Midnight Express

With only a month or so left this astro season to get the Milkyway core, timing is becoming everything. This year the moon is really playing havoc. Ideally I want a thin sliver of moon, behind me when I’m looking at the Milkyway. Not this year, it will only be full moons and they will be right in the middle of the core, massive pain in the @ss.

So my only real option is to shoot when there is no moon. This weekend is the last chance for the next few weeks so I sat down on Friday night and figured out what I wanted to photograph. There are a couple of photos I really want to get, but they are just concepts in my head, I haven’t found the location that’s right to pull those off.

I settled on looking for roads or anything else that went in the direction of the core when it was around 30 degrees up in the West. There were a few promising dirt roads, but then I saw the train line running west from Rosewood, with a crossing, and knew I had to give this a try.

A quick trip from home, slowed down somewhat by the dozens of Kangaroos lining the edge of the road. They were all happily feeding but boy it makes you jumpy and your eyes get very sore as you keep them locked wide open looking for one who decides to try and race you. All good tho, I arrived on location without incident. Getting out of the car it was dark, it would take a bit of time for my eyes to adjust, but the one thing I could see was the core and it was incredibly bright! Crystal clear conditions, temps around 10 degrees C, no fog or mist. There was just a slight breeze coming in from the west and although that put a real chill in the air, it was keeping conditions amazingly clean.

I picked this spot for several reasons. One, its a crossing with notification, it also has a good kilometre or two of track in both directions, very easy to spot anything oncoming. I also had checked the timetables at home, not many things running at 12:30am out this way thankfully. So yes, there is an element of danger to this, I only spent time on the crossing to change settings and activate a shot, then I would move off the crossing and keep an eye down the lines.

Other than some ninja cows in a nearby paddock deciding to scare the bejezus out of me, there was nothing around. As there was no moon, I would have to blend exposures to get both the tracks illuminated and the Milkyway captured.

For the foreground I put the camera in to Bulb mode, ISO 640, F2.8, and locked the shutter open. I used a torch to paint along the tracks for around 20 seconds, then let it run for a full 4 minutes capturing ambient light. This worked well and I could tick off the foreground shot. For the stars, I refocused carefully on a bright star making sure not to move the camera at all. I then changed my ISO to 3200, set shutterspeed to 15 seconds, still at F2.8 and got my star shots. It was an easy blend using a simple mask in photo shop to merge the two together. From there I went through my normal editing workflow to get this final result :

An amazing milky way core over the train tracks near Rosewood, Ipswich, Queensland, Australia
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, 2 Shots Blended, 12mm

As you can see, I’ve kept the ground except for the tracks quite dark, but still with some detail. This is night after all. I also like how the light painting of the tracks came out, it’s almost like I’m at the front of a train, or walking the line.

I’ve added this photograph to my Astro Nightscape Portfolio, please check out my other works. You can purchase my photographs as prints, canvases, or metallic prints, simply contact me to request a quote.

Here is a list of the gear I use. These are affiliate links, by following them and making a purchase you help support my photography at no extra cost to yourself.

* Camera : Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II Body Only – Silver
* Canon FD to M43rd Adapter : K&F Concept Lens Mount Adapter for Canon FD Lens to Micro 4/3 Cameras
* My Goto Landscape Lens : Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 12-40mm f2.8 PRO Black Len
* My Favourite Tripod : ZOMEi Z818C Carbon Fiber Camera Tripod With Quick Release Plate and Ball Head (Blue)
* Best Budget Filters Ever : Zomei 10 in 1 Square Z-PRO Series Filter Kit
* Best Budget Portrait Lens Made! : Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 45mm F1.8 (Black) Lens
* The Perfect Walkaround Lens : Panasonic 20mm F/1.7 Pancake Lens
* A great CPL for your 12-40mm : Manfrotto MFESSCPL-62 62 mm Essential Circular Polarizer Filter
* The Best Aftermarket Battery Kit : DSTE 2X BLN-1 Battery + DC133 Travel and Car Charger Adapter

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4 Responses

    1. Hi Debbie, for a 100cm x 133cm canvas ready to hang you are looking at $590. That includes courier delivery to all Australian metro areas. Thats about as big as this one will go.

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