When one of my friends suggested going out to Joshua Tree to shoot the Milky Way, it dawned on me that it's been about two years since the last time I attempted to capture this elusive piece of the sky that can only be accessed during certain times of the year. Knowing that my opportunities to shoot the Milky Way were limited, I agreed to head out on a Friday night to see what I could come away with. You may recall my last attempt, and the things I learned from two years ago here.
This time, I left the headlamp at home. The one I bought was far too clunky and hard to manage, and it just didn't feel comfortable on my head. Instead, I brought along my Lume Cube Air. It was a lot lighter, and also worked just fine as a flashlight to find our way in the darkness of Joshua Tree. Oh, and that intervalometer? I haven't touched that thing for two years LOL. Since I'd be shooting with my EOS R, I brought along this small shutter release that is so easy to use and takes up less space in my bag.
This time we were going to the Jumbo Rocks campground in search of the penguin rock and juniper tree we've seen before online. They were fairly easy to find, and after a long drive which seemed like forever, we finally made it. I'll never forget rolling down the window and being in awe of all the stars, and of course the Milky Way which on this particularly clear night, could be seen with the naked eye. It was so amazing. It made me want to throw down a blanket and just stare at it all night. I didn't of course, because the Milky Way was constantly moving, and we needed to set up to get some shots. We used the "Star Walk 2" app to see where the Milky Way would be. However, since it was visible on this night, it was pointless for us to use it. I really love this app though. It's free, and very cool to put your phone to the sky and see all the constellations.
You can see why they've dubbed this "penguin rock".
We experimented with a few different light sources. Sometimes my Lume Cube Air was too strong. I basically had to flash the light quickly and cover it up to avoid overly lighting the scene. Using the light from an iPhone was surprisingly a great way to get a nice soft warm light on the juniper tree.
This shot was lit by my Lume Cube Air. Since I only brought the white diffuser with me, it emitted a cool light, and I think I like this look more than the warm light. It was interesting to see and experiment with the ways you can light a scene like this. On the flipside, this also took a lot of time. Astrophotography takes a lot of time and patience. We spent about 1.5 hours in the park, and came away with few photos considering the amount of time we spent there. Still, it was fun to wait 30 seconds to see each exposure! My general camera settings for these were f4, iso 3200, and 30 seconds. In retrospect, I should've brought a wide aperture prime lens with me, but my widest lens is a 35mm f1.4L, which isn't wide enough to capture the whole scene from the vantage point we were at (which was basically on the rock the juniper tree is on). I used a 16-35 f4 lens the whole time since it's the widest focal length I own.
One thing I wanted to try, but didn't get a chance to do was some light painting with a small flashlight - maybe spell something cool out. I ended up ordering this small pocket flashlight should the next opportunity present itself LOL.
Next time, I might also try some silhouette shots using some sort of strong light beam. I know it's so cliche, but I think it'd be fun to experiment as I'm still new to astrophotography. I have a few bucket list spots for astrophotography on my radar, and really hoping to hit up another spot before Milky Way season is over! Thanks for reading! 😊
EDIT: Side note - I'm pretty sure my body is still recovering from the contortions I had to do. 😆