I always find photography to be a forever humbling and learning experience which continuously seems to keep arrogance in check.

It was someone’s birthday this weekend just gone (read: mine) and it just so happened to be of a Friday so decided to make a long weekend of it. A couple of weeks out I checked what the moon phase was going to be which was new/waxing with the moon setting early so hello astrophotography!

I had a couple of objectives for the weekend with the main one being find a camp spot that is dog friendly so we could take our 2 Golden Retrievers with us as I had a bit of owners guilt happening as we recently went camping without them and the other objective being somewhere where there wouldn’t be a lot of light pollution near water. Genazzano Retreat at Lake Tinaroo suited all these options so we booked for 3 nights and it ended up being a lovely spot which I would recommend to anyone.

View from our tent at Genazzano Retreat at Lake Tinaroo

View from our tent at Genazzano Retreat at Lake Tinaroo

I had this mental image of the picture I wanted – the Milky Way parallel to the horizon, with the stars reflected in the water and the dead trees reflected to make for some foreground interest. No worries mate…. First night I used my star tracker app and figured the Milky Way would be in just the right spot about 1:30am so I set my alarm for 1am and headed down to the water and it was foggy! What?! This isn’t what I had planned. I still persevered but the result was pretty average:

Foggy Milky Way at Lake Tinaroo

Foggy Milky Way at Lake Tinaroo

Damn! The first night was my best shot as the weather was supposed to deteriorate over the weekend.

Come the second night and there’s not a hint of wind but there’s clouds in the sky ruining my view of the crystal clear Milk Way….

Clouds ruining my Milky Way fun

Clouds ruining my Milky Way fun

I figure I may as well make the most of this no wind and glassy water surfer and get some tree reflection photos happening. I get my camera and tripod and head down to the water and as soon as I’m just about set up this gale force wind starts. Great, there goes that idea…. But hang on, the wind is blowing the clouds away…. Back to Plan A! At this stage it was only about 10pm with the Milky Way still quite high in the sky and adjacent to the horizon. Ah well, good time to have a play with different settings so I can nail it when the time comes around.

I take some shots for some vertical and horizontal panoramas to stitch together in the post production, I play with different ISO’s and shutter speeds and find that f/2.8 at either ISO 3200 or 4000. I work off the 500 rule to avoid star trails which is simply 500 divided your focal length so for me 500 / 16mm = 31 seconds (on a full frame camera). I found I was still getting some star trailing around the edges so found the shutter speed of 20 seconds seems to be my sweet spot. Thankfully the Canon 6D seems to handle high ISO’s pretty well so I don’t get too much grain which helped compensate for the slower shutter speed.

I sit on my little stool taking a photo every few minutes waiting for the Milky Way to be just right whilst catching up on Candy Crush and other games on my phone to try and distract myself from the freezing cold and howling wind.

Finally about 1:30am the Milky Way is where I want it to be. I snap away and walk along the shoreline to get different vantage points then about 2am the moment has passed and off to bed I toddle.

Third night I won’t even bother mentioning as it was pouring rain the whole time so it was an early night to catch up on some lost sleep.

I get home Sunday evening and first thing I do is load my photos up in Lightroom and start to go through them starting with what I expected to be the primo shot first. Not bad…. I go back through time and my photos and find the pano ones and stitch them together and narrow down the ones I want to spend time on editing. Out of approx 250 photos only 3 make the final cut which I make slight adjustments to and export them as final copies.

I go through the final ones expecting the mentally dreamed of photo to be my favourite which is this one:

Milky Way at Lake Tinaroo near the horizon

Milky Way at Lake Tinaroo near the horizon

But actually it’s probably my 3rd favourite. I would have loved for the water to be glassy but hey, can’t have everything and comparing it to the 2 others I don’t think it has anything on them.

My second favourite is this horizontal pano of the whole Milky Way arm which is 5 photos stitched together:

Milky Way at Lake Tinaroo horizontal panorama

Milky Way at Lake Tinaroo horizontal panorama

But my clear favourite is this one:

Milky Way at Lake Tinaroo vertical pano

Milky Way at Lake Tinaroo vertical pano

Which I’m so glad I went down to the water early to practice my shots as otherwise I would never have gotten this particular composition and it would have been a missed opportunity I would never have known about. I have also learnt that the Milky Way both perpendicular and parallel to the horizon makes for good shots!

Now on to playing with the 700 photo time-lapse of the sunset I got!