City on the Horizon

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Image Credit & Copyright: Faisal Alhathal.

In this great image, we see the Milky Way galaxy in a different format then we’re used to.  Instead of the towering pillar of billions we see it here as a city glowing on the distant horizon like a mirage, begging you to drive towards it though you will never reach it, I just love it! The image was captured about an hour outside of Perth

One of my favorite aspects to promoting (in my tiny way) night sky photographers images is hearing the stories behind them.  It’s not until you attempt night sky photography yourself and or listen to the stories of the night sky hunt do you get a real appreciation for the planning, preparation, time, cost, etc. that goes in to producing these images we all love.  That’s why getting permission and giving credit is not just the legal thing to do; it’s just flatout the right thing to do.  As I was just over a paragraph into trying to capture the story of this image it dawned on me that he was telling it pretty damn good himself.  So below is the story behind this image and I think you will not only find it entertaining, but I also think that it will help open your eyes to just now challenging night sky imaging can be.  Have a great day everyone!

“A little about this image: It was actually a rather odd experience and in hindsight a funny one. As you can imagine, getting a proper shot of the milky way require a lot of planning and preparation since the most prominent part of it is only visible during certain months in the year, and only in certain days (moonless). Add to that, weather variation can be a limiting factor as well. So on the day I took this shot, I set out to drive about three hours from Perth to avoid any light pollution. I had checked the weather and all seemed to be perfect. Two hours into my journey (around 6pm), I noticed a cloud cover began to develop ahead of me (I was driving north-east). The clouds were moving in an eastern direction. So, I decided to alter my route and instead of going north (into the clouds), I will head east (along the line of the clouds). Later, the cloud began to move south (directly toward me!), albeit slowly. By this time, I had driven for about 4 hrs! Not wanting to give up as I might not get another chance anytime soon, I decided to race it down south in the hope that I could manage to get a good shot before it creeps in.

 

During that period of year, the MW becomes most prominent between 9pm up until around 1pm. By 9pm (5 hrs into the drive), I realized that there is no chance I could manage this today. But since I am there already, I convinced myself to wait in the hope that the weather clears up in the next 2-3hrs. I waited until midnight to no avail. By then I was exhausted from all the driving and the desperation so I decided to head back home. An hour before reaching Perth, all of a sudden the cloud cover disappeared and the milky way became visible to the naked eyes! Finally there is an opportunity even though Perth light pollution was very strong, as evident in the image. But I have no interesting foreground and it is too dark to see. Knowing that this window of opportunity is small as I could see more clouds creeping in I decided to use the road as a foreground. But I was driving in a road that is heavily trafficked by mining and shipping trucks.

To take a proper image, I need to position right, prepare settings, make sure the tripod is well placed and not being affected by the wind as it was very windy (at least 30-40k/h). Add to the that the exposure is at least 25 seconds. So it would easily take me about 1-2 minutes in the middle of the road. To cut long story short, it took me about 15 times to find these two minutes. Every time I set up my gear, a truck comes along. two or three times I literally had to run with my shutter still open. One of the main difficulty was that the road bends ahead of me as you can see in the image, so I could not really see incoming trucks until they were literally about 200-300 meters from where I was standing. I could not also hear them because the wind were blowing towards to the trucks.” – Faisal Alhathal

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