Tag: core

The stunning core of the milky way rises over this magnificent old steam train near Rosewood not far from Ipswich, Queensland, Australia by Landscape, Weather and Storm photographer Murray Fox

Train Core

With another winters blast coming through in the last few days, moon set around sunset, and no light from the moon regardless, right now is the absolutely perfect time for astro photography this week.

As mentioned in my earlier blog post, I wanted to head back to the steam trains and see if I could capture a photograph with the core of the Milky Way over them. This turned out the be much more of a challenge than I first envisaged.

To start with, it’s actually a bit late in the season to shoot the core facing east now (which is the direction I have to face for this photo). As soon as dark night starts at around 6:30pm, the core is almost 60degrees up, very high and not as vertical as I was hoping. The next big problem, literally, is the size of these engines. Even with my widest angle lens I could not get even half of a train in vertical format, what to do what to do. I could try a panorama, but I was light painting the train, it would be very hard to get the same light between shots.

So I decided I’ll have to do some magic back on the computer to really bring it all together. What I ended up capturing was a vertorama, or vertical panorama. With the camera in horizontal orientation, I took a photo of the train, light painting it. I then took another photo with the camera in the same position for the stars behind. I then tilted the camera up, took another star shot and did this 2 more times. So I ended up with 5 photographs. It’s always a bit nerve racking to capture photos this way as you can’t see the end result. I knew I had a good shot of the train. I knew I had a good shot of the core, but would it all blend and stitch together, only time on the PC would tell.

Back on the computer it was time to get to work. I edited the light painted train photo first, getting it how I wanted. I then edited the photo of the core to get that right, and synced it’s settings to the other star photographs. I then took the light painted photo, and the corresponding star photo into Photoshop and using masks, merged the two together. This is basically putting one photo on top of the other, and then painting in around the train to reveal the light paining. I really like this process, it’s almost like I’m an artist working with a brush. Finally this photo was saved down and then all the photos stitched together into a panorama. The stitching worked perfectly, those trees left and right were a god send helping the software work out where each image started.

From there its my usual polish and creativity with contrast and colour to get this end result :

The stunning core of the milky way rises over this magnificent old steam train near Rosewood not far from Ipswich, Queensland, Australia by Landscape, Weather and Storm photographer Murray Fox
Olympus OMD Em5.2, 12-40mm Pro, 5 images stitched and stacked.

I’ve added this photograph to my Nightscape Gallery.

For camera settings, for the light painting photo, ISO 400, F2.8, shutter locked open for around 2 minutes as I painted the train with my torch. For the star photos, ISO 2000 (I’m facing Ipswich in this direction so couldn’t get higher), F2.8, 15 seconds per photograph.

Thank you for reading. I’ll be out and about a fair few nights this coming week getting more astro photos, I can’t wait to share them with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments by posting below.

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An amazing Broccoli shaped tree with the core of the milky way rising over it, stands tall near Boonah in the scenic rim of Queensland Australia captured by Landscape, Storm and Weather photographer Murray Fox

Broccoli Tree

I first came across this tree several years ago during a 4wd trip. It sits perched on the highest hill of the area, overlooking the valley below to the east. It’s actually two trees that have grown very closely together and become interwined. It’s shape reminds me very much of broccoli, hence the name I’ve given it.

The plan was to capture two photographs this evening. I wanted one with the tree and the core of the milkyway above it, and I thought it might be fun to take an astro selfie, or at least my take on it.

Arriving as the core was getting into position, I started with the selfie. The idea was to setup a remote flash, and stand in between it and the camera, so the flash backlit me. This actually proved harder than I thought, as it was pitch black, and the framing I wanted put me into the sky. I ended up with this shot, my hands are a bit blurred as it was a 15 second exposure I had to hold position for, but I think the effect in the end is great. So, hands up if you love astro photography like I do!

A selfie of Murray Fox under the core of the Milky way near Boonah in the scenic rim of Queensland Australia by Landscape, Weather and Storm Photographer Murray Fox
Olympus OMD Em5.2, 12-40mm Pro lens, ISO 3200, f/2.8, 15 seconds

I spent the next hour working on capturing a photogaph of the Broccoli tree. This proved a challenge simply due to the width of the tree. I couldn’t get as close as I wanted without cutting of sections and I didn’t want to do a panorama as I was light painting the tree and it would be nigh impossible to blend the shots.

Moving back was the simple answer, I kept the ground as low as possible to get as much of the sky as possible, even then I only ended up with a select part of the core visible.

This is all one exposure. I worked very quickly with my torch, taking care not to blow out any parts of the tree. As a result a bit more noise reduction was required on post than I normally do, but the result came out very nice. As long as you get enough exposure onto the sensor, noise is controllable. I won’t be printing billboards of this photo, but it will print up to A2 size quite nicely. I’ve added this photograph to my Astro Nightscapes galllery.

An amazing Broccoli shaped tree with the core of the milky way rising over it, stands tall near Boonah in the scenic rim of Queensland Australia captured by Landscape, Storm and Weather photographer Murray Fox
ISO 3200, f/2.8, 15 seconds

As astro season continues, I’ll be on the lookout for more interesting and varied subjects to shoot, so please visit weekly and follow me on social media to keep up to date with my latest works.

I really hope you enjoyed this weeks blog post as much as I enjoyed writing it for you. Can I suggest subscribing to my email list to receive occasional Tips, Ideas, News of Prints and Offers.



 

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An amazing view of the core of the milky way rising over a windmill in the rural countryside near Ipswich Queensland Australia as captured by Award winning Landscape storm and weather photographer Murray Fox

Windmill Core

The moon has gone again this weekend and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky for 300ks. The temperature was forecast to be the lowest so far this year (around 5 degrees C in town, more like 2 degrees in the countryside). It looked like a perfect night for some more astro photography. With a slight breeze, everything stayed perfectly dry, no condensation whatsoever.

I caught up with my friend and after packing a few supplies (Picnic chocolate bars and Ice Coffee…yes Ice lol!) we headed out to a location I knew, but had not visited recently. I had word that a new windmill had been erected here and it looked like it was going to be in good alignment with the rising core of the Milkyway. With Mt Walker to the east of it, I thought I could get a really nice backdrop.

Arriving on sight we spent 10 minutes walking around looking at the angles. We noticed that we had a couple of problems to deal with. The first one as the core was not north enough to really put Mt Walker into the framing I wanted with the angle of lens I was using. The big one was the head of the windmill was facing almost due south, making it extremely hard to get a good view of it, and the core.

You can see from this first photograph the layout of the scene and one of my first attempts at seeing what result I could get. Mt Walker is to the left and there just wasn’t a workable angle.

A great view of Mt Walker at night with the core of the milky way rising over a windmill in this pure Australian Night time landscape photograph captured near Ipswich Queensland Australia by Award winning landscape weather storm photographer Murray Fox
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, 12-40mm Pro, F/2.8, 15 seconds, ISO 5000

Never one to give up, and we had a good hour window of shooting before the core was too high in the scene. I kept moving around working angles. Around 80 photos later (and they are all long exposures) I found I really liked this composition. Going vertical to really show the height of the Windmill, the core almost comes blasting out of it. And to top it off there were meteorites regularly dropping across they sky.

The peak of those is next weekend, it was great to see some real fireballs this night. I switched to a 20mm f.17 prime lens for this shot allowing a shorter shutter time (less noise) and a wider aperture (more light). This more zoomed in lens also enlarges the size of the core compared to the foreground, really bringing it into view. This also really captured the colours in the stars. The windmill and ground were illuminated with a torch my friend held to the side of the scene, painting over it with very quick movements. The slight breeze was enough to cause the windmill to turn, and I like the blurring effect during the long exposure, gives a nice sense of movement. The flat top of Mt Walker in the background is just enough in frame here to add some interest and give a sense of location.

An amazing view of the core of the milky way rising over a windmill in the rural countryside near Ipswich Queensland Australia as captured by Award winning Landscape storm and weather photographer Murray Fox
ISO 3200, 8 seconds, 20mm, F/1.7

This photograph has been added to my Astro Nightscapes gallery, really flowing well with my recent captures.

I really hope you enjoyed this weeks blog post as much as I enjoyed writing it for you. Can I suggest subscribing to my email list to receive occasional Tips, Ideas, News of Prints and Offers.



 

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A beautiful old tractor sits in the paddock as the core of the milky way lights up the sky above it near Kalbar and Boonah in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia south of Ipswich.

Kicking off Milkyway Season with a Bang!

With clear skies at night, not too cold and not too warm, conditions were absolutely perfect to chase some Milky Way photographs. It would mean a couple of late nights as the core only started to rise around 11pm, with peak time 1-2am however it certainly was worth it.

During the off season I’ve been watching a lot of videos and reading up on various techniques used by the best of the best when it comes to night time and astro photography. I had a head full of new ideas, which included changes to how I worked in the field capturing the images, as well as how I post processed the photos back on the computer.

Now I’ll be very up front about this, none of these photographs are a single image. It’s possible to do, however I don’t believe you can get the quality of file, increase of detail and control of noise in a single image, that you can get with multiple exposures. Some people get their knickers in a knot if it isn’t a single photograph, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. My simple goal was to create an image of the vision in my head, using any tools and methods I could.

I met up with a very good friend and we decided to head south of Ipswich towards the rural farming areas. I knew of a couple of barns and other items that could make for a very interesting foreground, and hopefully would line up with the Milky Way behind them. I simply cannot pick which photograph is my favourite.

First stop was a barn and god was with us as it was full to the brim of bales. The sky here is so dark you can easily see the Milky Way with your eyes and that makes framing a since. I setup my gear, firmly locked down my tripod and focused on the stars (Olympus is amazing in that you can use focus peaking on the stars, just pick a bright one and it’s done). I proceeded to capture 8 photographs at ISO 5000, F/2.8, 15 seconds per exposure, at 12mm (equivalent to 24mm on a full frame camera. The 15 seconds ensures no star movement for pinpoint lights. I really racked up the ISO as I knew I would be stacking in and that will significantly reduce noise.

Once the sky shots were done, the fun began. I switched my camera to Live Composite mode, dropped the ISO to 400 for a lot cleaner file, and let it start. I used a torch to light paint the barn, first from the left side until the exposure was where I wanted it, then added a little fill from the right to soften the shadows.

All of this was stacked, blended, merged etc in Photoshop, there are some great videos on youtube about how to do this. And here is the final result!

An amazing night time photograph of a barn full of hay bales, beautiful illuminated with the core of the milky way rising behind it near Kalbar and Boonah in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia south of Ipswich.
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, 12-40mm Pro, Multiple Exposures

Next we moved on down the road to where I had previously seen a tractor. Not knowing it was still there, I was very thankful I had spotlights on my 4wd to help light up the sides of the road, otherwise I may have missed it.

For this photograph the techniques used on the barn would be the same. This time I had to set the camera lower and closer, trying to fill the frame with as much of the tractor as possible, but still allowing room for the Milky Way around it. We could hear a pump running out in the field and before long, the Farmer who owns this land was out on his bike in the dark (stuffed if I know how he didn’t hit something!) checking his sprayers. He dropped over to say G’day (and check what we were doing). He was off to bed for a few hours nap before getting up to check the sprayers again. Life can be gruelling for a farmer, they all have my utmost respect.

Again, I captured 8 images for the sky and one light painted one for the tractor and ground. I always recommend painting from both sides to even out the light a little.

A beautiful old tractor sits in the paddock as the core of the milky way lights up the sky above it near Kalbar and Boonah in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia south of Ipswich.
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, 12-40mm Pro, Multiple Exposures

There was one more photograph I had envisaged to capture before heading out this night, and that was of some beautiful crop lights with the Milky Way over them. Unfortunately it looks like I missed out by one day as all the fields had been just harvested. I’ll just have to wait until later in the season to get that photograph. So instead we took a drive back into Peaks Crossing where you have a clear view of Flinders Peak to the east. By this time (2am) the core was at a nice height in the sky. Again I captured 8 images to stack for the sky, and used my torch to paint in the foreground. On a clear night light this, if you are staying in an area with pretty much the same light pollution levels, you rarely need to change your settings, allowing you to spend much more time on the important things like composition and spooking yourself in the dark.

A stunning view of the core of the milky way as it rises over Flinders Peak near Peak Crossing in the Scenic Rim south of Ipswich, Queensland, Australia
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, 12-40mm Pro, Multiple Exposures

Finally as a bonus, I had headed out the night before this to South Ripley to do a test run of my settings, post techniques etc. I captured this photograph. I think it’s came out a bit dark, ISO used for the sky was 3200, which is why I upped to 5000 for the next night. Practice pays.

A beautiful clear night at South Ripley, near Ipswich Queensland Australia as the core of the milky way rises over the farmland.
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark 2, 12-40mm Pro, Multiple Exposures

As the season progresses, I’ll be doing a lot more astro photography. Thank you for reading.

Please subscribe to receive occasional Tips, Ideas, News of Prints and Offers.



 

Be sure to visit regularly, follow me on Facebook or Twitter where I’ll post links to each new blog post as it happens, also follow me on Instagram where I post up my photographs, and My Story will have lots of behind the scenes photos and videos.

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