The last few nights I’ve been out and about shooting the stars. It’s one of my first few times doing so, so I still have much to learn. My first port of call on Sunday night was Blue Rock Dam, a place about three quarters of an hour from home. It’s 11km from the nearest major town, about 2-3km from a small town, and about 20km (or more) to the nearest power station, so I was well away from light pollution (though you could still see some in the final shot).

It’s rather creepy being out there at night by yourself. For one thing, this location was where they found the body of Jaidyn Leskie, not to mention that it’s a long walk to the nearest house if you get stranded. My phone went flat towards the end, so I was fortunate I didn’t have car issues. Those factors aside, I learned a lot during my outing. Amongst other things:

  1. Carry a spare set of batteries for everything! I assumed I had full batteries in my flash, but I didn’t, so I was reduced to light painting with my mobile phone’s flash.
  2. My MIOPS was a god-send. It was 4 degrees C outside (~42 degrees F) and using the timed release feature, I was able to tee up two minute exposures without having to leave the car. It was awesome fun.
  3. Always view your images at 100%, and always clean your gear before heading out to shoot at night. Both caused me to miss undesirable elements in the image, including a smudge on my glass (from when I was adjusting the settings) and star trails (which weren’t long enough to look nice, nor short enough to make for a clean image)

On Monday night I went back out there (another hour and a half trip!) and re-shot the scene. I took care with my shutter speed and ISO, plus I brought two sets of batteries with me. I was much happier with the shot, as the stars were clear, the sky was nice (even less cloud cover than the night before) and the water tower (shown in the picture above) came out really well.

On Tuesday night I went out to a different spot about 30 minutes in the opposite direction, to a dead tree by the side of a track. I was rather close to a power station (about 2-3km, as the crow flies) but the stars still shone. It was really dark and I had a dim flashlight, so I was unable to focus, like I was able out at Blue Rock Dam. Turns out there’s lots of great tricks on how to focus, including focusing your lens BEFORE you leave home (and marking the spot with tape) so when you get out there, you can focus with no worries at all. Very handy to know!

In the end I got a few shots, but not exactly what I wanted. Tonight the weather turned sour, so looks like no more astrophotography for me until it fines up again.

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