Night Photography–Trial Run

Did you know there are official, international dark sky parks?  I didn’t until I was recently in Michigan visiting family members.  One of my cousin’s sons is an astronomy buff, and he was hoping to go to the Headlands, in the Mackinac Straits.  Unfortunately the park road was under repair, so getting to the beach area for night time viewing meant a one mile hike–carrying telescopes, tripods, cameras, etc.  Being somewhat daunted by that idea, we went out along the shore of Lake Bellaire, near Traverse City.

Lake Bellaire

Lake Bellaire

This was my first attempt at night photography, but hopefully not my last.  We were able to get a good view of the Big Dipper between two trees, a pine and a spruce.  I tried my hand at some light painting, with very mixed results.  The first flashlight I tried was far too bright, overpowering the sky.  I then switched to another one, with one satisfactory result.  With Mark’s help I was able to pick out the Andromeda Galaxy, “a spiral galaxy approximately 780 kiloparsecs from Earth.  Also known as Messier 31, M31, or NGC 224, it is often referred to as the Great Andromeda Nebula in older texts” (Wikipedia).  One kiloparsec is defined as 3260 light years.  In other words, the light from the Andromeda Galaxy that I captured left the galaxy 3260 x 780 years ago, or 2,542,800 years ago, before the age of mammals.

Here are the results of my first attempt at night photography.  I was using a Nikon D750 camera body, with a Nikon 20mm f/1.8 lens.  Click on the image for the best view.

Big Dipper 1 4.0 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400

Big Dipper 1
4.0 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400  

Big Dipper 2, Light Painting 5.0 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400

Big Dipper 2, Light Painting
5.0 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400











Milky Way 1 5.0 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400

Milky Way 1
5.0 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400  

Andromeda Galaxy 2.5 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400

Andromeda Galaxy
2.5 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 6400

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