Zolt Levay  

Milky Way over Yellowwood Lake by Zolt Levay

May 2020 - Milky Way over Yellowwood Lake

About the Image(s)

This night-sky landscape was taken in late March before sunrise at Yellowwood Lake in Brown County, Indiana. This is a favorite spot not too far from home that is far enough from any towns so the sky is reasonably dark and the Milky Way is visible on clear, moonless nights in spring and summer. There was a breeze but the long exposures blurred out the ripples in the water and allowed the stars’ reflections to be visible. The glow on the horizon is from Louisville, Kentucky, the only major city in that direction, but some 100 miles away.

This is a panorama stitched from five vertical frames taken with a Nikon D850 DSLR and Nikon 20mm f/1.8 lens. Exposure for all frames was 10 sec., f/2, ISO 2500. The frames were post-processed and merged in Adobe Lightroom. The three morning planets are visible to the right of the trees on the left: Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars.

5 comments posted

Cheryl LaLonde   Cheryl LaLonde
Very beautiful! I really like the symmetry on each side of the water adding balance to the image. The reflection of the stars is nice and the color looks correct to me for the milky way. The only minor things to add would be to go one row higher! When cropping, I like to put the horizon at the bottom 1/3 of the rule of thirds leaving 2/3 sky in an image like this to emphasize the milky way. One more row would accomplish this or you could crop out a bit of water but then you lose some of the beautiful reflection. I personally would have dodged and burned the milky way a little more but that is a personal preference. Some photographers would think that it looked over edited.

  Posted: 05/09/2020 11:36:36
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Robert Atkins   Robert Atkins
I really like astro landscapes - I'm jealous because I've never done them myself. I think this is a really nice shot.

For me, there are two things that might make this image even stronger. First, the reflections of the stars are a bit distracting to me right now because they appear brighter than the stars in the sky (probably because the moving water has spread them out and made them larger). They are also set against a darker background than the sky and there aren't that many of them - they almost look like big dust spots. The second thing is that my eye is drawn to the light pollution on the horizon more than the milky way - I think this is partly because it is brighter, and partly because the yellow color is a stronger complement to the blue sky.

I played around as follows. I cloned out the reflected stars and then brought them back in a little so they are more diffuse reflections. Then adjusted the tone and saturation of the light pollution to be more consistent with the pinks of the milky way. I saturated the milky way a bit more to further enhance it as the center of interest, and then I cropped the bottom which seemed very dark.

Just some thoughts. It is a nice image either way.
  Posted: 05/09/2020 14:17:26
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Zolt Levay   Zolt Levay
Thanks for the comments, I pretty much agree with all the suggestions, will take that into account for the future. These are of course rather difficult to process without going too far. The Milky Way is marginal at best from this location so requires fairly aggressive adjustments.   Posted: 05/10/2020 08:18:53

Dale Yates   Dale Yates
Great image! I like the symmetrical composition and the details of the night sky! I agree with the crop at the bottom in removing the star reflections and with the enhancement to the milky way. I personally like the light on the horizon as I feel that an image can have more than one area of interest.   Posted: 05/17/2020 09:06:22

Emily Kawasaki
Beautiful image and great capture of a amazing and rare scene (at least for city-dwellers). I also agree that reducing the brightness of the star reflections on the surface of the lake help keep the focus on the sky. I also like the slight tinge of yellow color over the horizon as an interesting bit of contrast to the cool, dark shades across the rest of the image.   Posted: 05/20/2020 09:51:05


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