Saturday, January 18, 2014

An experiment gone bad

One of my friends had taken some really wonderful photos that showed stars glowing through clouds. She takes really ethereal photographs and all those with a compact camera too. That had me looking up how to photograph stars and particularly the Milky Way.

This fellow had plenty advice on taking night photos of the Milky Way. I followed his advice. As my camera cannot handle more than 1600 ISO, I set it on 1600 ISO. I used his rule of the 500 over the focal length for exposure which for my lens (17mm) and crop factor came to 18 seconds. Well, I gave the exposure 18 seconds and was not overly impressed. I think I took better shots leaving the camera on automatic at Key West
My photographs from tonight were disappointing to say the least. At least the Key West photos looked pretty decent. I wonder whether the problem has more to do with there being just too much ambient light from nearby towns. I do recall seeing the Milky Way quite clearly from Fairwood Common in Wales. On the other hand, Fairwood Common though surrounded by villages is not subject to much light pollution. This is pretty much why there's an observatory on the common.

I did my best - I went to a car park beside a big dam. That'd be the Lake Murray dam. I was not the only occupant of the car park. There were several cars parked there. I tried to be inconspicuous but did note that one of the cars had a loud moaning coming from within and a pair of feet pressed firmly against the windshield. 

I suspect that a better place would probably be the Blue Ridge Parkway on the border with North Carolina. The beginning of January, however, is not the time to go to the Blue Ridge Parkway. At 6,000 feet and 200 miles further North, it will doubtless be a lot colder than the already very cold 34F (1C) of Lexington County, South Carolina. With a wind, I would expect it to be quite bitter.

The older and fartier I get, the more I like my creature comforts. Give me a balmy night in Key West anyday for steller photography. I will probably redo the experiment somewhere in the summer - most likely from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Maybe by then I might even have a new camera with higher ISOs possible. 

Speaking of cameras, I looked hard at the Nikon J1 and found it was not that great. The J3 is a vast improvement. I've come to the conclusion that I'm still going to sell off the camera stuff I don't use but not the whole lot. Oddly enough I used my tripod today. That has hardly ever been used. I have a feeling that now I'm taking photos for myself, it might get a load more use. I'm doing more of the things that please me. Having changed jobs and getting more regular hours, together with more pay, I am more able to roam and take photos than before.

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