Stars And Spray

The Milky Way arcs downward to the raging seas of the Tsitsikamma coast, South Africa.

The Milky Way arcs downward to the raging seas of the Tsitsikamma coast, South Africa, passing rugged folds of quartzite (I think – I’m no geologist) gently lit by nearby cabins. This was also posted for +African Tuesday *African Rocks* on Google+ so let’s also assume a good proportion of these stars harbour planets or asteroids, many of which will be composed of rock! (and metals, and gas) Technically they aren’t African planetary rock formations yet, but Africa has the Southern African Large Telescope located in Sutherland, South Africa, and the Square Kilometre Array will be built across South Africa and Australia. So there’s a good chance that planets will be discovered through the lens of African “glass” and by my book that makes them African rocks.

This is a mindblowing place to sit hidden among the rock folds for a few hours in the dark night, waves quietly crashing around, silence behind, millions of jewels shining above, and the galaxy slowly – noticeably – drifting across the sky.

Technical notes: 15 seconds at probably f/3.2 or f/4.0 using the Samyang 14mm f/2.8 (manual aperture so not in Exif), which is an outstanding lens and great fun to use – very sharp in the corners/edges and not much coma (there’s some trailing in the very limits of this image due to the exposure time) on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III at ISO 3200, which is a very low ISO from someone who’s used to cranking up the 7D to unforgivable noise limits and still needing 25-30 second exposures, which all the trailing that entails. Mounted on a Manfrotto 190 CX PRO 3 tripod with a 501HDV fluid head, accompanied by a can of Castle or two.

Who Tore The Sky In Two?

The light around the galactic core of the Milky Way fills the skies above the red dunes of the Kalahari, from our vantage point at Killiekrankie Desert Camp.  The light trails beneath are from a neighbour's torch, searching for the lions which were seen earlier on atop the dunes to the left.

On our recent adventure in the Kalahari, South Africa we embraced all opportunities for star gazing.  En-route to the Kalahari we’d stopped off at SALT – the Southern Africa Large Telescope and had enrolled on a stargazing tour with them – this turned out to be an incredible introduction to the stars and constellations of the Southern Hemisphere. I put into practice what I’d learned and I was soon spotting the Scorpion and Orion, Leo and the Jewel Box (an incredible and intense selection of stars that twinkle an array of colours).

Each night we never failed to be impressed by the sheer volume and variety of stars and planets that could be viewed with the naked eye.  The immediate darkness of the night was quickly consumed by the brightness and volume of the stars, planets, milky way and magellenic clouds overhead. Many a happy evening would be spent  stargazing in the company of jackals whilst the braai roared in the background.

What amazed me was the milky way – it appeared as if the sky had been torn in two. Without the aid of any binoculars, telescopes or camera lenses you could see this incredible division in the sky and make out individual stars, planets and spot what looked like black holes in the centre of the milky way. I was immediately hooked.

I cannot take credit for these amazing images, they are solely a result of the hard work and dedication of my very talented hubby, Alistair Knock. Any questions on lens, composition, gear, “how on earth’s” etc please direct to him… I would be useless answering them.

For more of Ali’s work see the Sky Challenge Blog and his ‘Space’ gallery.

A well deserved glass of wine under the Milky Way and the Large Magellanic Cloud next to the tent at Kalahari Tented Camp, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.  Wow.

Sky: Challenge, #1

A photograph of the moon in monochrome, highlighting Tycho crater

I’ve set myself a non-committed, loosely monitored, non-binding frequency photography project. Objective is 5 photographs per week, not necessarily posted on the same day they were taken, and the subject will be: Sky.

I just missed the most recent full moon by a day (the Moon Phase Pro app on Android Market is excellent for reminders, but doesn’t help the weather) but this is close enough. This is taken through a telescope pointing at the southern hemisphere of the moon, which I’ve rotated 90 degrees clockwise so that the bottom is pointing to the left.

Unusually, I can’t fit the moon fully into the frame with my telescope – it turns out I bought the wrong one for astrophotography, though it’s great for viewing, and so I can only focus with an SLR when I’ve got a 2x Barlow lens in the eyepiece holder. With crop factor from an APS-C camera I think this means it’s effectively a 2080mm lens, and the vibrations you get from the slightest movement testify to this. This image shows rays of ejecta from the Tycho impact crater are clearly visible on this rotated image of the near full moon taken on 14 August 2011. This is a slight crop of an image taken using a Canon 7D and 650mm reflecting telescope with a 2x Barlow. Shutter speed was 1/30 second though I’ve decreased this by nearly 1 stop.