Monday, March 7, 2016

It Is That Time of the Year!

Panorama of the Milky Way Gooseberry Neck Buzzards Bay
Starting in March starts the season for photographing the Milky Way.  Because the galactic center is present, this area of the Milky Way is the most photogenic with its big area of "clouds".  This morning, the weather was excellent for viewing and photographing the Milky Way.  It was clear, cold and only a little bit of wind.  The stars were sparkling in the sky.

To decide when I want to photograph the Milky Way depends on the weather, phases of the moon, and the time that the galactic center rises.  I use a variety of apps or web pages to help me plan the time and also the location where I want to do the photography.  NOAA weather service has on its weather page an area where you can determine sky cover for a location.  I also utilize PhotoPills on my iPad along with The Photographer’s Ephemeris to ascertain the location of the Milky Way, times of astronomical dusk and dawn, moon phase and places.  In the spring.  The galactic center rises in the early morning and creates a low panorama in the sky.  In the summertime, the galactic center is visible for most of the night and is oriented up and down.

On consulting my apps about this morning, I found that the galactic center would rise about 2:20 AM, and that astronomical dawn start about 4:36 AM.  We arrived at Gooseberry, about 4 AM and were able to shoot for a half-hour creating some excellent photographs.  I produced a panorama which also contained two meteors.  I could not show the full curve of the Milky Way due to light pollution along the shore of Buzzards Bay in Westport because of the lamps on the street and around the houses.
Milky Way
Looking North into Westport Showing Light Pollution
If you have a dark location near you go and enjoy the Milky Way.  My equipment is a sturdy tripod, a digital single lens reflex camera, a wide angle lens 14-24 mm with the largest f-stop being f/2 .8.  I set the camera in manual and manual focusing.  Depending on the camera ISO will vary between 1250 and 3000.  The shutter speed will vary between 20-30 seconds.  By looking at the LCD screen on the camera and the histogram, I will make adjustments in shutter speed and ISO.

Dress appropriately for the weather and bring a hot drink along.