by local photographer Brian Lavelle and featured in the 2017 Lough Gur Calendar. On the night in question, the lake was so still that the stars were reflected in the water. The lake front is open to the public 24x7x365. With accessible parking within walking distance, come along, setup your equipment to capture the wonders of the night sky. When looking at such an amazing sight, it is easy to see what may have inspired our ancestors to build the Great Stone circle.

Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve

k1.jpg

https://www.darksky.org/

Enjoy the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve with us

We want you have an enjoyable rewarding experience so we arrange our star gazing experiences at easy accessible locations within the reserve. We can also arrange pick up at your location by our local transport partners at reasonable cost.

As sunset comes later in the summer, we time our tours so that you can enjoy dinner and join us as darkness falls (and still make it back to the pub if you wish!)

Star Gazing Experience

Our Stars experience has been developed to inform, entertain and share our enthusiasm for the Dark Sky with visitors to Kerry. Our guides will explain Moon’s phases and how they affect us on Earth .We will tell you what planets you may see and where. We even alert you to the passage of visible satellites. Most of all we will teach you a little of the stories and legends of the stars and constellations.

We limit the number of people on each experience to ensure that everybody gets to see some special sights through our telescopes. Sessions normally last about an hour however our guides enjoy their stars and are flexible when visitors have more questions. See HERE for more detailed information or book HERE

We offer complete flexibility to clients who wish to arrange a private stargazing experience and are happy to discuss your requirements. We can come to your location and add an extra dimension to your dinner party or barbeque with a post dinner tour of the stars. Call or email tru our Contact page or ask your Hotel or Guest House host to call us.

The Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve is located in the South West coast of Ireland in what is called an ISTHMUS – a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land areas, usually with water on either side. The Reserve is protected by the Kerry Mountains and Hills on one side and the Atlantic ocean on the other, is approx. 700 sq km in size and offers dark un-lightpolluted skies, inhabited villages, helpful locals, remote wilderness, long sandy beaches, and numerous lakes, islands and rivers.

Protection of the Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve is about protecting the day-time and nocturnal Wildlife in ALL its forms on land, river, lake and sea. As well as protecting and promoting the Heritage of numerous monuments of pre-historic stone, rock art etc that festoon the region, and protecting the quality of the dark night-time sky to witness them as our ancestors once did.

So, what is a Dark Sky Reserve?

An IDA (www.darksky.org) Dark Sky Reserve has a core/buffer structure, similar to the design of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. The darkest night skies of such Reserves and Parks are in the Core Zone. The Buffer Zone, which usually includes more populated areas, protects the cores dark skies through the enacting of responsible outdoor light policies by municipal councils and private individuals. In the case of the Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve there are actually dark-sky areas in the Buffer Zone with equal star-viewing as can be found in the Core Zone.

What is a Core Zone?

The Core Zone is an area in which there is little or no critical light pollution. These are the area’s in which on clear moonless nights one can fully see the sky in all its glory – just as our ancestors did. This region is most suited to astro-photography, research and naked eye star gazing.

What is the Buffer Zone?

The Buffer Zone protects the Core Zone by ensuring that light pollution is kept under control in the Buffer Zone. If the Buffer Zone began to increase its outdoor public street lights (for instance) this would impact on the Core Zone.

The Reserve holds many natural assets including The Skellig Islands UNESCO World Heritage site, tracks of 350 million year old creatures, towering cliffs, sandy blue-flag beaches, windswept hills, rare flora and fauna and traditional wildlife such as foxes, badgers, hares, rabbits as well as endangered species like bats, frogs, toads etc. The Atlantic Ocean bordering one side of the Reserve is also the protected home to many sea creatures and plants. Many island bird sanctuaries surround the reserve with no visitors allowed except under strict guidance and permission. It is not unusual to see Dolphins playing out in the Derrynane, Kells, Ballinskelligs or Waterville Bay area, so keep a sharp eye out for them. The Reserve is unique because is is an inhabited ‘living’ Reserve, there is a school, a playground, a church, a pub even a small chocolate factory in the Core Zone. You can rent a house, stay in a Hostel or book into a B&B in the Core Zone area.

Protection of this Kerry Dark-Sky wonder is very important, hence the application to receive Dark-Sky Reserve recognition from the International Dark-Sky Association. To correctly map our evolution into this more technologically based society we need to remember, cherish and protect the starting-off point in human development, globally agreed to be humankind’s wonder at the heavens providing the first spark into the creation of what we now call science.

Brian Mc Donald

Greenore Star Trails.jpg


Studying as a Graphic Designer lead to my love of photography. After first learning camera operation and darkroom processes in college, my passion for digital photography has progressed over the years. I am self-taught from countless hours studying books, practicing online tutorials and learning from the best. Over recent years I have accomplished accreditation with the Irish Photography Federation and gained acceptances and awards for my work in International Photography Salons under patronage from the International Federation of Photographic Art.

Loving nature and the outdoors, I mainly travel towards coastline to capture the majority of my images. I venture further to mountains and other suitable locations when I can but the South East of Ireland, in particular my home County Wexford is my base for my preferred genres of Landscape and Seascape. When the many conditions required are right I also try to capture the sky at night. There is something quite unique and awe inspiring about capturing the night sky and with modern camera sensor improvements, this has become all the easier. Since 2016, I have tried my hand at creating some modern architecture images as I enjoy both the precise nature of the composition and the new styles of experimenting with light and shadow.

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it- Ansel Adams”

Having practiced with many photographic genres and styles over the years I have come to love the long exposure as my main technique. I am always fascinated by the resulting image from capturing a scene over a period of time.

Whether it be the tides in motion, clouds passing, rivers flowing or stars rotating across the night sky, I endeavor to portray motion and time in a constant Changing Light.

Brian McDonald LIPF AFIAP Cover page of Astronomy Ireland Magazine

An absolute honour to have my Milky Way and Mars image at Kilmichael Point, Gorey, Co. Wexford chosen for the September issue cover page and gallery of the world's most popular astronomy club. The image is titled “Watching the Universe go by” and features the Milky core rising near vertically over one of Ireland’s world war lookout posts which are located at strategic locations around the coast.

Also, the planet Mars shining a bright reflection on the sea. Mars reached it’s closest point (Opposition) to the earth in July 2018. More on Mars here https://mars.nasa.gov/all-about-mars/night-sky/opposition/

And also in the image, a passing satellite which Astronomy ireland’s David Moore identifed as the rocket use to launch military Lacrosse 4 Satellite in 2000.

This cover page feature was my photography highlight of 2018 for sure.

x.JPG
Heaven's Above.jpg

Galactic 50: A photography project

by Tony Curado

truevisionphotos.com

z.jpg

I still remember the first time I saw the Milky Way and the feeling of awe that I got from seeing all those stars. It was a beautiful summer night at Lake George, NY and my brother and I decided to head down to the docks a little while after dinner. As our eyes adjusted, the night sky just kept getting better and better. Even though all we saw that night was a small band of the Milky Way, it was a night that stuck with me for many years to come. Since I was born and raised in New Jersey, it would be almost 3 years before I saw a sky that dark again.

When I began photographing the Milky Way, I was living in Durango, Colorado. It’s an amazing small town in the San Juan Mountain Range, - with minimal light pollution and clean mountain air. The night sky is so dark in Durango that I could see the Milky Way from my apartment. If I drove an hour north or south of Durango, -the skies exploded with stars, planets, and the occasional meteor.

My first summer in Durango, some friends and I walked less than a mile from our apartment to view the Perseid Meteor Shower, I remember being in such awe of where I was living that I could barely take any photos. That night would begin a long, passionate journey of learning all about Milky Way photography. That journey has changed my life. I’ve seen beautiful dark sky locations in Moab, Utah; Sedona, Arizona; San Francisco, California and Silverton, Colorado, a small town north of Durango, all in order to capture the stars. Silverton was where I took my first true Milky Way Nightscape, on a camping trip to Animas Forks, one of the largest remaining ghost towns in Colorado.

In preparing for the new moon, I rented a wide angle lens, Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fisheye Lens for Canon, and set out with no idea about Milky Way positioning, except to look to the south. I had my Canon 6D, my $25 intervalometer, and a really cool place to shoot. I photographed all night, exploring every different angle of the old mill among the ruins. Call it beginners luck, but my first picture of the core came when we finally found it sinking behind one of the mountains.

It was perfectly aligned with the old mill below. I set everything up and started shooting my stacks, and as my friend and I sat there a huge green fireball appeared in the sky! I couldn’t believe it, I had never seen anything like that and as a bonus I was able to photograph it! It was an amazing feeling!!

When it came time for me to leave Durango and return to NJ, I was bummed at the idea of not being able to shoot the Milky Way anymore. Afterall, the east coast was known for its high population density, which resulted in large amounts of light pollution. Thankfully, with a little research I realized it would take some effort, but I was only a few hours away from plenty of places to shoot. I was inspired by the idea that leaving Colorado didn’t mean I had to leave behind my new passion for shooting nightscapes. I think that is one of the things that surprised me the most about the east coast skies.. Yes, when you look at a light pollution map, you can see that the bad reputation is well deserved. But there are plenty of places you can see the Milky Way along the eastern coast, and the chances are it's closer than you think.

That realization got me thinking and my project to photograph the Milky Way in every state of the United States was born.

G50, officially launched in the summer of 2016. I’d wanted to take a cross country road trip for a while, and when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance. What better way could there be to kick off my project? I knew that I needed to photograph the Milky Way in every state of the United States of America. I knew this was not going to be an easy task, and I knew it would take years. My trip across the country would be a great way to get it started and cross off a bunch of states.

I visited 23 states during my cross country trips. Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, just to name a few,and traveled over 15,876 miles! The highlights of the trip were a crystal clear night in Michigan, where I was able to photograph the Milky Way over Lake Michigan, an amazing view at Crater Lake in Oregon, and an overnight hike to a glacier lake in Idaho. In the end, I crossed off 12 states for the G50 project and I visited some of the greatest national parks America has to offer. If you would like to read more or see all the photos from this trip you can visit truevisionphotos.com for photos from the trip.

50d.jpg

As much as this project was about discovering dark skies and seeing my beautiful country, it was also about growing my skills as a photographer. I like the quote “a minute to learn, a lifetime to master” when it comes to photography. That is extremely true for photographing the Milky Way. The more you learn about photographing the stars, the more you realize how much you didn’t know. Adapt and overcome became my motto for this project and it would never prove more true than in 2017. At the beginning of 2017 I was struggling with my health, constantly being tired with aching joints, and sore muscles. Doctor after doctor told me there was nothing wrong, but thankfully I found someone who was able to crack the code. I was bitten by a tick on my cross country adventure the summer before and I had been infected with Anaplasma. It was a tick borne disease that mimics Lyme Disease. Thankfully, Anaplasma does not carry the same long term effects that Lyme does, so with some treatment I was soon back on my feet. However, during my recovery, I found long nights out in nature, hiking, camping, and photographing to be very draining. But I was determined to keep the project alive, so I planned short trips that were relatively close to home.

Among those short trips was 3 different stops in Connecticut, a trip down south to photograph the eclipse, and an amazing night on the coast of Rhode Island. Although the stars were beautiful, it was the great people I met and the friends that joined me on so many of my trips that I am most grateful for.

I’ve learned that they enrich the journey for me. For example, a local Connecticut photographer friend of mine coaxed me out of bed after we gave up shooting that night thanks to a rainstorm. On her way home she noticed a clearing in the clouds and convinced me go back out. It was that same friend that joined me for one of the best nights of 2017 at a lighthouse on the coast of Rhode Island. That trip still holds up as one of my best nights photographing the Milky Way. Strangely, my favorite Milky Way adventure of 2017 had nothing to do with the Milky Way. That summer, most of America got to see at least a partial solar eclipse, with a narrow band across the country being able to see a total solar eclipse. Determined to see the eclipse in totality, I met-up with a friend in South Carolina. Of course while there we were able to find some dark skies and get a great Milky Way photo. By the end of the year I added 4 states to my G50 count. While it didn’t touch my 12 states from the year before, it was progress. With how I started the year, it was progress I was happy about.

50e.jpg

2018 would begin with a bang. A vacation out to Hawaii in February was going to help me get the year started off right. We were going during the new moon, but we were also going during the end of the rainy season and as our trip drew closer, the weather looked like it wasn’t going to cooperate. I might only get one shot at it the whole week I was there and of course, that was our first night there. I’m not sure if the jet lag helped or hurt in this situation, but I was able to drive from Honolulu to the other side of the island for some great shots of the Milky Way. Despite some clouds, I was happy with my results that night and 2018 was off to a great start! Or so I thought. In reality, 2018 would be the most difficult year I’d dealt with so far in regards to weather. It seemed like it would only rain during a new moon and that clouds were now a permanent fixture on the eastern U.S. coast. With my project being mostly self funded, and a lot of the states close to home completed, my trips were getting farther and farther away and it was becoming harder to take a chance on weather. Unfortunately, 2018 ended with me only adding Hawaii and Vermont to the completed list, bringing my total to 18.

With 2018 being so much of a disappointment, I made a promise to myself that 2019 would be different. There were a few times in 2018 when I didn’t go on a trip during the new moon because of the weather forecast and ended up regretting it after seeing or hearing from some friends that the weather cleared up. So in 2019, regardless of the weather forecast, I am planning to go out during every new moon or the weeks surrounding it. I intend to make the best of whatever I encounter, as sometimes, clouds are a welcome addition to nightscapes. As in Connecticut, on my first visit to a western, bortle class 5 region, I wasn’t expecting much but I was able to get an interesting shot with the moving clouds. I returned 3 times to this location and due to light pollution and bad weather I never got anything better than the original image with the clouds in it. However, for this project where I plan on showcasing 50 different photos of the Milky Way a little something different is not bad.

With my new mindset and determination to not let the weather beat me, 2019 started off with a two week road trip down the coast of the eastern seaboard. On the potential hit list were Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The trip started off great and was highlighted by an amazing two night stay on Jekyll Island, Georgia. As my first trip out in 2019, I was a little rusty and rain in North Carolina and Florida put a little damper on the trip. But my spirits were lifted by a great night out in Georgia. Even though the wind kept me from really getting any usable images, seeing the great big core back in the sky revitalized my desire to get out and shoot the night sky as much as possible in 2019.

With only Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire left in the Northeast, my goal is to finish shooting New England this year. After my road trip down south, I once again met up with some New England photographers in York, Maine. I’ve had a shot from that location on my bucket list ever since I visited the state during the second year of my project. In York, Maine there is a lighthouse that, during the beginning of the Milky Way season, the core arches right over. Although I had previously visited this location 2 times, I never walked away with the photo I envisioned and was seriously hoping the 3rd time would be a charm. Unfortunately, when we showed up at the lighthouse around 2 a.m., we faced two challenges. First, the sky starting to get very cloudy. Second, the lighthouse was lit up a very bright blue for autism awareness month. We quickly called an audible and headed up to a mountain about 20 minutes away in the hopes that we would get a better view from there. Thankfully, that night worked out great and I was able to get a shot I had been longing for.

Now with Maine off the list, I am down to only 2 states left in the Northeast and only a few states away from hitting the halfway mark of this epic project. However, the northeast is not the only target on my list for 2019. I will be taking another 2 week road trip out to Colorado to visit some friends and we plan to go to New Mexico, Arizona, the Animas Forks ghost town where it all began, and even a few nights in Moab. On my way back I will be tracking weather and hoping to hit a few more states. All in all, for 2019 the goal is to reach that halfway point and start planning for next season where I will attack the southern United States.

I started this project for a few different reasons. Aside from my new obsession with night photography, it was a way to keep me out in nature and exploring my country. Being out west, I fell in love with nature. In returning to NJ, I didn’t want to forget about that. But as this project moves along it has taken on so much more. The experience’s, the places, the people and even some struggles have been far greater than I could have ever imagined.

50g.jpg

There have been many frustrations along the way, but if it were easy it really wouldn’t be worth doing, in my eyes. Weather has been one of the biggest issues I have faced along this journey, but light pollution has also been a big part of this. Out west, in a true dark sky portion of the country, seeing the Milky Way is a lot easier and can happen for a longer period of time. On the east coast, due to light pollution, that period shrinks. Couple that with the unpredictable east coast weather patterns and the challenge of this project gets kicked up a notch, from what I originally thought. This project has tested my patience, determination, and will, at different times and sometimes all at once. But, I move forward because every night I have a successful clear night under the sky I’m once again reminded why I started it in the first place. Awe is truly the only word that keeps coming to my mind, because no matter how many times I see a sky lit up with stars it takes my breath away.

In 2018, I was washed out almost every trip out and I really started to think the Northeast could be the end of this project. So with a big storm on the way I could have easily cancelled my trip in August to Vermont for the Perseid Meteor Storm.

Instead, I went and was once again reminded that perseverance in life and in photography does payoff. My first night out I just remember sitting there under the clear sky and feeling the entire weight of the project just slip away. At that moment whatever state I was in simply didn’t matter, at that moment all I felt was pure joy. Once again in awe of where I was and the sheer beauty of the universe laid out before me.

To sum up, I never thought it was going to be easy, maybe I didn’t think it was going to be as hard. There were moments I contemplating deleting all traces of the project and just forget about it. However, there is no way after everything I have gone through that I could stop now. I will “adapt and overcome” because the feeling of a clear dark sky is one I never hope to forget. On a final note, I hope you have enjoyed reading about my adventure and that you enjoy the pictures. It should be mentioned, that the majority of my pictures are composites. I do this for a few reasons, but the main reason being is creating a nice clean artistic image that can be printed. Single captures of the Milky Way Core definitely have there place and is where I started in my journey learning to photograph the Milky Way. But as I progressed in this project a few things became clear to me. The first was that in order to get a clear printable foreground, that is up to printable standards, compositing the image with blue hour foregrounds was the best way for me to achieve that. Also, as you probably already know, using a star tracker leaves you with having to composite in a foreground anyway.

Lastly, I wanted my images to be the best possible artistic representation of the state I was in as well as the universe we live in and for me, again, compositing was the best way I could see to do that. So, I set up some guidelines for my project to ensure it would remain legitimate. They are simple and to the point, every night sky must be taken in the state that it is claimed to have been taken from, and my foreground and night sky must match the time I was there. I have a deep respect for the scientific end of photographing our night sky and I completely understand the importance of accuracy in that world. But, I also believe that just saying I’m creating art and not scientific photos is a crutch that some photographers use. So using apps like Photopills, I am able to pinpoint where the Milky Way will be and line up my foreground before it appears. So while I am creating artistic nightscape imagery, I still try and show a true representation of the scene for the time that I am there. In the end I have one purpose, and that is to try and deliver the sense of awe I had the first time I saw the Milky Way.

Cabot Covered Bridge (Composite)  A beautiful night at the peak of the Perseids Meteor Shower didn’t result in any meteors but I did get a beautiful clear night my first night there.  Exif Sky: 180 sec @F/2.8 ISO 800  Foreground: 1 min @F/11 ISO 100  Both shots with Canon 6d and 50mm 1.8

Cabot Covered Bridge (Composite)

A beautiful night at the peak of the Perseids Meteor Shower didn’t result in any meteors but I did get a beautiful clear night my first night there.

Exif Sky: 180 sec @F/2.8 ISO 800

Foreground: 1 min @F/11 ISO 100

Both shots with Canon 6d and 50mm 1.8

Testing the Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/2 Lens

1.jpg

by Alan Dyer of amazingsky.net

I test out a fast and very wide lens designed specifically for Sony mirrorless cameras.

In a test on my blog at www.amazingsky.net published May 31, 2018 I presented results on how well the Sony a7III mirrorless camera performs for nightscape and deep-sky photography. It works very well indeed.

But what about lenses for the Sony? Here’s one ideal for astrophotography.

TL;DR Conclusions

Made for Sony e-mount cameras, the Venus Optics 15mm f/2 Laowa provides excellent on- and off-axis performance in a fast and compact lens ideal for nightscape, time-lapse, and wide-field tracked astrophotography with Sony mirrorless cameras. (Sorry, Canon and Nikon users, it is not available for other lens mounts.)

I use it a lot and highly recommend it.

Size and Weight

While I often use the a7III with my Canon lenses by way of a Metabones adapter, the Sony really comes into its own when matched to a “native” lens made for the Sony e-mount. The selection of fast, wide lenses from Sony itself is limited, with the new Sony 24mm G-Master a popular favourite (I have yet to try it).

However, for much of my nightscape shooting, and certainly for auroras, I prefer lenses even wider than 24mm, and the faster the better.

2.jpg

The Laowa 15mm f/2 from Venus Optics fills the bill very nicely, providing excellent speed in a compact lens. While wide, the Laowa is a rectilinear lens providing straight horizons even when aimed up, as shown above. This is not a fish-eye lens.

Though a very wide lens, the 15mm Laowa accepts standard 72mm filters. The metal lens hood is removable. © 2019 Alan Dyer

Though a very wide lens, the 15mm Laowa accepts standard 72mm filters. The metal lens hood is removable. © 2019 Alan Dyer

The Venus Optics 15mm realizes the potential of mirrorless cameras and their short flange distance that allows the design of fast, wide lenses without massive bulk.

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art lens (for Nikon mount) vs. Venus Optics 15mm f/2 lens (for Sony mount). © 2019 Alan Dyer

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art lens (for Nikon mount) vs. Venus Optics 15mm f/2 lens (for Sony mount). © 2019 Alan Dyer

For me, the Sony-Laowa combination is my first choice for a lightweight travel camera for overseas aurora trips.

The lens mount showing no electrical contacts to transfer lens metadata to the camera. © 2019 Alan Dyer

The lens mount showing no electrical contacts to transfer lens metadata to the camera. © 2019 Alan Dyer

However, this is a no-frills manual focus lens. Nor does it even transfer aperture data to the camera, which is a pity. There are no electrical connections between the lens and camera.

However, for nightscape work where all settings are adjusted manually, the Venus Optics 15mm works just fine. The key factor is how good are the optics. I’m happy to report that they are very good indeed.

Testing Under the Stars

To test the Venus Optics lens I shot “same night” images, all tracked, with the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art lens, at left, and the Rokinon 14mm SP (labeled as being f/2.4, at right). Both are much larger lenses, made for DSLRs, with bulbous front elements not able to accept filters. But they are both superb lenses. See my test report on these lenses published in 2018.

The Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art lens (left) vs. the Rokinon SP 14mm f/2.4. © 2019 Alan Dyer

The Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art lens (left) vs. the Rokinon SP 14mm f/2.4. © 2019 Alan Dyer

The next images show blow-ups of the same scene (the nightscape shown in full below, taken at Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta), and all taken on a tracker.

I used the Rokinon on the Sony a7III using the Metabones adapter which, unlike some brands of lens adapters, does not compromise the optical quality of the lens by shifting its focal position. But lacking a lens adapter for Nikon-to-Sony at the time of testing, I used the Nikon-mount Sigma lens on a Nikon D750, a DSLR camera with nearly identical sensor specs to the Sony.

Vignetting

7.jpg

A tracked image with the Venus Optics Laowa 15mm at f/2.

Above is a tracked image (so the stars are not trailed, which would make it hard to tell aberrations from trails), taken wide open at f/2. No lens correction has been applied so the vignetting (the darkening of the frame corners) is as the lens provides.

As shown bottom right, when used wide open at f/2 vignetting is significant, but not much more so than with competitive lenses with much larger lenses, as I compare below.

And the vignetting is correctable in processing. Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom have this lens in their lens profile database. That’s not the case with current versions (as of April 2019) of other raw developers such as DxO PhotoLab, ON1 Photo RAW, and Raw Therapee where vignetting corrections have to be dialled in manually by eye.

A tracked image with the Venus Optics Laowa 15mm stopped down 1 stop to f/2.8.

A tracked image with the Venus Optics Laowa 15mm stopped down 1 stop to f/2.8.

When stopped down to f/2.8 the Laowa “flattens” out a lot for vignetting and uniformity of frame illumination. Corner aberrations also improve but are still present. I show those in close-up detail below.

15mm Laowa vs. Rokinon 14mm SP vs. Sigma Art 14mm – Comparing the left side of the image for vignetting (light fall-off), wide open and stopped down. ©2018 Alan Dyer

15mm Laowa vs. Rokinon 14mm SP vs. Sigma Art 14mm – Comparing the left side of the image for vignetting (light fall-off), wide open and stopped down. ©2018 Alan Dyer

Opposite page bottom right, , I compare the vignetting of the three lenses, both wide open and when stopped down. Wide open, all the lenses, even the Sigma and Rokinon despite their large front elements, show quite a bit of drop off in illumination at the corners.

The Rokinon SP actually seems to be the worst of the trio, showing some residual vignetting even at f/2.8, while it is reduced significantly in the Laowa and Sigma lenses. Oddly, the Rokinon SP, even though it is labeled as f/2.4, seemed to open to f/2.2, at least as indicated by the aperture metadata.

On-Axis Performance

15mm Laowa vs. Rokinon 14mm SP vs. Sigma Art 14mm – Comparing the centre of the image for sharpness, wide open and stopped down. Click or tap on an image to download a full-resolution JPG for closer inspection © 2018 Alan Dyer

15mm Laowa vs. Rokinon 14mm SP vs. Sigma Art 14mm – Comparing the centre of the image for sharpness, wide open and stopped down. Click or tap on an image to download a full-resolution JPG for closer inspection © 2018 Alan Dyer

Above I show lens sharpness on-axis, both wide open and stopped down, to check for spherical and chromatic aberrations with the bright blue star Vega centered. The red box in the Navigator window at top right indicates what portion of the frame I am showing, at 200% magnification in Photoshop.

On-axis, the Venus Optics 15mm shows stars just as sharply as the premium Sigma and Rokinon lenses, with no sign of blurring spherical aberration nor coloured haloes from chromatic aberration.

This is where this lens reaches sharpest focus on stars, just shy of the Infinity mark. © 2019 Alan Dyer

This is where this lens reaches sharpest focus on stars, just shy of the Infinity mark. © 2019 Alan Dyer

Focusing is precise and easy to achieve with the Sony on Live View. My unit reaches sharpest focus on stars with the lens set just shy of the middle of the infinity symbol. This is consistent and allows me to preset focus just by dialing the focus ring, handy for shooting auroras at -35° C, when I prefer to minimize fussing with camera settings, thank you very much!

Off-Axis Performance

15mm Laowa vs. Rokinon 14mm SP vs. Sigma Art 14mm – Comparing

15mm Laowa vs. Rokinon 14mm SP vs. Sigma Art 14mm – Comparing

The Laowa and Sigma lenses show similar levels of off-axis coma and astigmatism, with the Laowa exhibiting slightly more lateral chromatic aberration than the Sigma. Both improve a lot when stopped down one stop, but aberrations are still present though to a lesser degree.

However, I find that the Laowa 15mm performs as well as the Sigma 14mm Art for star quality on- and off-axis. And that’s a high standard to match.

The Rokinon SP is the worst of the trio, showing significant elongation of off-axis star images (they look like lines aimed at the frame centre), likely due to astigmatism. With the 14mm SP, this aberration was still present at f/2.8, and was worse at the upper right corner than at the upper left corner, an indication to me that even the premium Rokinon SP lens exhibits slight lens de-centering, an issue users have often found with other Rokinon lenses.

Real-World Examples – The Milky Way

The fast speed of the Laowa 15mm is ideal for shooting tracked wide-field images of the Milky Way, and untracked camera-on-tripod nightscapes and time-lapses of the Milky Way.

Image aberrations are very acceptable at f/2, a speed that allows shutter speed and ISO to be kept lower for minimal star trailing and noise while ensuring a well-exposed frame.

This is a stack of 8 x 2-minute exposures with the Venus Optics Laowa 15mm lens at f/2 and Sony a7III at ISO 800, on the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer tracker. A single exposure taken through the Kenko Softon A filter layered in with Lighten mode adds the star glows, though exaggerates the lens distortion on the bright stars.

This is a stack of 8 x 2-minute exposures with the Venus Optics Laowa 15mm lens at f/2 and Sony a7III at ISO 800, on the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer tracker. A single exposure taken through the Kenko Softon A filter layered in with Lighten mode adds the star glows, though exaggerates the lens distortion on the bright stars.

This is a stack of 12 exposures for the ground, mean combined to smooth noise, and one exposure for the sky, all 30 seconds at f/2 with the Laowa 15mm lens on the Sony a7III camera at ISO 6400. These were the last frames in a 340-frame time-lapse sequence.

This is a stack of 12 exposures for the ground, mean combined to smooth noise, and one exposure for the sky, all 30 seconds at f/2 with the Laowa 15mm lens on the Sony a7III camera at ISO 6400. These were the last frames in a 340-frame time-lapse sequence.

The fast speed of the Laowa 15mm is ideal for shooting tracked wide-field images of the Milky Way, and untracked camera-on-tripod nightscapes and time-lapses of the Milky Way.

Image aberrations are very acceptable at f/2, a speed that allows shutter speed and ISO to be kept lower for minimal star trailing and noise while ensuring a well-exposed frame.

10 Facts about the Atacama Desert.

BY TASHA WILLIAMS  TRAVEL CONSULTANT – CHILE &amp; ARGENTINA  quasarex.com

BY TASHA WILLIAMS

TRAVEL CONSULTANT – CHILE & ARGENTINA

quasarex.com

www.quasarex.com/

The Atacama Desert in Northern Chile

The Atacama Desert (Spanish: Desierto de Atacama) is a plateau in South America, covering a 1,000-kilometre (600 mi) strip of land on the Pacific coast, west of the Andes mountains. According to estimates the Atacama Desert proper occupies 105,000 square kilometres (41,000 sq mi), or 128,000 square kilometres (49,000 sq mi) if the barren lower slopes of the Andes are included. Most of the desert is composed of stony terrain, salt lakes (salares), sand, and felsic lava that flows towards the Andes. Below, we are sharing 10 Fun Facts about the Atacama Desert.

b.jpg

1. Driest Desert in the World – Studies conducted by NASA have concluded that this desert located in northern Chile is in fact the driest desert in the world. Some weather stations in the Atacama have never received rain. Periods of up to four years have been registered with no rainfall in the central sector, delimited by the cities of Antofagasta, Calama and Copiapó, in Chile. Evidence suggests that the Atacama Desert may not have had any significant rainfall from 1570 to 1971.

2. Rainless (or just about) – Average rain- fall in this region is about 1 mm per year.

Some locations within the desert have never had any rainfall what- soever. Some locations, such as Arica and Iquique, receive 1 to 3 mm (0.04 to 0.12 in) in a year.

Geographically, the aridity of the Atacama is explained by it being situated between two mountain chains (the Andes and the Chilean Coast Range) of sufficient height to prevent moisture advection from either the Pacific or the Atlantic Oceans, a two-sided rain shadow.

c.jpg

3. Sterile Ground – Both the Andes Mountains and the Chilean Costal Range, which surround this desert, create a blockage of moisture, making the Atacama Desert a kind of death zone for vegetation, depriving the land of water and nutrients.

4. Largest Supply of Sodium Nitrate in the World – This region is the largest natural supply of Sodium Nitrate, which can be used for producing fertilizers and explosives. amongst other things. Mining of this mineral, also called Chile saltpeter, was at a boom in the 1940s and many abandoned mining towns may be spotted and visited in the desert.

d.jpg

5. Extra Terrestrial Soil – Soil samples from this region are very similar to samples from Mars; for this reason, NASA uses this desert for testing instruments for missions to the red planet. The Atacama is also a testing site for the NASA-funded Earth-Mars Cave Detection Program. The Atacama has also been used as a location for filming Mars scenes, most notably in the television series Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets.

6. Land Dispute – In the late 1800s, Chile and Bolivia disputed this land in the Guerra del Pacífico (War of the Pacific) because both countries claimed to be rightful owners of this region that, as was said above, had a huge mining potential. At the end of the war Chile took control of the entire region.

7. Extreme Temperatures – During the day, temperatures in the desert can reach around 40º C (104º F), and in the night these temperatures can fall to 5º C (41º F). The climate is magnificent throughout the year, with more than 90% of the days being radiant. For 10 to 12 nights each month there is an astonishing moon and you can enjoy the darkness of the night with its fresh air and lack of clouds, which makes the stars shine as in no other place on earth.

8. Chinchorro Mummies – The oldest artificially mummified human remains have been found in the Atacama Desert. These mummies predate the Egyptian mummies by thousands of years, and the extreme lack of moisture helps in the preservation of these samples. To put this into perspective, the earliest mummy that has been found in Egypt dated around 3000 BC, while the oldest mummy recovered from the Atacama Desert is dated around 7020 BC.

9. Presence of Snow – Despite this being the driest desert in the world and the high temperatures during the day, the high peaks present are topped with snow. This is possible due to the altitude, which does not allow temperatures in these points to increase much.

10c.jpg

10. Astronomy – The Atacama Desert is one of few locations on the globe with 300+ days with clear skies in a year, along with no light pollution and its high altitude, making it perhaps the best place in the world for observatories. In more recent years, the desert has become the home of the largest ground telescope in the world, ALMA, where studies of the formation of stars are conducted with the help of the images captured by the 66 radio telescopes.

Kevin Ferrioli

Digital photo magazine

I’m a SQL analyst and developer by profession, living in Dorset, United Kingdom, which is an amazing place for people who love outdoor activities. I love mountain biking which has taken me to stunning locations, and there are miles of breath-taking walks with lots of nature and history around – every corner has a surprise, it’s like living in a fantasy, at least that’s how I see it.

Since I was a child, I’ve always had a fascination for the stars. I had the opportunity to visit places near the equator with true dark skies, where the Milky Way core is visible up in the sky – unlike in the UK where the core is barely visible on the horizon. It’s of unbelievable beauty. I spent most of my childhood visiting locations in the rain forest, flat lands and my favourite – the mountains, especially over 4000 meters.

My fascination for the night sky has always been with me and I have always wanted to capture their beauty. One day, I saw images from Michael Shainblum and he then became my main influence and inspiration. I’ve never looked to replicate his style or the others, it was just that I loved how his images made me feel so immersed. It inspired me to do the same with my photos, to capture an image that would put the viewer under the stars.

dorset nightscape
a.jpg

As I did last year, I went again to the same place for my first Milky Way, Peveril Point, Swanage, Dorset UK. For my previous attempt, I used a Sigma Art lens 20mm F1.4. The idea was to capture more detailed foregrounds. The lens proved to be excellent for low light but it has four major downsides: first, photos of the night sky taken with this lens were extremely difficult to edit. Second, it is not very good for panoramas, despite I used a nodal head. Third, the autofocus is the worst of any lens that I have ever owned, it is very difficult to capture a sharp photo even with the best light conditions. And fourth, the lens profile in Lightroom is terrible, it makes the images worse. I was not bothered by the astigmatism distortion of the corners which virtually disappeared in panoramas. Overall, I was not happy with the lens, I felt I wasted my last year trying to use it. So I went back to my trustworthy Samyang lens 14mm F2,8. Coupled with the Canon 6D, still my preferred choice. I have not tested the Sigma 14mm F2 yet, but given the price, I will stick with my Samyang.

The image to the rights is the process used to create it. It is a panorama of 7 photos, Canon 6d and Samyang 14mm F2.8, ISO between 4000 and 5000. Each photo is 25 secs. Stitched in Adobe Lightroom.

Peveril Point Swanage Milky Way: 7 images highlighted below and stitched in Abobe Lightroom.

Peveril Point Swanage Milky Way: 7 images highlighted below and stitched in Abobe Lightroom.


The moon rise was spectacular, one of the most beautiful rises from the sea, it was also so dim that allowed to capture the Milky Way up to the last minute before the astronomical dawn. Again, I thank you the nature for this beautiful experience.

Digital photo magazine

All images have been captured with a Canon 6D Mk1. And most of the images were captured with a Samyang 14mm F2.8 Lens, my more recent work is being captured with the amazing Samyang 14mm F2.4 XP

Durdle Door, Dorset.

Durdle Door, Dorset.

Image by jasty78

Durdle Door (sometimes written Durdle Dor) is a natural limestone arch on the Jurassic Coast near Lulworth in Dorset, England.

It is privately owned by the Welds, a family who owns 12,000 acres (50 km2) in Dorset in the name of the Lulworth Estate. It is open to the public. The name Durdle is derived from the Old English word ‘thirl' meaning bore or drill.

The form of the coastline around Durdle Door is controlled by its geology—both by the contrasting hardnesses of the rocks, and by the local patterns of faults and folds. The arch has formed on a concordant coastline where bands of rock run parallel to the shoreline. The rock strata are almost vertical, and the bands of rock are quite narrow. Originally a band of resistant Portland limestone ran along the shore, the same band that appears one mile along the coast forming the narrow entrance to Lulworth Cove. Behind this is a 120-metre (390 ft) band of weaker, easily eroded rocks, and behind this is a stronger and much thicker band of chalk, which forms the Purbeck Hills. These steeply dipping rocks are part of the Lulworth crumple, itself part of the broader Purbeck Monocline, produced by the building of the Alps during the mid-Cenozoic.

The limestone and chalk are in closer proximity at Durdle Door than at Swanage, 10 miles (16 km) to the east, where the distance is over 2 miles (3 km). Around this part of the coast nearly all of the limestone has been removed by sea erosion, whilst the remainder forms the small headland which includes the arch. Erosion at the western end of the limestone band has resulted in the arch formation.

UNESCO teams monitor the condition of both the arch and adjacent beach.

The 120-metre (390 ft) isthmus which joins the limestone to the chalk is made of a 50-metre (160 ft) band of Portland limestone, a narrow and compressed band of Cretaceous Wealden clays and sands, and then narrow bands of greensand and sandstone.

In Man O' War Bay, the small bay immediately east of Durdle Door, the band of Portland and Purbeck limestone has not been entirely eroded away, and is visible above the waves as Man O'War Rocks. Similarly, offshore to the west, the eroded limestone outcrop forms a line of small rocky islets called (from east to west) The Bull, The Blind Cow, The Cow, and The Calf.

As the coastline in this area is generally an eroding landscape, the cliffs are subject to occasional rockfalls and landslides; a particularly large slide occurred just to the east of Durdle Door in April 2013, resulting in destruction of part of the South West Coast Path.

There is a dearth of early written records about the arch, though it has kept a name given to it probably over a thousand years ago. In the late eighteenth century there is a description of the "magnificent arch of Durdle-rock Door", and early nineteenth-century maps called it 'Duddledoor' and 'Durdle' or 'Dudde Door'. In 1811 the first Ordnance Survey map of the area named it as 'Dirdale Door'. 'Durdle' is derived from the Old English 'thirl', meaning to pierce, bore or drill which in turn derives from 'thyrel', meaning hole. Similar names in the region include Durlston Bay and Durlston Head further east, where a oastal stack suggests the existence of an earlier arch, and the Thurlestone, an arched rock in the neighbouring county of Devon to the west. The 'Door' part of the name probably maintains its modern meaning, referring to the arched shape of the rock; in the late nineteenth century there is reference to it being called the "Barn-door", and is described as being "sufficiently high for a good-sized sailing boat to pass through it."

Music videos have been filmed at Durdle Door, including parts of Tears for Fears' "Shout", Billy Ocean's "Loverboy", and Cliff Richard's "Saviour's Day"

The landscape around Durdle Door has been used in scenes in several films, including Wilde (1997) starring Stephen Fry, Nanny McPhee starring Emma Thompson,

the 1967 production of Far From The Madding Crowd (the latter also filmed around nearby Scratchy Bottom), and the Bollywood film Housefull 3.

Ron Dawson's children's story Scary Bones meets the Dinosaurs of the Jurassic Coast creates a myth of how Durdle Door came to be, as an 'undiscovered' dinosaur called Durdle Doorus is magically transformed into rock.

Dorset-born Arthur Moule, a friend of Thomas Hardy and missionary to China, wrote these lines about Durdle Door for his 1879 book of poetry Songs of heaven and home, written in a foreign land:

durdle door

Good Lighting Advice

Digital photo magazine

by Chasing Stars

To achieve International Dark Sky Reserve status all those responsible for lighting (local authorities, highway departments, businesses and individual residents) are required to ensure that light pollution (light escaping sideways and upwards) is reduced to a minimum.

LEDs are now beginning to appear above our streets and main roads in very large numbers. Sadly, far too many LEDs are very bright, and their excess light reflects from the ground into the sky.

AONB Position Statement & Good Practice Note

The AONB position statements set out its current position on a variety of topics. These include light pollution, and the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty derives much of its beauty from its qualities of tranquillity, remoteness and cultural heritage. Light pollution has the potential to erode and destroy that tranquillity and sense of remoteness.

It is, therefore, considered appropriate that all artificial external lighting within its borders, or within the setting of the AONB, should be muted, screened, and the minimum required.  

Position Statement 1 - Light Pollution (PDF, 75Kb)

Good Practice Note 7 - Good External Lighting (PDF 70Kb)

Position Statement 7a - Recommendations for Dark-Sky compliant lighting on new builds & refurbishments - a Developers' Guide (PDF 500kb)

Terms used in describing good lighting, and waste light not directed to the area to be lit.

a.jpg

Task or Useful light – light that fulfils the task for which the lamp was installed.

  • Obtrusive light – light causing a problem of some kind through misdirection.

  • Spill light - falls outside the area where it is needed.

  • Upward reflected light - unwanted light bouncing off the ground.

  • Direct upward light - wasted light shining above a light fitting (not necessarily vertically upwards – it may be escaping just one degree above the horizontal but will eventually end up in the sky).

  • Light intrusion – over-bright and poorly directed light, often going in windows and/or causing glare and discomfort on other premises. Sometimes called light trespass, but this term is normally to be avoided as, in law, trespass is deliberate intrusion and the intrusive light is usually the result of ignorance rather than malice.

Examples

Good

Compact LED light directed downwards. This and similar types are recommended for domestic, commercial, farmyard and similar uses: preferably with sensors to switch off when not needed. 
Photo: Auraglow

A halogen floodlight, correctly angled, can light a large area. 
Photo: Martin Morgan-Taylor

Bad

An LED floodlight that, even if tilted down, will shine above the horizontal
Photo: ILP

An LED floodlight on a hospital shining into ward windows: its wiring and short fitting bar mean that it cannot be tilted far enough downwards to illuminate the area to be lit. It will always emit upwards as well as down.
Photo: Bob Mizon

Environmental Zones

It is recommended that Local Planning Authorities specify the following environmental zones for exterior lighting control within their Development Plans.

ZoneSurroundingLighting EnvironmentExamplesE0ProtectedDarkUNESCO Starlight Reserves, IDA Dark Sky ParksE1NaturalIntrinsically darkNational Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty etcE2RuralLow district brightnessVillage or relatively dark outer suburban locationsE3SuburbanMedium district brightnessSmall town centres or suburban locationsE4UrbanHigh district brightnessTown/city centres with high levels of night-time activitySource: Guidance Notes for the Reduction of Obtrusive Light GN01:2011


Where an area to be lit lies on the boundary of two zones the obtrusive light limitation values used should be those applicable to the most rigorous zone.
NB: Zone E0 must always be surrounded by an E1 Zone.

Lighting Types, qualities and Impacts - Bob Mizon Commission for Dark Skies (CfDS) - March 2016

This paper by Bob Mizon looks at best practice relating to external lighting - Different types of lighting through the years, terminology guide, threats to the environment from blue-rich white lighting, putting light where it is needed, part-night switch-offs and common misconceptions met when discussing quality lighting and good practice...

Download Lighting: types, qualities and impacts (PDF - 1.2Mb)

Institute of Lighting Professionals

The Institution of Lighting Professionals (ILP) is the UK and Ireland's largest and most influential professional lighting association, dedicated solely to excellence in lighting.

The key purpose of the ILP is to promote excellence in all forms of lighting. This includes interior, exterior, sports, road, flood, emergency, tunnel, security and festive lighting as well as design and consultancy services.

Their website contains a wealth of information and advice, and we would recommend the two links below - the first one being a PDF, and the second link taking you to the free resources page on their website:

Guidance Notes for the Reduction of Obtrusive Light (PDF)

Free Resources from the Institute of Lighting Professionals

More Links to useful resources

Universe Today - LEDs: Light Pollution Solution or Night Sky Nemesis? - Article by Bob King

Edison Tech Centre - Find out about the evolution of the Electric Light.

International working group (PDF) - Regional Government of Andalusia - Declaration on the use of blue-rich white light sources for nighttime lighting

Understanding & choosing colour temperature in LED lights (YouTube Video) - David Geldart of Lumicrest Lighting Solutions

Blue-rich LED Lighting — Bright New Future? - The Commission for Dark Skies

Switchoffs - Most UK councils are adopting environmental and economic lights-out policies - The Commission for Dark Skies

Top Ten Dark Sky Locations Dorset, UK

You can also check out the NEED-LESS interactive night sky simulator to find the darkest places in the AONB and discover what to expect when you're looking upwards.

Descriptions

1.       King Alfred’s Tower

Kingsettle Hill, South Brewham, Bruton, Somerset BA10 0LB

King Alfred’s Tower is a striking 160ft (49m) folly, built in 1772 for Henry Hoare II, known as Henry the Magnificent, the designer of the iconic  Stourhead gardens. It is believed to mark the site where King Alfred the Great rallied his troops in 878. The tower commemorates the accession of George III to the throne in 1760 and the end of the Seven Years War. Henry would surely have appreciated the majesty of the night sky as much as his own creations and this site provides a perfect spot from which to admire the beauty above.

Directions
Website
Grid reference: ST778340
Eastings: 377848 Northings: 134032
Latitude: 51.105152 Longitude: -2.3177773
Facilities: Car park
Owner: The National Trust

2.       Dinton Park

St Mary's Road, Dinton, Wiltshire SP3 5HH

Perfectly described by the National Trust as “far-reaching rolling parkland with tranquil views in the grounds of a Neo-Grecian house”. Please note that car parking for Dinton Park is located on St Mary's Road immediately south of St Mary's Church. There is no visitor car parking at Philipps House itself. This park is one of Wiltshire’s best kept secrets and boasts substantial views - even Salisbury Cathedral can be seen from the highest point. Just like the night sky, the house is strikingly simple, deliberately conservative and grand, making it a fantastic backdrop for your night time photography.

Directions
Website
Grid reference: SU009315
Eastings: 400985 Northings: 131584
Latitude: 51.083577 Longitude: -1.9873184
Facilities: Car park, nearby shop and pub.
Owner: The National Trust

3.       Fontmell and Melbury Downs

Spreadeagle Hill, Melbury Abbas, Dorset SP7 0DT

At 263m, the summit of Melbury Hill is one of the highest points in Dorset. An Armada beacon sited here in 1588 formed part of the chain of signal beacons stretching between London and Plymouth. What better place to witness the other navigational tools used by sea farers worldwide – the mystical constellations. This site offers superb panoramic views which, apart from Win Green, are unparalleled in the AONB.

Directions
Website
Grid reference: ST886187
Eastings: 388608 Northings: 118715
Latitude: 50.967740 Longitude: -2.1636066
Facilities: Car park, nearby café at Compton Abbas Airfield.
Owner: The National Trust

4.       Martin Down Nature Reserve

This 336ha reserve is home to an exceptional collection of plants and animals associated with chalk downland and scrub habitats, including a number of rare or threatened species. It also offers an exceptional view of our night skies. Savour this ancient landscape where our prehistoric ancestors would have relied heavily on the night sky for navigation, planning their year and for their religion and associated rituals.

Directions
Website
Grid reference: SU036200
Eastings: 403665 Northings: 120048
Latitude: 50.979831 Longitude: -1.9491720
Facilities: Car park
Owner: Natural England and Hampshire County Council

5.       Win Green

Donhead Hollow, Near Ludwell, Wiltshire SP7 0ES

One of the best known and most iconic sites in the Cranborne Chase AONB, Win Green is its highest point as well as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It contains chalk grassland, a habitat that has been seriously eroded in the UK and offers extensive views, with Bournemouth, the Isle of Wight, Salisbury, Glastonbury Tor, the Mendips, the Quantocks and Milk Hill all visible when clear.

Directions
Website
Grid reference: ST923204
Eastings: 392328 Northings: 120473
Latitude: 50.983613 Longitude: -2.1106625
Facilities: Car park
Owner: The National Trust

6.       Knowlton

Knowlton, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 5AE

Many people report a strange sensation when standing at the centre of Church Henge, among the ruins of the medieval church. This is perhaps because it is at the heart of a major pagan ceremonial site, once taken over by Christian worship, but now returned to nature. Surrounding the site is the largest concentration of pre-historic barrows and henges found anywhere in the UK. Read up on the constellation myths created by our ancestors that tell of gods and monsters, heroes and villains and other legends using only the stars in the night sky and then witness the incredible theatrical display for yourself. The backdrop of the stunning church also makes for fantastic astrophotography.

Directions
Website
Grid reference: SU023102
Eastings: 402331 Northings: 110231
Latitude: 50.891560 Longitude: -1.9682264
Facilities: Small car park
Owner: English Heritage

7.       Badbury Rings

B3082, near Wimborne, Dorset BH21 4DZ

Badbury Rings is an Iron Age hill fort in the territory of the Durotriges. In the Roman era, soldiers built a temple nearby which was used by the people of Vindocladia, a small local settlement. Back then there was little light pollution and our ancestors would have visited Badbury Rings and witnessed the full majestic view of our galaxy and beyond.

Directions
Website
Grid reference: ST960030
Eastings: 395983 Northings: 103064
Latitude: 50.827097 Longitude: -2.0584077
Facilities: Car park
Owner: The National Trust

8.       Cley Hill

Corsley, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 7QU

Although a bracing walk to the top of this ancient hillfort, once you’ve reached the summit you’ll be on top of one of the UK’s UFO hotspots. For almost 40 years this site has drawn UFO spotters who are keen to see if the talk of lights, flying objects and other unidentifiable oddities are true. Warminster has a designated National Reporting Centre for UFOs - so you won’t have to go far to record your sightings. The site offers 360 degree views of the surrounding hills and while the lights of Warminster may reduce the quality of the darkness, you may well enjoy an out of this world experience.

Directions
Website
Grid reference: ST837442
Eastings: 383769 Northings: 144287
Latitude: 51.197568 Longitude: -2.2336712
Facilities: Car park
Owner: National Trust

9.       Sutton Veny playing fields

This small picturesque village not far from Warminster is home to the Starquest Astronomy Club, a successful group made up of novices and more experienced astronomers. They meet once a month for talks and training in all things astronomy and also set up their telescopes on Sutton Veny playing fields for observation sessions. If you’re looking to find out more about the AONB’s night skies and astronomy, this club is probably for you. For more information, email peter.lee@tytherington.net; tel: 01985 840093.

Directions
Website
Grid reference: ST901417
Eastings: 390192 Northings: 141759
Latitude: 51.174978 Longitude: -2.1416849

10.   Ox Drove

Middle Down, north of Alvediston

Retrace the steps of our ancestors as they drove their cattle along this ancient track and take a journey of your own exploring the night sky. While you will not see the same brightness of starry night skies as they once boasted, you will still be one of the lucky 10% living in this country who are able to witness pristine skies.  Park in the lay-by next to the Ox Drove.

Directions
Grid reference: ST964250
Eastings: 396469 Northings: 125041
Latitude: 51.024727 Longitude: -2.0517156
Facilities: Car parking in lay-by

Light Pollution

The Good and the Bad

The Good and the Bad

by http://www.chasingstars.org.uk

Why do our dark skies need protecting?

The night sky makes up half of our visual environment and yet, unlike historic housing, ancient settlements, resident wildlife and our fantastic landscapes, the night sky has no protection, which explains why in just six years light pollution has increased by 24%.

This is not just bad news for people who can no longer be enthralled by the night sky. The amount of money squandered by ‘wasted’ light is staggering, plus the cost to human and wildlife health is significant. Making just a small low-cost difference to our lighting could bring about massive changes for the better.

Pollution is just that – light that is wasted and not used to light the things that people need. We all need light and certainly don’t want to make the AONB a light-free zone. All we want to do is ensure that we have the right lights in the right place at the right time.

The impacts of light pollution are significant, but small changes can make a big difference.

Is light pollution really that bad?

Even though it doesn’t smell bad, and if you’re used to it, it doesn’t look that bad, light pollution has been proved by experts to be just as bad as air and environmental pollution – it’s just not as obvious.

Here are some facts to get you started….

  • Total of 830,000 tonnes of CO2 pollution is produced from the energy wasted by streetlights alone.

  • The estimated cost of wasted light (that which isn’t shining on the things we need to illuminate) is a staggering £1 billion.

  • Light pollution is directly linked to a decrease in robin, songbird and owl populations.

  • Insects are the basis of many food chains, but one street light can kill up to 150 each night.

  • Lighting at night disrupts our circadian rhythm which has been proved to increase your risk of stress by 52%. It is linked to more serious health issues too.

Let’s look at this more positively…

  • There is increasing interest, wonder and amazement at the incredible array of stars above us. Stargazing is a fabulous educational activity for all and by keeping our dark skies you’ll be one of the lucky 10% of people in this country to enjoy this spectacular show.

  • Dark skies make the Cranborne Chase AONB unique, encouraging people to visit from polluted areas to escape to our pocket of tranquillity. That means more income for businesses through people arriving and staying longer.

  • Saving money. Substantial savings can be made by local authorities, businesses and individuals by turning off or dimming down unnecessary lighting. That means more money for the things that matter.

  • Saving energy. There is no point shining a light into the sky. Energy wastage can easily be considerably reduced – which is so much better for the environment.

All of the above is wasted light.

Easy ways to protect and enhance our dark skies… and banish the pollution

It is often said that if we all do a little, collectively we can make a big impact. In one small area of Wales, angling lights to illuminate the ground and turning off lights when they were not needed reduced light pollution by 10%.

Do you have concerns about street lighting or obtrusive lighting from another property? Let us know. We will not divulge your details but will work with others to install lighting which is a win win for everyone.

If you are interested in finding out more about light pollution, its impacts and some solutions, visit the websites below, both of which have some great resources on this subject:

Chasing Stars

Home of Outstanding Dark Night Skies as well as Natural Beauty.

Outstanding Dark Night Skies

Outstanding Dark Night Skies

Cranborne Chase can celebrate the fact that more than 50% of the 380 square miles of the AONB still has the lowest levels of light pollution in England - and the rest of the Chase is not far behind.

In fact, the Chase is one of the best places to stargaze in England. Our aim is to help you enjoy this aspect of our AONB as much as our multitude of other ground-based treasures. The great thing is that whether you work, live or visit the Cranborne Chase AONB there is something to see 24 hours a day.

There are currently only two other. areas in England that have been formally recognised for their low levels of light namely Exmoor Dark Sky Reserve and Northumberland Dark Sky Park. With your help Cranborne Chase AONB could be the third.

This important designation will not only put us on the map, but allow us to protect and enhance our night sky for generations to come.

How can you help?

Visit Survey monkey to sign our pledge. We would love your support. Please sign our pledge to show your love for our dark skies and our bid to get them protected. We would also love to know what you think of your own local dark skies. Please send us your photos, poems and stargazing adventures.

Do you have an iPhone? We are looking for volunteers to help us take measurements of the night sky. No experience is necessary and it’s as easy as downloading an app, standing outside and pressing a button – and hey presto and we have another piece of evidence to show how amazing our skies are.

Download IPhone app

DIY SOS (save our skies)

Why not give your home a low cost dark sky makeover? You would be amazed how easy it can be to make a few small changes that will transform your night view.

Here is an easy guide, but if you need help just let us know. Once you have done it please tell us – it all helps towards gaining Dark Sky Reserve status.

We are looking for volunteers too to work with us to show the accreditors we are serious about protecting our dark skies. Could you help by working with us to reduce light pollution in your community or business? We promise lots of publicity, plus plenty of support along the way.

Paul Howell @Pictor Images

Paul Howell @Pictor Images