Our Galaxy at Early March Morning Rise



Galactic Center rising through earth's dirty atmosphere. Test Shot time! This at 12mm f2.8 13s 6400. Used image (not a keeper) to test Dxo's Pure Ra...
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Galactic Center rising through earth's dirty atmosphere. Test Shot time! This at 12mm f2.8 13s 6400. Used image (not a keeper) to test Dxo's Pure Raw and imported to Lr to brighten and all just to see noise reduction. But after Brightening there is more detail of stars in the Dark Horse area.
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Behind The Lens

Location
I go to the most romantic beach in Georgia, Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island State Park. A barrier island about 5 miles into a swamp and away from city lights with the darkest sky over the Atlantic. Being an island away from city lights also dark sky above the swamp on the west side. You can capture the Milky Way anywhere on the island from a lit parking lot on the Atlantic beach side to over the lit area around the old Jekyll Island Club Hotel on the swamp side. It was the winter home of billionaires from before 1900 to WWII. It has had a electric cart from the beginning and today it is called a red bug that you travel around the island in and at night is able to be parked where your car can not, only goes 25 mph. Also has a sidewalk that goes all the way around the island and you can go anywhere by bike a 26 mile ride. Beware biking at night you may come close to deer.
Time
The time of Night, April is when the galactic center rises after midnight and this was captured after midnight on 2021-04-13 at 02:10:33 two days after the new moon. The moon is underfoot, so to speak, so the tide is going out giving a clean beach. A low tide at 03:48 am and a high tide at 10:02 am. When the moon is on the horizon, east or west it is high tide and high or underfoot it is low tide. When on the coast you want low tides for more beach. Sometimes the night of the new moon it maybe high tide. You have 5 days before and after the new moon. In the early months of February, March and April 5 days before you get a crescent moon below the rising MW at the same time the tide is going out because the moon is rising above the horizon. Also the ten day window allows for nights with clear skies around stormy days, Planning is key.
Lighting
The Milky Way Galactic Center rises to the southeast in the early months and Driftwood Beach faces east. But to the north is St. Simons Island that is well lit, but with new white LED lights and a lighthouse that beams light across Driftwood. For info: When first out on the beach you can hardly see your hand in front of you face but after a half hour you can see you way around the driftwood better but still need a flashlight not to trip over buried wood. The stars are bright but a test shot is needed to see the MW's position so you will see it in your minds eye during the night. The light from St. Simons Island allows for the framing of your shot, using a 12mm you can set up almost next to a tall driftwood but it will have lots of sky above it. What happens with a camera capture using a 12 second exposure is a daylight looking image but with stars using a low ISO even. If clouds behind you it is like a studio with light bouncing off the clouds like a softbox.
Equipment
I have been coming to Driftwood Beach since 2015 with first the Sony A7s and the APS-C E 10-18mm f/4 using in Full Frame mode at 12mm or the FE 16-35mm f/4, and 2017 the FE 12-24mm f/4. This year 2021 I had the new FE 12-24mm f/2.8 and the Sony A7SM3. Using the new Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod because of the salt water. Also there are a lot of driftwood scattered all about and I move to all the different ones during the night. Also I do panoramas in the early hours when the milky way is low using the Novoflex Panorama VR-System Slim using 15 degree settings. As a note most all times I am alone all night but when other photographers show up they stay in one place the whole night, I have no idea why for there is a mile plus of beach to use with driftwood. I also use a green headlamp and flashlight it is easier to see the night sky and you can see all about you with eyes adjusted to the night darkness. I put gaffer tape over all camera red leds so as not to be seen by others or in their captures. I learned in the military you can see a cigarettes red glow 2 miles away at night and always used green tissue over a flashlight. One thing in my bag is Skin So Soft oil mixed with water in a spray bottle and lotion. Along the beach there are no seeums and drying clothes with fabric softener sheets then wearing them around the neck and arms and Vicks on the legs under long pants always.
Inspiration
I have been hooked on Milky Way Capture since 2015 and Driftwood Beach has a lot of different subjects as well great sunrises and after the golden hour a swamp full of feeding birds on the way back to the car or bicycle ride to a hotel close by. It is just a 100 miles from by home in Jacksonville and low priced hotels during weekdays before summer. At low tide during a cool or cold night (yes cold from Feb to May) and alone listening to the light surf and night birds in the swamp it is like heaven. The Milky Way above all the different driftwood and it all changes during every high tide and every hurricane that passes like dice on a table after every roll. The beach is lit (somewhat) and even with white low clouds aglow the MW can be seen above, and you have all morning. Just have to be aware of the gators out in the swamp on your way in in the dark.
Editing
Kinda funny but with bright images each capture looks great right out of camera! I also shoot both RAW and Jpeg, I set camera settings that affect jpegs that the camera processes even though both look alike there are differences. Example the A7s jpegs will capture gas airglow when the raw would not. But I do use mainly Lr. With the radial filter you can encircle the whole MW and make it brighter, sharper with more detail and with the Linear you can do the sky and foreground differently and take the blue sky and lower the exposure and saturation to make it look more night. Also through the years LR has had lens corrections when no one else had them. Example when Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 came out not even LR for a year and had to use Capture One ON1's lens correction white plastic tool to make a LC for the first year. And for Noise there was none but today I use Topaz Denoise AI with LR but if you want RAW NC before editing use Dxo RAW 2 because on import to LR all lens info is still seen after it's lens correction and LR may have a added correction. Bottom line I use mainly Lr not PS BUT I have many programs I play with an image to get a good out images and not over process. Lastly no matter who says always use NR it may only be 15 sec. but what is the hurry it is extra work in post to stack or whatever. And 5 or 10 images to stack takes longer than one with NR on!
In my camera bag
I have been collecting Sony Gear since 2014 first using my old Canon film FD lenses with a $20 adapter in the beginning. I am just a hobbyist not a pro and only buy with CC point $ from stores that give extra points per dollar. Today I have just about every lens telephoto and prime lens and new A7SM3 and 2 A7iii and old A7rii/A7s. I have a night bag and a day bag. For this a night bag with a A7iii/A7SM3 and the FE 12-24mm f/2.8, FE 14mm and 20mm f/1.8 also 24mm f/1.4 and all have the Haida Filters rear filter holder with the Clear Night filter installed with KASE front filter holder to hold the Alyn Wallace Starglow Filter. For panoramas Novoflex Panorama VR-System Slim or the low cost and variable stepper Neewer Gimbal Head Panoramic Head Camera Tripod Head. But to be clear never more than one camera and lens and pano rig, two or more is too much a good thing, you have to have fun not work, there will be always another night. And that is where planing with your mind's eye as to what you want to capture.
Feedback
The best advice is to stay on a budget and save for a camera and lens. I loved a wide lens but learn to do panos, just a two or three frame pano is equal to a wide lens. Do not believe all reviewers on youtube example Sigma came out with the 14mm f/1.8, a tank and heavy, everyone thought it to be the best and better than the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 (it was) but at f/1.8 it did have numerous types of coma and only got a little better at f/2.8 but best at f/4 so a Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 (2017) would do just fine. But after waiting Sony came out with the lighter and smaller FE 14mm f/1.8 along with first the FE 24mm f/1.4 and 20mm f/1.8 (really 18mm). But my old film lenses 20mm f/2.8 and 24mm f/1.4 worked just fine. My hidden gem since 2015 was the APS-C E 10-18mm f/4 used in Full Frame mode at 12mm or the FE 16-24mm f/4 both got daylight results at low 3200/6400 ISO. And instead of getting a A7Sii I got a A7iii which was better and learned it is not the fewer pixels that best but the ISO Invariance of the sensor. I also got great MW captures with my old A7rii. And before I knew about the MW I captured with my Canon T2i with a kit lens. My point is that MW capture can be done with even a film camera and lens, NASA did it forever before digital. Get PhotoPills and PlanIt Pro. PlanIt Pro also as current tides info and pano steps coverage for any mm lens. Also get many weather apps for future nights there is Clear OutSide that has low,med and high clouds. For the 5 days before and after the new moon take afternoon naps and get up an hour before with bag and gear charged to go. If I may add please go with others just for safety and text someone where you are before setting up. Carry bear spray for the four legged AND two legged and in today's environment if you can wear body armor to and from if you drive at night, I do and a weapon, yes heavy but you may come back alive. I have had gators crossing a path and other times camping in woods and hills for the darkness bears and big cats. On Jekyll Island you will have deer eating grass so close you could pet them but first a little scare even behind your hotel. I also wear waterproof snake boots at night, I have had rattlesnakes out in Arizona slither by even captured one below a MW capture! Just saying know your surroundings at all times. Also invest in Green light headlamps and flashlights, As a hunter I found deer and raccoons pay no mind to green but red they see you everytime, But red when with others is the hardest to clone out.

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