Monday, May 28, 2012

My first point and shoot Milky Way photos inside the Summer Triangle

I was visiting with friends this weekend at Lake Roaming Rock, and we ended up having clear skies last night. I did some of my usual star trail photos, and I was amazed by the view to the east above the trees. The Summer Triangle was huge in the sky, and I realized I was in the darkest area I've been all summer. I knew the Milky Way should be visible just inside the triangle, and I could just barely make out a slight wispy white glow.

I was hopeful that this could be my chance to capture Milky Way light on my point and shoot camera for the first time ever. I maxed out my settings at 1600 ISO and 15 sec exposure, hoping to gather as much light as I could.

On my camera's LCD screen, I could barely make out a darker smudge going across the frame. When I got the image home, I played around in Photoshop for about 15 minutes trying to tease the contrast out of the picture. Using the HDR Toning tool under Image > Adjustments, I was able to bring the highlights forward.

Here are the results:

milky way in summer triangle processed in photoshop
Milky Way in the Summer Triangle using Canon Powershot A3100 IS

milky way in summer triangle processed in photoshop
Incomplete Summer Triangle (pan slightly left) using same equipment

The Photoshop HDR Toning settings I used for above photos

Ok, so the first two images were of Milky Way features after some very significant processing. Here is a comparison for both images before (straight out of the camera) and after (adjacent to the final product)...

milky way in summer triangle processed in photoshop

I labeled Vega as an anchor so you can compare the features of the Milky Way through the summer triangle for the before and after images. Both 'before' shots were taken at ISO 1600 for 15 sec with a Canon Powershot A3100 IS. 

For my FINAL comparison, I wanted to see if the mirky over-processed clouds in my pictures were actually from the Milky Way and not just an artifact of all the post production manipulations. Here is a direct comparison with an image by Joe Plocki in 2007. I searched Flickr for a Milky Way image inside the Summer Triangle with a creative commons license. 

milky way in summer triangle compare
Is the noise in my image actually the Milky Way? 

Several of the features look similar, except for the obvious difference that Joe has a much prettier photo than I do. I am able to conclude that I was indeed successful at capturing a very faint image of the Milky Way that became more apparent after messing around in Photoshop for a bit. It is definitely a baby step in my night sky photography career, but a milestone nonetheless. I'm very happy!

1 comment:

  1. Hey man, Joe Plocki here. I'm just going through flickr, which I don't often do, these days, and I saw your link on a comment on my photo again. I clicked it, out of curiosity, and I didn't give you enough credit the first time. Wow, how you lined up your photo with mine, I'm impressed. I'm so out of practice these days, I read my commentary, and don't even know what I was thinking back then. Man how life changes. I hope you're still doing the good work. I'd love to get back into photography like I was, and to be able to complete the projects I was into, but I just don't know. Anyway, I'm glad you found my photo useful, and I hope you keep going at it. Best of luck!