The one thing a Texan returning home looks eagerly for is a sign that says “Don’t Mess With Texas”.
This monument welcomes motorists coming over the Red River from Oklahoma (now, if you are curious about where this is, Google maps can help you). I had photographed this previously in September 2015 on my second Milky Way shoot with my friend Uday Tummala who showed this to me.
I had wanted to go back and shoot this early in the season rather than in late summer since the Milky Way moves further to the right of this frame and gets diluted by the light pollution coming from the nearby town. Yogesh Mhatre was a willing partner and joined me on this shoot on a weekday night.
Astrophotography is a challenge in so many ways.
1. You can only shoot the Milky Way core during the warm months since in the winter months it sets too soon.
2. You need to be in a fairly dark sky area to be able to see and shoot the stars.
3. You should not have moonlight.
4. The weather has to cooperate and you need clear skies.
So quite literally, the stars have to align and when they do like they did on this particular night, sacrifices like losing sleep on a weekday become meaningful.
I used two exposures for this shot. One for the sky with star tracker turned on and an identical one for the ground with tracker turned off. The light trails are courtesy of truckers entering Texas.
A website FAQ asks:
What is there to do at Redfish Lake?
Relax and enjoy the scenery! Rent a boat from the Marina to explore the lake on your own. Sunbathe on the sandy beach. Hike: there are plenty of trails around to lead you to gorgeous backcountry. Saddle up at the Redfish Corrals. Stop by the Redfish Lake Visitor’s Center. Eat a hearty meal in the restaurant. Sip a cocktail in the lounge. Gaze at the Milky Way in the crystal clear night sky. Fish a nearby stream.
While did not do most of the leisurely stuff described above, I did get to gaze in wonderment at the Milky Way in a really dark sky area. I had wanted to shoot a panorama of tracked longer focal length shots for some time. A well known astro photographer Eric Benedetti shoots spectacular Milky Way panoramas in this fashion. He also shoots them mostly in this area which gave me the motivation to try something similar. This was shot the night before the Great American Eclipse from the nearby Stanley Lake.
I used a star tracker to gather more star light than I could without a tracker. For the ground portion, the tracker was turned off. A total of 30 exposures were then stitched into a panorama. I also used a 55mm lens which is more commonly used for portraits. Apples to apples, a longer lens gathers more light than a wide angle lens. (You can read about Clear Aperture Ratio here : http://www.clarkvision.com/articles/nightscapes/)
My biggest challenge with this panorama is blending the sky and ground parts like it would be in one large wide angle shot. Thanks to John Burge for the pointers. John shoots some fantastic longer length panos (85mm and above). Do check out his work..
The peaks which frame the lake at its south end are
· Mount Heyburn at 10,229 ft (3,118 m) on the Right
· Grand Mogul at 9,733 feet (2,967 m) on the left
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