“Big Dipper over Fraser Lake”

Big Dipper over Fraser Lake 2013

“Constellations shine with light that was emitted aeons ago, and I wait for something to come to me, words that a poet might use to illuminate life’s mysteries. But there is nothing.”
― Nicholas Sparks

My first foray into astrophotography. Wow! There’s a heady handle!

I’ve seen so many spectacular images of the Milky Way and constellations that I was determined to try my hand at this. So, with tripod in hand, and some sage advice from the internet, I set out to capture an icon of the north, the Big Dipper, Ursa Major.

My first impression was “Man, it’s dark!”, I have to find my way down to the waterfront in the dark, try to retain as much of my night vision as possible, set up my camera without falling in the drink, and hope for the best, based on a few dubious night photography articles, not knowing what my camera was capable of.

In a nutshell, star shots require a fast lens, like my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8, fully open to let as much light in as possible, a steady tripod, and a long exposure of no more than 30 seconds, because anything longer will show visible star trails. Yes, the earth turns quickly enough to show that movement in a long exposure photo. Still sticking to my maximum 200 ISO discipline, as side benefit of which is reduced noise.

Well, here goes. All set up, according to untested instructions. Frame composition, without being able to really see it…set aperture…focus…click…..wait, for longer than expected…don’t move…hope….click…look…hey, not bad! An image, vaguely resembling my intent appears as a preview on my teeny,tiny, screen. Make a few more images, just in case. Mission accomplished. More waiting. Overall , a process of hope and anticipation of what might be.

Now, back to the computer, download images, adjust in Camera Raw…smile! Images turned out, success on the first try! The Big Dipper reveals itself from the background, exactly as expected (and hoped for with crossed fingers). Unexpected surprises: there is still residual light from a sunset long since passed, lights from cottages across the lake shine brightly, and the Big Dipper dominates the frame, exactly as hoped for. Deep sigh of relief, this stuff actually works!

I’m so happy to have been able to capture this scene, which is not only familiar, but such a big part of my outdoors experience in a place which I love. It’s the first recognizable constellation to reveal itself and show itself in such a wonderful way, hovering over Fraser Lake, floating over the remains of the day. I am at peace.

Nikon D300
Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 @ 17mm
30 sec, F/2.8, ISo 200

For more images like this, please visit my Facebook page:
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6 thoughts on ““Big Dipper over Fraser Lake”

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