Balancing Act

June Lake Loop and my first attempt at astrophotography

One area of photography that I want to dive into and ultimately improve upon is the area of astrophotography. More specifically, photographing the Milky Way. Ever since a child, I've heard stories from my pops describing a white band of light spanning across the dark summer desert nights along the sky above the Twentynine Palms Highway (Hwy 62) in California. The story intrigued me as a child and it has always stuck to me. I've seen plenty of Milky Way photos from fellow photographers, I've just never had the chance to explore the camera settings (i.e. ISO, f-stop, exposure, etc.) to capture the perfect image of the Milky Way. That and a very dark, clear sky. Living in Los Angeles, a night sky free of light pollution is impossible without traversing at least 150 miles away from the city. Last September, I spent the weekend in June Lake, CA, at the foothills of Carson Peak. The night sky was clear, dark and prime for a shot of the Milky Way as it peaked through the dark skies at midnight.

The windy night didn't help with a steady exposure, but I was able to take a couple of shots of the Milky Way before I had to retreat back into my cabin from the night's merciless chilly temperature. I shot the photos with my Canon 5D Mark II, 24-105mm L lens and on a Manfrotto tripod (unweighted).

First attempt, d'oh!

First attempt, d'oh!.

The Milky Way, after some equipment tweaking

The Milky Way, after some equipment tweaking.

The Milky Way after getting the camera settings down.

The Milky Way after getting the camera settings down.

Milky Way above Double Eagle Resort, June Lake, CA.Milky Way above Double Eagle Resort, June Lake, CA.

Final camera settings adjustment and a pretty sharp shot.

My favorite shot of the Milky Way

My favorite shot of the Milky Way.

For being a complete n00b, I think the above photos didn't turn out as bad as I thought. I'm currently exploring the possibility of investing in a German Equatorial Mount (GEM) to take my astrophotography hobby up another level. Since I road trip to a lot of remote places and I take my camera gears with me all the time, this would be a nice addition to have in my collection of camera gears and glasses. By the way, the Prius took the worst beating of its life during this trip:

The Prius took the most beating of its life during this trip, but can't complain when it costed only 2 full tanks to travel 900+ miles round trip

The Prius took the most beating of its life during this trip, but can't complain when it costed only 2 full tanks to travel 900+ miles round trip

Not so much the drive to June Lake, but the drive to get to Bodie State National Park. About 11 miles of fresh paved road, followed by 3 miles of dirt road which took roughly 20-25 minutes to traverse. At time, it felt like the Prius was falling apart from all the rocky road, boulders, rocks and bumps.

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