Larry Treadwell  

Luna's Torch by Larry Treadwell

April 2021 - Luna's Torch

April 2021 - Larry Treadwell


About the Image(s)

Luna’s Torch

Nikon D850, 24-70mm lens, ISO 1600, f2.8, 15 second shutter speed.

The so called “Milky Way Season” is once again upon us. Beginning in March and extending into November the Milky Way becomes visible in the northern hemisphere and this means on clear nights I’ll be out with my camera photographing my favorite subject. Fortunately I live in an area where there are some dark skies and so when the weather gods grant me some a clear night I’m out and about.

March 15th was my first opportunity of this “season” to attempt a capture. Although the position, altitude and time changes throughout the season the basic compass direction is above the southern horizon between the south east and the south west. Fortunately south Florida has a dark southern sky as there is nothing between our southern coastline and South America and this makes viewing the Milky Way quite simple. This month’s image was taken from a roadside turnout along the Overseas Highway that extends from the Florida mainland to Key West. I left my home at about 11 p.m. and drove some three hours to reached my destination just south of the famed Seven Mile Bridge. After parking at the turnout I scrambled toward the sea over several hundred feet of seaweed covered wet sand and broken coral rock at low tide. As you can see from the image the Florida Keys are so flat that the rising and receding tides may expose great amounts of so called beach at low tide. Armed with my camera, a tripod, a folding lawn chair and my Yeti thermos of iced teas I sloshed across the beach in search of a foreground. Using the app Photophills I was able to locate a lone dead tree amid the exposed rocks seems to be in an adequate position, so I set up my chair and camera and settled in to wait for the Milky Way to rise. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a clear night rapidly became cloudy and much of the time the Milky Way was obscured from view. In this image you can part of the core (a reddish area just above the central branch of the tree) trying to push through the clouds. But the real star of this image is the moon just clinging to the horizon on the left edge. It was something different and the sole reason I kept this image. I would have liked to shift the camera angle more to the left but doing so would have introduced light from street lights on the 7 Mile Bridge so this composition was really all there was. The tree and the rocks in the foreground were illuminated by light painting using my Petzl hiker’s headlamp on low setting for only 2-3 seconds of the 15 second exposure. The ISO was 1600 and the aperture 2.8 with a focal length of 24mm. I remained in my chair, with my feet and tripod slowly being soaked by the rising tide until the light from the sunrise obliterated the Milky Way. Just before daylight, the clouds mostly cleared and I captured another image that showed more of the Milky Way. That image has been posted on the DD Group #36 page this month. Once the show was over, I packed my gear and began the drive home. Although I did stop at an outdoor breakfast nook for a Florida Keys breakfast. When I finally got home, it was time for a well earned nap.

5 comments posted

Michael Weatherford   Michael Weatherford
Hi Larry, Great story and beautiful image. You are certainly a "photographer for all seasons". I'm wondering if you did any special processing to enhance the stars and clouds.   Posted: 04/09/2021 21:18:10
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
In answer to your question I posed the original. Other than some cropping and the sinking of a ship on the right horizon there were few adjustments. I increased exposure. Then using a tightly spaced gradient filter, increased the whites to make the stars pop. Added a bit of dehaze to open the clouds. added a tiny bit of saturation to bring out the colors of the Milky Way and then +2 vibrance. I repeated the tight gradient filter on the bottom and added a bit of yellow to the already yellowish coral, and adjusted shadows and reduced highlights caused my my flash light. Finally I took the adjustment brush, and added some exposure to the tree by tracing the branches. Then I used the brush to add an handpainted vignette at the bottom, and did assorted dodging to the clouds and foreground rocks. Nothing heavy handed just some light strokes.   Posted: 04/10/2021 07:34:37

David Kepley   David Kepley
Larry, I'm jealous of your ready access to areas without low ambient light! I live in an area where the Milky way is never visible! Love the story of how you got the shot. Long night for you!! I'm certainly no expert in Milky Way photography, but this is very good.

Suggestions: Too bad you had some clouds to deal with. I think I would have just light painted the tree and not the rocks. Perhaps crop off the bottom 1/5 or so of the photo? I would not have guessed that the bright light on the left was the moon if I had not read your synopsis. It looks like car headlights.   Posted: 04/15/2021 09:26:57

Todd Grivetti   Todd Grivetti
Very nice capture of the Milky Way Larry. I love the concept of the tree in the foreground to provide depth. I like how you captured the tree with light painting as well, although it does appear a little more washed out taking away from the real light show from the Milky Way. I do like how the clouds added some additional relection and filtering. Always hard to capture the sky when there are clouds.

Hopefully you didn't too wet with the tide.   Posted: 04/19/2021 23:29:40

Richard Matheny   Richard Matheny
OK I will definitely remember that the Keys are a good place to shoot the Milky Way. The next time I am down there I will put that in my plans. I would like to know if you had to go all the way to the 7 mile bridge to get the dark sky or was that just a favorite place? Good work finding a nice foreground. Using the Gradient Filter with the white slider to make the stars pop is something I would have never thought of doing. I believe I agree with David I probley would not have given so much attention to the rocks and would have even toned downed the tree some. You still need it in the foreground just toned down a smidge. It seems to draw more attention the the tree that should be going to the Milky Way. That's just a personal thought,.   Posted: 04/20/2021 13:20:00


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