Milky Way Photo Shoots take you to interesting Dark Sky locations!

Milky Way at Dead Horse Point State Park
Milky Way at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

In case you were in any doubt, the Astro La Vista Observatory Website is a hobby site, not a business site. I left the business world some years ago and am lucky to be able to spend my time not only photographing the night sky from the Astro La Vista Observatory, but also on Milky Way photo shoots in Dark Sky locations.

In general, I will respond to any requests on this website within 24-48 hours, but if a New Moon or other Celestial event is occurring, I am most likely to be found in some wilderness area outside of cell phone or Internet range. In those times I might not get back to you for a week or more. Rest assured I will bag another rare Milky Way shot for your viewing pleasure.

Above is a photo of the Milky Way’s Galactic Center over the Colorado River that your host took on a Photo Shoot at Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah. I spent a Saturday night (New Moon) perched on a pitch black ledge, shielding my tripod from 15-20 mile winds in hundred degree heat with smoke from forest fires all around. With all the wind, I had to stick with short exposures.

I tried a few surface shots, but with all of the wind, there wasn’t much point in using them since they were pretty much as blurry as stacking these tracked shots by themselves. In the interest of living a long life, I exited the ledge after I took five sixty second tracked shots at f2.8 and ISO 3200. The Colorado River can be seen in the distance.

In the images below there is a daylight image of Dead Horse Point’s Colorado “Gooseneck” itself, as well as a Moonrise shot to show the smoke polluted skies. I found it interesting that you could see no light domes of towns or cities from this location. I used PhotoPills to scope out the time, day and location for this image, all I had to do was show up.

Dead Horse Point
Dead Horse Point “Gooseneck”

Smoky Moon Rise at Dead Horse Point State Park

Sometimes I am able to capture the Milky Way closer to home in Prescott, Az. I have been working on becoming more familiar with Milky Way Photography by practicing in the back yard Below is an image of my observatory in the back yard and was one of my first attempts. I took one foreground image of 4 minutes, and 5 four minute sky images at F 2.8 and ISO 800. I used the MSM tracking mount and stacked the images using Sequator. These were taken between 3AM and 4 AM. The sky glow is from Phoenix, which is roughly 90 miles Southeast from my location.

Milky Way Over Astro La Vista Observatory, Prescott, Az.
Milky Way over Astro La Vista Observatory, Prescott, Az.

The Cygnus region of the Milky Way is featured in this image. The North American Nebula is a rather small feature that is located to the left of center just below the star Deneb in the photo. This is first light for a Sigma 28mm f1.4 lens that I acquired for Milky Way photography. Due to wind and ambient light, I was limited to one minute exposures on my SkyWatcher Star Adventurer mount. At the bottom right is the Phoenix. AZ light dome (90 miles S). Ten images were stacked in Lightroom. ISO 800, shot at f1.8.

Borrego Springs, California also offers a bit of dark sky compared to the urban areas that are nearby. The nearby Anza Borrego Desert State Park has been recognized as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. With the new moon, I thought I would give the Milky Way a try. This is an 8 panel mosaic of what is right in our back yard. The 8 unguided 15 second image panels were taken with a Nikon D780 and a Sigma Art 28mm f1.4 lens shot at f1.8.

Milky Way over Rams Hill Golf Couse, Borrego Springs, Ca
Milky Way over Rams Hill Golf Course, Borrego Springs, Ca.

A wealthy man owned a bunch of Borrego Springs real estate that he never developed. Instead he placed metal art on it throughout the town. The Serpent is one of the most famous pieces. It was not easy to find the Serpent after midnight in the dark sky of a new moon, but I soon located it with my trusty flash light. I took a bunch of images, but narrowed it down to one 4 minute image for the sky and one 4 minute image for the foreground. This was processed in Photoshop.

Milky Way over Serpent in Borrego Springs, Ca
The Serpent at Borrego Springs

All I can say is Life Is Good!

About Starizona Hyperstar…

Starizona Hyperstar

Starizona Hyperstar is a device sold by Starizona to convert a slow f/10 Schmidt Cassegrain telescope into a super fast F/2 camera lens. The idea always seemed appealing to me since I have a Celestron EdgeHD 11 inch Schmidt Cassegrain to use it on. Some years ago I bought a Starizona Hyperstar device, but sadly it has been rarely used since I bought it. Several of the problems with it are that it is difficult to get into perfect focus, and collimating is difficult.

In the last year my interest in using this device has been enhanced by exposure to the fine results that others are getting with Hyperstar, particularly in the realm of narrowband imaging. Narrowband imaging requires hours and hours of long exposures since the light that reaches the camera just trickles in a photon at a time. With Hyperstar, that imaging time can be cut down substantially.

One of the weaknesses is that stars just seem to work better with refractors. If there was a way to combine the nebulosity of narrowband from the Hyperstar with RGB stars from a refractor, then the combined image could be acquired in a more efficient way. Today’s wonderful software allows you to do just that.

Below is the field of view of a Takahashi FSQ 106 refractor compared with a Celestron 11 inch Hyperstar equipped Schmidt Cassegrain. Both are equipped with a ZWO ASI 1600MM camera. The similar fields of view make it much easier to combine images. With this in mind, I have been upgrading my Hyperstar setup to engage in this type of imaging.

Below is a link to an image that was acquired and processed by a top imager at Astrobin using these techniques. It looks pretty magnificent to me, so I guess I will give it a try.