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 :
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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