February Magic

Milky Way Galactic Center rising coming out from behind the sun in February, the start month of Milky Way capture. This is at Jekyll Island State Park Ga. on Dr...
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Milky Way Galactic Center rising coming out from behind the sun in February, the start month of Milky Way capture. This is at Jekyll Island State Park Ga. on Driftwood Beach near entrance path. The glow behind the trees is from a condo hotel using orange lighting for turtles to go to sea not ashore. Used Hoya Red Intensifier filter to lower light pollution to the right. In 2015 using the Sony SEL1018 f-4 APS-C lens in full frame mode @ 12mm with A7S @ f-4.
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3 Comments | Report
Nicholscj October 19, 2017
This is amazing!
auxgen4 Platinum
auxgen4 April 09, 2018
Thank You Nicholscj, Dark Sky here over the ocean and can be seen with bare eyes, and the beach is lit by St, Simons Island to the north.
timboten Platinum
timboten June 13, 2018
auxgen4 Platinum
auxgen4 June 13, 2018
Thank You Tim, Will redo to brighten!
RickL PRO+
RickL December 08, 2019
Beautiful night photography
auxgen4 Platinum
auxgen4 December 08, 2019
Thank You RickL, once you see the unseen on your camera it becomes addictive wherever you are!
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Behind The Lens

My favorite (and closest [100 miles]) place to go to for Milky Way capture Driftwood Beach Jekyll Island State Park Georgia due to it's very dark sky over the Atlantic Ocean and a different foreground every time due to tides rearranging trees and driftwood.
The time of day was at 04:43:48 on February 27, 2017. The Milky Way Galactic Center/Dark Horse Nebula (Smiling Cat as I call it) rises at different times from February (sometimes January) to November at around the time of the new moon as much a 10 days before and 10 days after depending on the month. Example February 2017 the New Moon was on the 26th and the Milky Way Galactic Center was visible from 03:01 to 05:35 (The Galactic Center is the bright spot closest to the water and the Dark Horse Nebula above it separated by the dark Galactic Spiral). The reason for a late capture is due to the earth's dirty atmosphere (orange in color) like when a moon rises it is orange then white and the Milky Galactic Center/Dark Horse Nebula needs to be high enough for its real colors to be seen. In June/July the Galactic Center will rise almost right after sunset during the Blue Hour and not disappear till the morning Blue Hour and be vertical just after midnight. So as the year goes on the Milky Way Galactic Center rises earlier during the night time every month. And it comes up in the Southeast and sets to the Southwest.
When at a location for night photography you have to get your eyes accustom to the dark and just look around. This location in somewhat dark to the naked eye BUT after a long exposure at 30 seconds/ISO 6400/f 2.8 very bright. The reason is St. Simons Island to the north very bright sky glow like a giant soft box if clouds are over it and even a lighthouse beaming a light across Driftwood Beach. So even a f/4 lens can can capture like a f/2.8. The sky is so very dark with sky glow from any city, except a hotel just behind the trees to the right that has to use Mercury Vapor lighting (orange) for turtle hatchlings to go to sea not toward shore.
I bought the A7S for its bracketing of 5 frames at +/- 3 ev for HDR in October 2014 and discovered it was the best for Astro Milky Way Photography in June of 2015. At the time the most recommended lens was the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 which had star trailing in the corners, no lens corrections and unchipped. But discovered the SEL1018 f/4 a APS-C lens that could be used at 12mm to 18mm (18mm if the light shield is removed) if used on the Sony A7 Full Frame series cameras or 15mm to 27mm if in APS-C mode after a review by Trey Ratcliff (the HDR/Landscape photographer). I found the SEL1018 to be very sharp with pin point stars in the corners and even at f/4 on the A7S and ISO 6400 or even 12800 to be very noise free and able to shoot at 12mm vs 14mm getting a smaller Dark Horse and a wider landscape shot not having to do a Panoramic capture with extra work in post. I could also get closer to a foreground object with that very long Galactic Spiral over it. As with all astro shots a tripod is needed I use the Manfrotto aluminum 190L heavy and sturdy along with three tennis balls/quart plactic bags for the legs so they do not touch the salt water/sand. Also clear trash bags in case I want to change lenses so the camera does not get salt air inside. Also had the Voigtlander 12mm f/5.6 with Voigtlander adapter a very sharp lens then the Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6. What is really needed is a pad, I have an old iPad with the PhotoPills and Planit! for Photographers apps to see were the Milky Way will be in the sky from any spot and time on earth. But to save battery power during a long night shoot I use the Sony PlayMemories app to view what the camera view is instead of the having the EVF/LCD on (I turn them off) via Bluetooth/camera WiFi/direct connect and view a camera jpeg, the reason to setup all camera setting that you would use for the camera to process.
In October 2016 Florida and Georgia were hit by a hurricane that I had to evacuate for during October while camping at the Jekyll Island Campground. I wanted to find out what the beach looked like after the hurricane as well as several super moon high tides during December. Also I just bought the SEL1018 f/4 and wanted to test it with a dark sky star field. After I got rid of my Rokinon 14mm and 12mm fisheye.
Mostly just using AWB and shooting at ISO 3200 or 6400/SS 30 seconds/ f/2.8 or f/4 with the Sony A7S you get a great capture. So all that is needed in Lr (for example) is just highlights/whites left - shadows/darks right a little clarity some dehaze, tone curve Medium Contrast adjust darks and shadows a little left and highlights a little left. The tricks use graduated filter to adjust the sky temp for a little blue. Then the Radial Filter make an elongated circle around the Milky Way and select invert then increase temp till the colors of magenta, blue come out and not TOO yellow. But then adjust exposure/contrast up a little and highlights/whites up a little and shadows/darks down this will bring out depth of Dark Horse Nebula and Galactic Spiral. Clarity will only sharpen stars within the circle BUT slide the noise and sharpness just a little left to add a little blur to the Dark Horse should not be real clear and it will bring out the colors more. You can also brush in a little bluer temp in the Galactic Spiral and the body of the Dark Horse and then brush in a higher exposure the Galactic Center the bright spot below the Dark Horse. There is one thing that you need to be aware of, the night sky gas colors- oxygen/green; carbon dioxide/red to name a few - you can temperature slide them out to get a blue night sky (normally Black) or leave them normal and enhance them too for an awesome somewhat water color around the Milky Way.
In my camera bag
For Milky Way capture very little is needed. A camera the A7S/A7RM2/A7M3 (I plan to get the A7M3) and I work two cameras at a time, why, The A7S 12 MP bigger pixels/ less noise; the A7RM2 42 MP BUT using ISO Invariance I can capture at a lower ISO say 640 instead of 6400 and increase exposure in post getting less noise but same detail in shadows due to more dynamic range at a lower ISO so you get more detail recovery (the way I read it). But to be honest I have printed the A7S and A7RM2 at poster size and both are awesomely clear and sharp! A Lens the SEL1224G or SEL1018 or the SEL1635Z f/4 all very sharp even in the corners, yes f/4 but a f/1.8 or f/2.8 have to be reduced to f/4 to reduce lens coma (dove stars/trailing stars) (physics of light travel through lens edge and center). A steady Tripod, I like the Manfrotto clamp style for a secure fit and a heavy/sturdy one. Also a pad, I use an old iPad loaded with PlayMemories, PhotoPills, Planit! for Photographers, SkySafari Pro (my planetarium) and SmugMug apps. Also the on camera apps available through the Sony PlayMemories app store example HDR Sky and Digital Filter apps let you get a raw or jpeg capture while the camera takes two shots one for the sky and one for the ground using any all available selectable options the camera has for both shots and combined into one and adjustable on review before sending to SD card, made for sunsets/rises BUT great for a bright city foreground with a dark sky above. On camera apps not available on Sony Mark 3 cameras.
You need some dark sky, but if you can see the Milky Way it can be captured with your camera. It is addictive because only with a long exposure can it be seen in all it colors, kinda like macro photography - you can not see it with the unaided eye but it is there. Before buying an expensive camera/lens just get a basic camera and lens from the Goodwill store - a Canon T2i with the EF-S 10-22mm (16-35mm) (I have had since 2010 now for $125) will do just as good of a job and to hone post processing skills. Also get the PhotoPills app look at Spot Stars section it will give you a Shutter Speed for your camera/lens mm using the 500 rule but the more accurate NPF rule that figures your Pixel height (a lot of math done for you) both accurate and default this will allow for no star trailing even as seen at 100% in post. Learn to manual focus on stars at night. If you are older and are prescribed bifocals wear the bifocals not progressive glasses you will see sharper stars all about. I have photographed the Milky Way from a lit parking lot, how, in aperture mode adjusting ISO for correct SS. Look to the south for a good foreground as you drive around but most of all look at moon rise/set times that will let you capture days before or after the new moon. Early in the year (March) five days before the new moon you can get a crescent moon (looks full with long exposure) rising below the the Milky Way (everyone will say it is PS'ed). Even a setting full moon will light up your foreground while looking to the southeast rise of the Milky Way (and then you become a night owl). Lastly take someone with you or get a group together and carry some BEAR Spray (good for snakes/bear/gators and unwanted two lagged critters) and only carry what you need NOT all your camera gear (do not want to loose everything if something happens, your car could be far away). Also bug spray like ODO-Ban (not oily) or the best stuff Avon Skin So Soft and Vicks on your legs (to repel Red bugs). Be aware of tides (water) if on a beach, Planit! for Photographers has a tide section to view. Use apps on your pad not your phone (battery power drain), it is night and you may need help, turn off data to conserve power!!!! It could be a long July night!!! If on an all nighter in June/July move to more than one spot have many places scouted out drive or walk or camp with many views and experiment with settings, you will be surprised what you can do in post. For a rainbow Milky Way learn to do sky panoramas. Also for a smaller Dark Horse aim your camera above it in portrait mode even at 10 mm it will be big (something to do with physics of lens and light math) and if something tall in foreground aim with it nearest to center of lens so it does not lean.

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