Jumping into Astrophotography
Has something you love ever frustrated you thoroughly? Over the past six months or so I have been trying to get into astrophotography. I've seen some really cool photos and videos other photographers have produced and I thought it's time I learn. It seems the sky's the limit (pun semi-intended) in getting to have fun with it.
At first try I thought, "how hard can it be?!" Just point the camera to the sky at night, set the focus to infinity, do a long exposure, and voila, stars in my photos! Seems simple. And so the joke on me began. I did just that several times, thinking each time would be different. Oi vey was I wrong.
Living in Southern California proves to be a challenge when it comes to astrophotography. You think it's dark out because the sun is gone, but the 100 miles of city creates something called, "light pollution." This makes for a real challenge in just seeing stars with the naked eye. Put a camera to it and the night sky isn't so much black, but just an orange haze sprinkled with soooome stars. I figured I just needed to drive a bit out into the desert and I would find gold. Nope! I got more stars, but still tons of light pollution that killed my ego as it killed the photos. It made a long drive feel like an utter waste of time.
So, I began to do some research on "how to do astrophotography."
For my iPhone, I found an app called Sky Guide. It is basically a point and look map of the sky with millions of constellations. It works with gps and can show you future dates of where stars will be. It's really helpful.
Then I found some help from some other photographers, namely a guy who runs a site called Lonely Speck. After watching a couple videos, I felt I had at least a little knowledge in my brain to have another go.
Another helpful site is called Dark Site Finder. They have a Google map overlayed with a light pollution map. It's pretty amazing on how far I have to go, at least for where I live, to get out somewhere actually dark
I headed out to Death Valley a few months back. Thankfully when I arrived, there was a large cloud cover and no stars visible. Checking the weather app, it said the sky would clear up around 2am and so I went to sleep with my alarm set for 2am. Upon waking up, I was treated to the most brilliant night sky I had ever seen. I could nearly see the belt of the Milky Way with my own eye. I got to finally see what God made in the sky. So awesome!
Looking at the below images, the orange glows are coming from far away cities. Even in the middle of nowhere, there's light pollution. But that's ok.
Recently I took a spur of the moment drive out near Edwards Airforce base, using the Dark Site Finder. It's not in the darkest of areas, but it was much darker than LA or Orange County. To my naked eye, it was a brilliant sky that words can't describe. City lights kinda ruin it, but I kinda like it sometimes. It makes me think of how God created us and He keeps watch over us. There's a merging.