NightScapes: Chasing the Light across the night sky. Exploring the techniques of capturing one of Natures most exciting photographic opportunities. We'll look at still photography, deepsky photography, and time lapse photography. We'll talk about navigating across the Constellations to identify what we discover. We will keep it as simple as possible and try to have some fun along the way as we explore techniques and contraptions, capturing and processing, posting and sharing, and maybe throw in a workshop or two. Join me as I set sail across the ocean of the's gonna be fun!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Where Stars are Born

Back in October 1957 even though I was a little over 5 years old, I remember the impact that Sputnik had on the world and myself. For the first time I began to look toward the night sky and wonder about what was out there. I remember looking up one evening shortly after Sputnik was launched and saw this tiny glowing dot moving rather quickly across the heavens. I discovered later that I had for the first time seen Sputnik as it orbited high overhead reflecting the sun off of its shiny outer skin. How amazing it was to think of such a thing. For the first time man had actually broken free from the bonds of earth and sent an object circling the globe. Those first few weeks of wonder sparked within me an ever growing facination with the night sky.

Fast forward 57 years. I have connected my digital camera to a tracking device built from spare parts and plans found on the internet. Slowly and consistently by hand I turn the driveshaft that mimics the rotation of the earth and allows the camera to track for long periods of time one point in space. One mnute then two...and I release the cable shutter control. Within a second the image appears and what I see excites me as much as Sputnik did all those years ago. The digital camera with its light gathering ability and lens reveals the night sky in all of its glory. Our eyes just are not sensitive enough to gather in enough light so we can see naturally what floats above our world every night. But the camera makes up for all of that.

There are amazing colors and formations we never knew were there. Areas of glowing gases and dust fill the night sky across the lacy arch of the Milky Way...our home galaxy. Filled with an estimated 200 to 400 billion stars, it is our home amongst the billions of other galaxies scatter across the universe. Within it's realm places where stars are born, are recylced, and born again play out across a timeline unimaginable to our short span of life. Not so long ago, the Hubble Space Telescope pointed its eye toward a dark area in the sky that covered no more than the field of view as seen through a sodastraw. For a week or so it remained locked into positon making its exposure and when the image was finally processed, what was discovered astounded the scientists. Over 10,000 new galaxcies materialized and stretched about as far from us as you could possibly go. Imagine for a moment just how vast the universe is....kind of boggles the mind.

What a journey so far it has been, and I am just beginning to discover this facinating form of photography. I am not an Astrophysicist, just an ordinary photographer whose imagination takes him on amazing journeys of discovery. My first real season to photograph the night sky started as a trial and error process. By the end of that first summer what began with crude and sometimes shakey images began to demonstrate a new found confidence and excitement about the craft. By season two, the manually activated tracker was augmented by a 1 rpm motor that provides a steadier, long term exposure capability and I am just now beginning to tap into it potential.

NightScapes is simply a way to share what I discover as I continue to perfect the technique and find more time to explore this amazing form of photography. Kentucky although not the best location for night sky observations, does have its amazing moments inspite of the light pollution and often cloudy skies. As I stand in the middle of field on a clear dark night and see the brilliance of the night sky arch overhead, the excitment I feel and anticipation that fills my moment comes not from who I am today, but from the young boy whose facination was jump started by that tiny sphere called Sputnik so many years ago. I hope you enjoy the journey.