The Salvaged shot of the Milky Way

Last night, I went to the Adirondacks for a little bit of self-reflection and night photography.  My goal – capture the Milky Way as it spanned the cloudless, moonless night.

It was an honorable goal, shall I say.

And I’m still trying to capture it.

Let me explain.

On Sunday afternoon, I made sure all my camera equipment was ready and active.  And that included a brand new SD storage card for my Nikon Df camera.  A nice fat 64g SD card.

Then came the 2 1/2 hour drive deep into the heart of the Adirondack Mountains.

I had a couple of location shots available – and in searching around, I found a good spot along a small pond, just off Route 9.  No street lights for miles.  Traffic – minimal.

Okay, Chuck, stop stalling and get your gear set up.  Mother Nature ain’t gonna wait for you.

8pm.

9pm.

10pm.

I pass the time by watching YouTube clips on my fully-charged BlackBerry PRIV.  Do you know how many different Epic Rap Battles of History there are?   Lots.

11pm.

Showtime.

I looked into the sky.  The Nikon Df is fully charged.  The new 64g chip is inside.  I switch between a 28mm f/2.8 lens with 15-second exposures, and a full-open 55mm f/1.2 with 10-second exposures.

My eyes are trying to adjust to the darkness.  They say that most people can’t see the Milky Way, just because of the brightness of light pollution in their cities and towns.  That’s why places like the Adirondacks are perfect for stuff like this.

Okay.  It’s here somewhere.  I test some shots up and down the length of the pond.

And then eventually I find –

Is it?

Do my city-dwelling eyes deceive me?

Is that a cluster of stars over there, by that tree line?

More shots.

I spend an hour and a half at the shooting location.  Everything.  Panoramic shots.  Long exposure shots.  Shots along the roadway – heck, if there are no cars, this could be a great opportunity for yours truly to get a shot like this.

Okay.  Everybody back in the car.  And it’s time for the two-hour drive back to the Capital District.

2:30 a.m.  I put the 64gig SD card into my computer card reader.  Oh boy this is going to be great…

<CARD NOT READABLE>

Ha ha, computer, that’s funny.  Funny like passing wind in church.

I take the card out.  Put it back in.

<CARD NOT READABLE>

No.  No no no no no.

I just shot all night for this.

Aw man…  Brand new SD card and I get THIS.

Urgh.

Son of a…

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, my computer pulled a few pictures out of the SD card – a very few – and stored them in my DropBox account.

I don’t remember asking the computer to do that…

But let’s see what it caught.

Okay.  Here’s one shot, right along the tree line.

Stars along the tree line. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Stars along the tree line. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Damn it.  I’ll have to ask my computer tech and rescue expert Dylan to do his magic and pull the other pictures off this SD card.

But wait… along the tree line…

Is that…

Only one way to find out.

A couple of YouTube clips to figure out how to adjust selective contrast (and a few more Epic Rap Battles of History clips), and…

Milky Way and tree line. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Milky Way and tree line. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Holy stars and skies, Batman…

That’s the nebula of the Milky Way galaxy, alongside that tree line!

Fist pump!!

Okay, Miller.  Calm down.  Deep breath, buddy.  But yeah, fist pump fist pump I caught the Milky Way on my camera!!!

I got this one… but there’s still over 150 photos on the SD card that are trapped in a digital dungeon.  And there may be better shots on the card, shots I didn’t yet get to process.  And once I get those off the chip… I might have even better shots than this one.  Maybe.

And even if this image I pulled was the best shot on that SD card…

I know that the next time I venture into the Adirondacks on a clear, summer night…

I can plan for an even better location to capture the full Milky Way galaxy.

On my first try … I got this close.

And it’s inspiring me to get even closer, if I can.

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