How I made this shot
Camera Sony a6000
Lens: Samyang 12mm f/2
Tripod: Sirui T-2205x
The “500 rule” states that you can divide 500 with your focal length to get the maximum time you can expose to not get star trails. In this case my focal length equals to 18mm because of the cropfactor. 12mm x 1.5 = 18. Using the “500 rule” 500/18=28. So I can expose for 28 seconds if I want to avoid star trails. 30 seconds is close enough.
White Balance: 2900K
Location: Rubjerg Knude lighthouse, Denmark
I used the mobile app “Star Walk 2” to check if the milkyway were in the right position, yet I knew it had to be from earlier experiences.
The composition is always hard. In this case, I knew I wanted something like this with the lighthouse in one corner and the milkyway bended towards it from the upper left. The combination of being on a huge dune, the pitch black darkness and the strong winds (it was a stormy night) made the conditions very, very hard, since sand kept whirling into my eyes. I literally had dust in my eyes for the next three to four days. Half blinded with pain in my eyes and with my shoes all full of sand, trying to protect the camera and lens from the worst damage I tried out a few different locations. The first ones was ok, but I came up with the idea that I wanted to show the blowing sand on top of the dune. I pulled a bit back to change the perspective and line up the buttom of the lighthouse with the top of the dune. I used live-view and zoom to focus on some lights in the horizon to find “infinity focus” and shot five shots. At that point I didn’t know if this was what I wanted, so I tried a few different other locations, just to be sure I had enough to choose from when I got home (see the “outtakes” underneath).
During the shoot I simply couldn’t manage to position the camera in the best position to get a proper vertical shot, because of all the sand blowing around. I didn’t know if I wanted a vertical in the end, but I figured that with 24mp I could afford to make a crop, if need be, so I kept shooting horizontal.
Obviously you have to use a tripod for these kinda shots. And being on a dune where the wind blows I pushed it hard into the sand. A few places I used some bricks, which lays scattered around the place, to support the legs and keep the tripod down. I also covered the camera and tripod from the wind with my body to minimize vibrations even more.
I did a local adjustment of the milkyway part of the picture in CameraRaw where I increased the whites and the clarity by 24 and 36. I then put all five pictures into PhotoShop. Here I collected all five layers into one smart object and put the stackingmode into median to reduce noise in the buttom part. After this I masked out the sky, which were all blurry because of the medium stack. I then importet the picture with the sky I wanted. To further brigten up the milkyway I created some luminosity masks to specifically target the lighter parts of the milkyway and increase those. I also brightened the lighthouse a bit.
As a finish, I cleaned up the picture, cropped it, added some denoise (using the Nik plug-in) and moved the three bright stars in the upper left a bit into the picture to get them away from the edges.
I wish I managed to do a vertical. As you can see the picture is actually heavily cropped, which ofcause is not optimal. I also wished I had arrived or waited half an hour longer for it to be darker, but I was afraid clouds would cover the area and I didn’t want to stay in those harsh conditions longer than necessary – after all the camera is not weather sealed.
Outtakes from the shoot