Pegasus in Skyglow



Milky Way Galactic Center with Pegasus (Dark Horse Nebula) in Skyglow above a cattle farm windmill near West Point Mississippi. Captured at ISO 800 with SEL1224...
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Milky Way Galactic Center with Pegasus (Dark Horse Nebula) in Skyglow above a cattle farm windmill near West Point Mississippi. Captured at ISO 800 with SEL1224G @ 12mm 13 seconds increasing shadows, darks and exposure to control the bright sky.
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Behind The Lens

Location
just off Highway 50 between Columbus Mississippi and West Point Mississippi on a cattle/crop farm. At 100% you can see cattle around the windmill.
Time
You have to study the Milky Way sky location and angle through the year. This was toward the end of the Milky Way year toward the end of September's new moon on the 26th when the Milky Way goes vertical and over to the right and starts to be seen in the sky just after the blue hour 8pm to 11pm. This capture was at 10:09pm to the southwest.
Lighting
A difficult capture due to Skyglow from the Golden Triangle Airport the the south and Starkville Mississippi to the southwest and West Point Mississippi to the west. There is a LED light pole about a half mile to the left of the windmill (behind me). Highway 50 is main connection between the two cities with a lot of traffic so headlights also light up the field, but taking a 13 second shot I waited for breaks in the traffic to reduce brightness of the fore-scene. For night sky shots ground lights around buildings could be too bright BUT work for lighting the field and cows.
Equipment
For this I used the Sony A7 Mark 3 for its ISO Invariant properties, where I can capture a darker image with more dynamic range at ISO 800 and less noise than at ISO 3200/6400. And it is 24MP where the A7S is 12MP. Also to help framing a capture it has Bright Monitoring, over sampling in liveview giving a daytime like view -so no flashlights need to light up the scene. The lens Sony SEL1224G f/4 an ultra-wide that makes the Milky Way galactic center/dark horse nebula smaller with more of the snake band going high in the sky without tilting the camera up But centering the windmill I was able to tilt the camera up getting more of the snake band high in the sky. The tripod was the Manfrotto Befree Advanced with a Arca Swiss plate so I could use my Arca Swiss L bracket to go from Landscape to Portrait view on the fly. I always capture both at different ISO's to play with the best capture.
Inspiration
I have been capturing the Milky Way since 2014 when I learned my A7S was able to capture it with ease and after studying and finally finding and using the PhotoPills app along with the Planit Pro app as I travel around I am always looking to the south for a good foreground then watching weather apps for clear night skies (you can have a cloudy day but a very clear night). The Mississippi plains used windmills for water for cows and crops and are a landmark for the area. This windmill is on higher plain with no trees to block the Milky Way. When I travel to this area it is my main photo op (that no one else thinks about). The day was a cloudy day but when I went outside after dinner there were stars and with the Milky Way was in vertical mode I headed to the windmill. But this year the farmer had cows in the field so I could not get close to the windmill. Looking at my first shots the Milky Way was further west so I had to walk about 50 yards down the fence line to the east to line up the Milky Way with the Wind Mill both vertical and centered. Planning with a vision of the Milky Way placement throughout the year I use the Night VR mode using my pad and phone when I see a good foreground place and I can pick any day of the year to select perfect placement of a spot, that is where you start daydreaming sometimes wanting clear skies.
Editing
Milky Way images need a lot of post processing even though the image on the camera LCD looks great. Always shooting in RAW. The Sony AWB is great for nightscape you get great color first. So far my main PP program for the MW is Lightroom, I do not use Photoshop because blending things do not appeal to me.First the MW color temp is 3800-3900 this will bring out the two sides of the Dark Horse Nebula, left side a pale to dark magenta the right side a pale to dark blue unlike the sky color (kinda weird but beautiful). The night sky as seen with you eye is mostly dark or grey but the camera will capture a little blue almost blue hour blue. Here is where the PP'ing comes in. First a graduated temp from top to bottom to get a just the right color of blue (the eye likes that color not grey or black). But this changes the MW color so the best thing for PP'ing the MW is the Radial filter you select invert and drag it oblong and surround the MW from end to end and side to side but again select temp first a little to the right to bring back the correct color. But to bring out depth of the serpent band and the dark horse you need to set contrast to the right some, shadows and darks to the left highlights/whites to the right some and maybe increase exposure some. If you look at the Dark Horse nebula part you will see the shadows get darker but color around the shadows brighter and you will see what looks like wings on top of the horse (pegasus), adjusting the sliders can take a while to tweak the proper look. For the foreground increasing the exposure/shadows/darks/highlights/whites while looking at the Histogram, you need it centered for a good print and you will need to go back to Radial filter correct the shadows.You can change the order if you want but going back and forth tweaking each time. Right now Lr has a problem with final image noise when using clarity and texture (which you will also use in the Radial/global sliders to bring out things). What I use is Topaz Denoise AI (has AI Clear selection also, test each for best results) in the photo process in section where you get a total new image with noise reduction. Now you can again start over with all the previous setting to get a brighter and more detailed image and for some reason the clarity/texture slider no longer affect the final image when going to library section. Final advice do not make the Dark Horse and wings TOO Sharp a little blur in that area makes it more eyesight real so use the radial filter and texture slider along with noise to the right some to get the final clean up. On this image I used the Graduated filter on the bottom to darken the field in the foreground to make it look more like night as well as another on the top to bring down the brightness. Brightness can make a night capture look like daytime with stars but is a fineline for centering the histogram, play play play.
In my camera bag
For travel in this case I take my three cameras A7S, A7RM2 and A7M3. You really only need two lenses for Sony the SEL1224G and the SEL24240. But I will also carry the heavy Sigma 14mm f/1.8 for very dark places. Remember for day shots you will capture mostly at f/11 and for night f/4 is good because those f/2.8, f/1.8 and f/1.4 lenses need to be at f/4 to get rid of comma in the corners anyway and with Sony camera sensors having better light gathering and less noise no need to spend the extra money for the fast glass. I pulled the trigger on the Sigma but rarely use for I am always in bright areas.I have and carry other lenses, fast primes for other uses but Astro Milky Way the SEL1224G is my goto lens but I also use the Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 which is also a great lens for Milky Way's. The SEL1224G is also great for panos at 10 sec images.
Feedback
First learn the lighting, spot where it is coming from and select the right ISO to control the highlights the lower the better shadows can always be brought out in post. Get a planetarium app like SkySafari where you can track the night sky Milky Way at any place and time of year and watch it move across the sky in a year long timelapse to better understand viewing times and placement in the sky at different times of the year. February the galactic center rises in the southeast at 5am, May/June/July it rises just after sunset in the SE and is visible till sunrise to the SW. In Dec and Jan the Galactic center hides behind the sun BUT if you look westward you will see our part of the spiral arm and a pano will show a rainbow of stars. PhotoPills web site has the best articles and videos to study. The PhotoPills app has everything you need from a planner to see where it is in the sky form anywhere you select on earth. A spot stars section where you select the camera and mm of lens to get a SS without star trails (every camera/lens mm is different) determined by your pixel height, 500 rule no longer valid with digital camera.It also has a VR and VR Night Mode where you can watch from any location and see where the MW will be in the sky at anytime of the year and the serpents angle across the sky. And a moon calendar so you know when the new moon for each month. Planit Pro has additional tides for different locations for when capturing on shorelines over oceans, like east coast ocean dark skies or even Gulf of Mexico dark skies (start at high tide [when the moon is rising/setting] to have a clean no footprint and puddles of water for star reflections). Feb./Mar/Apl. are best times for pano rainbow MW's (the serpent stretches from horizon to horizon low on the horizon with the Galactic Center to the right so look eastward. Also in Feb/Mar./Apl. go out 4 or 5 days early to get a crescent moon rising below the MW this is also because weather may change during the new moon. And sometimes with a setting crescent moon setting it will light up your foreground but leave a dark sky MW visible. You will become a night owl so take plenty of vitamin D due to lack of sunshine. Also stay out for the twofer add blue hour stars and sunrises to your captures, there is always morning naps. Lastly planning but daydreaming visualizing the shot beforehand will awake you at 3am automatically with no alarm needed. Also for iOS there is the clear sky app that you can look for clear sky days before for planning. BUSY! BUSY!!!!

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