Lost Dutchman Sunset, Picketpost Milky Way (New)

Some adventures get made as you go.  It starts with an email, "Gentleman from New York is interested in shooting the Milky Way at Lost Dutchman is looking for someone familiar with the area/desert  . . ." The email came from the AZ Night photography meet-up. I was in. Tom too.  We met up with Brian, our New Yorker and Scott, another volunteer for adventure who resides in Phoenix.

Brian has shot many night and Milky Way shots. He knew what he was doing. The rest of us were just hoping to learn from him. An ER doc by trade and a seemingly passionate photographer, Brian enthusiastically taught, shared experience, and reviewed the displays on our cameras to offer both advice and encourangement. He was so excited when the Milky Way started rising behind Picketpost that we could not help but join him. No matter the late hour or the cold wind. It was lots of fun and I am now more determined than ever to get better at night photography. Thank you Brian!

Enjoy our shots. I will save some tips for the end. I am adding metadata this time, even though it might detract a bit from the aesthetics of just enjoying the photos. But, this blog is to share and LEARN.

Let's start with Lost Dutchman. Sunset was enhanced by light pollution from Phoenix.

ISO 50, f/13, 60 seconds with an ND filter, at 60mm with a Sony SLT-A99V camera and 35-70mm lens.

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ISO 200, f/32, 1/45 at 122mm with Nikon D600 and 70-300mm Nikkor lens.

ISO 200, f/16, at 31mm with 24-70mm Nikkor lens.

ISO 200 at 35mm with 24-70mm Nikkor lens.

ISO 100, 1/500 with 35-70mm lens.

ISO 200, f/16, at 70mm with 24-70mm Nikkor lens.

ISO 200, f/16 at 24mm with 24-70mm Nikkor lens.

ISO 200, f/16 at 15mm with 15mm Sigma fisheye lens.

As it got a bit darker the stars just start popping. The light you see up on the mountain was coming from a couple of hikers that started up just as the sun set.

ISO 3200, f/2.8, 20 seconds at 28mm with 35-70mm lens.

ISO 4000, f/2.8, 10 seconds at 55mm with 35-70mm lens.

ISO 1600, f/4, 6 seconds at 16mm with Nikon D7000 and 11-16mm Tokinna AT-X-116 Pro lens.

ISO 1600, f/3.3, 30 seconds at 16mm with Tokina lens.


After shooting the sunset we decided to head further east to Picketpost Mountain, much lower than the Superstition range and maybe with a more interesting foreground with a windmill. I tried some timelapse shooting at Lost Dutchman site but the light was not helpful and there was not enough motion to make it an interesting timelapse by my ever increasing high standards.  A grumpy LOL here!

By the time we got to Picketpost it was quite dark but you could still see some light pollution on the face of the mountain and some light from nearby Superior.

Scott set up a star trails while we waited. I am so excited to see how the windmill turned out as part of the star trails. Wow!

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The Milky Way started up around 10:30 or so. Before then some clouds went through. Must admit I was a bit discouraged. For one thing, I did not know what to look for. That is where Brian was so helpful. He knew just what he was looking for. For Brian, the Milky Way is his dear friend. 

After a bit Brian said, "It is starting! Do you see it?" No! It takes a trained eye to see it early and a bit of post to bring it out later. At the moment I had settled on putting the windmill on the right. Later I would change my mind.

But, Brian was right. There it was! Rising. Finally, what we had waited for.

ISO 6400, f/2.8, 15 seconds at 28mm with 35-70mm lens.

I learned a couple of things that, as a beginner, might be helpful:

First, go with someone who has done it before. I would not have seen the Milky Way for what it was. I might have thought of haze or clouds. People who tell you they can clearly see it from (name your not at all light polluted place at the right time of year and night) . . . well not so easy, actually. There are apps that help you see the night as it will be, such as Stellarium (free for computer use).  Look into that and read up on night photography.

Second, post processing is key. When you see a photograph of the Milky Way and you gasp in amazement, you are looking at a post processing effort that was used to bring out the detail and inherent color of the Milky Way. That should not surprise you. But how to post process? Ah! Now we get into personal preference and artistry. As you look at the shots above you will notice that they are on the blue/green and some yellow side of the color scale. Brian says that the green is natural and is called airglow. But, below, I went the other way with my white balance! Garrish? Unreal? Over the top? My choice? Personally, I prefer the post approach of the images above. But it is fun to experiment.

Third, planning is important. I am scouting sites for my next night photography session. And next time I have a plan . . . take a lounge chair, a good pillow, hot coffee or chocolate, a good friend for late night conversation and a nap the prior afternoon.

Fourth, it goes without saying but I am going to say it anyway . . . a tripod is essential for these long shots, and a headlamp makes it easier to set up your camera with two free hands. 

I so hope that at some point you might want to join me in shooting at night, be it star trails, the Milky Way or a timelapse. Practice is going to make my night photography better.

Thanks again Brian. It was a pleasure meeting you and it good to know you made it home safely. You can follow Brian Greenberg at http://500px.com/BrianGreenberg.  Worth a trip over there to check him out.

Thanks also to Scott, the wizard of iPad and CamRanger. You can check out his website at http://Capture48.com. Scott is a fellow member of the AZ Night Photographer's Meetup.