Only 3 Nights a Year (really only about 24hrs) / by brandon burkhardt

Last night I finally did something I have been wanting to do for 3 years now. Its something that can only be done about 6 (maybe 9) nights a year. Each night there is only maybe 8 hours of time that you can get really good shots. 

The conditions are as follow. 

  • The subject is only "in the ideal position" for a few months of the year. 
    • Here in Texas, really the northern hemisphere, these months are not optimum because they are in the summer and warm nights cause haze and distortion in the images, but you do what you can do! 
  • There are only a 3 nights during this time frame when certain meteorological events take place in order to make the shot the most 'doable'. The new moon phase where it is completely in shadow provides the necessary lack of light. (really it could be as much as 3 nights, new moon night +1 on either side)
  • During these nights, you must wait until it is dark, a good 2 hours after sunset starts to be good shooting. I would imaging this means that a good 2 hours before sunrise is the limit of the time you can do this. 

So here it is... Photographing the Milky way. Done on top (exact location) of Enchanted Rock State Park  in Llano Texas. 

This was one of the first shots where I could see what we came for. But the clouds were still creating a bit of haze and the angle of the MilkyWay had not yet gone vertical. There was a lot of it still in buried by the light pollution.

This is a shot straight up where you can see the galaxy through the clouds. I did this because I was looking for a way to minize the light pollution in the image.  

Trying to get some more interesting shots, I put on my 8mm fisheye. Unfortunately its not very sharp because of the high fStop minimum on this lens.  At f5.6 I needed to be at around 10000 ISO just to see the MilkyWay. To get rid of the noise I had to soften the image quite a bit.

This was a zoomed in image straight up again. Some where around 74mm. At this point the sky was clear and made for some pretty shots.

And this was the shot that we came for. Interesting foreground object. Milky Way in the background. Next time around, i'll try to get that darn tree in focus as well. I may edit the heck out of this and do so later. But... I'm really happy with the way this one looks.

That's the story. Well worth the 4hr's of driving, the fun hike up a giant rock with my ruck sack (camera bag) and sitting around waiting for a few hours.

Brandon B.