Up From the Lake

Milkyway above Washington County Fishing Lake, Kansas

In my last post I talked about getting out to photograph the full moon rising.  I try to never miss that.  Another regularly occurring event I’m getting hooked on now is the new moon.   Why? Because that is the best time to get out and photograph the stars.  I hate to think of the moon this way, but in terms of photographing the stars, the moon is a big source of light pollution.  It needs to be out of the sky.  The actual new moon isn’t until the 8th, but the moon was out of the sky early enough this weekend to make things work.  Both Saturday and Sunday evening were beautifully clear (with the forecast calling for cloudy nights the rest of the week).  I didn’t decide to go out Saturday until late that evening (and only after being prodded and motivated by friends and family) so I had to shoot somewhere close to Manhattan.  I ended up at Carnahan Creek.  Sunday I was more organized and made it up to the Washington County Fishing Lake, where the skies are much darker than around Manhattan.  The photograph above was the best one from this weekend.  I also learned an important lesson this weekend.  When you photograph stars, focus of your lens is critical (which any book on astrophotography will tell you). Obviously the stars are a long way away and your lens is going to be focused at infinity.  Books on astrophotography will all tell you not to trust the infinity mark on your camera either.  Well guess what I had been doing? Ignoring all the advice in those astrophotography books and assuming that the infinity mark was ‘close enough.’  Well it wasn’t…not even close.  I checked it Sunday night and was amazed at how far off it was.  When I actually focused on the stars instead of just setting my lens to infinity I got much better star shapes in my photographs.  Moral of the story? When people that know what they are talking about tell you how you should be doing something to get the best results, you should probably listen!

I did remember to take some time and just watch the stars while out photographing them.  I wonder who or what out there might have been watching back? And if they were taking pictures, were they following the advice of people that knew what they were talking about?

Watching and wondering

Me watching the milkyway in Washington County, Kansas.

You can view more of my “moon and stars” type photographs at this gallery:

Scott Bean Photography – Moon and Stars gallery

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