Monday, September 5, 2016

My Last Photo of the Galaxy From Our Current Home

We're selling up, moving into the haze of light pollution of Brisbane's suburbs. Using the last few evenings to get a few more shots of what I will be missing soon. This one is a 4-shot panorama with my Nikon D610 and the Tokina 11-16 (at 16mm), that compares quite well I think with a lot of night sky photography I see around the web. Nothing like what one could do in the real outback, but I'm quite happy with it.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Galactic Sky

We're moving from our current location north-west of Brisbane, halfway between Woodford and Kilcoy, into what's often called 'town'; meaning the suburbs of the city or even—shock and horror!—the city center or inner suburbs. Reasons for the move are manifold, but mainly it's all about living closer to our daughters, who live in the not-too-outer northern suburbs of Brisbane, and one of whom is expecting a child. Having to drive for 1+ hours to get there is impractical when it may be necessary to be there in a short time.

It being July, this is the time of the most impressive night-sky around this area of the world you're likely to get all year. But despite not a street light within 10+ km, light pollution from the city and nearby towns in the east and south-east has been creeping up steadily over the eight years we've been here; and now even on the clearest, coldest, and driest of nights we now have an ugly patch of glow on the horizon. It takes one of the attractions out of living here; and though what we can see from here is still better than anything you'll see in even outlying Brisbane suburbia, it's a perpetual reminder that our urbanized civilization is killing one of the most mythical visual experiences that our ancestors enjoyed as a matter of routine.

So, being in the process of selling our house, the time for me to take night sky images by just going out on the back of our 5.5 acre property is coming to a close, and so I thought it was time—in between unseasonal rains and the inconvenient timetable of the moon!—to go out and take some pictures.

As already mentioned, the outstanding feature of the night-sky around this time of year during civilized hours is the center of our galaxy. Here's a panoramic shot from my shoot a few days ago, composited very capably by Photoshop, despite being taken with a 16mm wide angle lens.

Note that this looks recognizable like to the famous composite that I look at as a kind of gold-standard reference image from ESO.

The way to get that image it to basically align your composite images as you would align an equatorial telescope. (For an explanation check out this link.) And, as you can see in the first image, the price you pay for that is a distortion of the Earthly objects around you. Of course, if you only snap a small section of the galaxy, the curvature is not as noticeable.

As people following full-sky astro-photography may have noticed, there is a current trend—I hesitate to call it a 'fashion', or even 'fad', though it's getting there—to take images that display the galaxy in a terrestrial context, with even panoramas effectively using the horizon as a reference. This produces some very spectacular images, like the one below.

Cool images, I admit, but I prefer something that focuses on representing what's really out there—and that is the galaxy, with the Sun pretty much smack in the center (along an axis perpendicular to the screen you're looking at in the image below) somewhere between two of its arms.

Viewing a clear night sky with this knowledge and dark-adapted vision, can make viewing a near-mystical experience. I know it has done it to me, if only I allow myself to surrender to the kind of perception-of-space that needed for it.

And I prefer to attempt to capture some of this feeling—preferably without compositing images that actually don't belong together, as is often done. As I hope you can see from the photos below—some taken from our property, and some others near Stanthorpe, Queensland—it is possible; even making use of the ugly light pollution and the lights from cars along the highway down the hill from where we live.

All of these images were taken with a Nikon D610, ISO 1000-1600, f 4-5.6, 15-20 s exposure—all depending on the circumstances. The lens almost always was my trusty Tokina 11-16, designed for DX sensors, but working just fine at 16 mm on an FX body.

The first image here in showing the Moon, setting behind trees in a wisp of clouds at the start of the shoot.

The strip of lights at the bottom in the next image is the D'Aguilar Highway; with lights of a few passing cars illuminating the trees lining the road. The Southern Cross and Coal Sack are prominent. The Magellanic Clouds are rising from behind the hills.

And that's out house, taken from two points of view. The first is shooting to the north; the second to the south-east.

From near Stanthorpe. You may have see some of these before. Taken in May, so the galactic center is quite near the horizon. Also, I used a different set of Adobe Camera RAW presets to process these. Still experimenting with what works best and when.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Looking at Death

There are some days when life holds up a sign and says "Pay Attention!" A few days ago this happened, as I not only chanced upon a little Singaporean Gecko that obviously had croaked it in the cold of the night, but also across a grotesque dried-out mouse corpse. And, of course, I couldn't resist...

 now only a shadow

still screaming
death in the night

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Moscow International Foto Awards

So, I thought maybe I should submit something to a comp. Never done so, despite all my long years in photography. Didn't really expect anything out of it, because when I look at previous winners and 'honorable mentions' of such comps, I often feel a disconnect. Very few of the images I see, including the implicit or explicit fashions they appear to conform to or the narratives that underlie them, resonate with where I'm at, if you will.

Still, I submitted what I considered a portfolio of images that kind of spans the scope of my interests. And I got this back.

And these are the images in the portfolio.

And here are some other images I considered submitting, but didn't because the maximum number was ten.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Lisa Again (not for book covers this time)

Backstory (there always is one):

So, my wife and I were meeting a lady I used to work with a few years back. We picked her up at her workplace and then went looking for someplace to sit down, have a cup of coffee, a sweet or outright lunch, and just chat. And as we walked along George Street (that's in Brisbane, Australia) we chanced upon a passage to the back doors of some old establishments, and I saw this...

Interesting. All I had was an old iPhone 4S, so I went along that passage and found this...

Even better. A few more steps and turning left...

My companions, initially a tad skeptical about me going down a dingy passage, followed me down the rabbit hole—the one leading through the pretend phone booth—and we ended up in the bean cafĂ©.

Graffiti that tells you not to think? Seriously, what's there to think about? Just do it!

Lisa came to mind. Fun to work with. Someone who is willing to experiment with something 'different'. A great personality that shows in the pictures. Good looking. Predictable availability and doesn't have to travel very far. We'd done a somewhat crazy shoot at Caloundra before, and work well together. Lots of laughs. That's kinda important.

We picked a dress for her to wear and went to that same place one the middle afternoon, with darkness not too far away and coming quickly, as it does in Brisbane.

The people as bean were incredibly generous and helpful and took to it all with gusto. Great coffee (or so I'm told, since I don't drink that stuff anymore), good hot chocolate. Haven't tasted the food yet, but will do so soon. If you're a Brisbanite, do go there. If you're visiting the place, do so, too!

And these are some of the pics of Lisa.