13 August 2012

Pico do Areeiro and the Milky Way

Yesterday I spent the night in the mountains. A few snacks for the way, a thermos with hot tea, a camping mattress and a Summer sleeping bag and the absolutely needed photo equipment were the items for another astrophotography attempt.
Still much to learn, tho. Photographing the night sky is not easy. And although I've tried my best... my best was not good enough. First the landscape itself. Madeira is not the best place for pictures of the night sky. Plenty of human lights everywhere. See the yellow-orange glow above the peaks? It's the city of Funchal litting the night. This man-made light effect can, sometimes, be counteracted by a low cloud cover, who can work as a diffuser. However past night was clear as crystal.
Second... the equipment. We are always limited to small shutter speeds. A max. of 30 seconds. However, a max. of 20 seconds is advisable. And that's with a wide angle. Use a normal or a telephoto lens and you have to dramatically reduce those times. Otherwise, you'll have star trails instead of dots. And the sky will be blurred. To avoid that, you'll need also the fastest lenses (between f/1.4 and f/2.0) and/or high ISO's. And we all know how difficult is to focus a lens with an f/1.4 aperture. Try that at midnight, in a dark landscape and with a dark viewfinder, to make things easier. Also, with the high ISO's comes the noise. All in all, a receipt for disaster. Or maybe I'm just not a good enough photographer for the task.
Could I've made a better photo? Eventually. Technically speaking, and with some thousand Euros more, a Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 (sharp even wide open) and a full-frame format body (D700, D3, D800 or D4), with it's remarkable behaviour in very high ISO's, would have made a clear difference. A different framing could have helped also. But that is a very different discussion.
The Pico do Areeiro (and it's Radar station) and the Milky Way seen from the Achada do Teixeira-Pico Ruívo trail, yesterday, around midnight.
Picture taken with Nikon D300 and Sigma 24mm EX f/1.8.
Manfrotto tripod and Junior geared head.
Exposure details: 15 secs at f/2.8, ISO 3200, Auto WB.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop CS3.