Set your sights to the Stars / by Dennis Soans

All of us need a vision, and time to time we need to re-evaluate them to see if we are on track to meet it.

In my case, photography is a passion and I have come to realize that just having passion is not enough. Passion, Vision and Commitment (PVC) go hand in hand to make our dreams come true.

On Astronomy Day - May 14, 2016 - I made an effort to bring my PVC to fruition. I had actually marked my calendar for May 7th, way back in 2015 knowing (using the Photo Pills app) that it would be a New Moon day which would allow me to have the least light pollution in my quest to capture the Milky Way in all its glory. When that day arrived, the prediction was for cloudy skies over the Shenandoah Mountains - the closest dark site near where I live (check out Clear Sky Chart for a location near you) so I had to push it out to the following week and lo and behold, May 14th arrived with clear skies and it happened to be Astronomy Day as a bonus...!!!

I made the 63 mile trip to one of the viewing points on Skyline Drive and arrived at 1:30 am, just in time to see the moon disappear below the horizon. I set up my Nikon D750 with the Nikon 24-70 mm lens on a tripod and set it at 24mm, f/2.8, ISO 2500 and 20 second exposure. I used my radio trigger to open the shutter so as to limit any vibration. My selection of the exposure was arrived at using the 500 rule explained well here. It was windy and cold and I was barely warm but stuck it out for an hour shooting several shots and ended with a panorama shoot consisting of 11 photos each with a 20 sec exposure. The Nikon D750 has excellent ISO performance that got me almost noise-free images even at ISO 2500....!!!

So here is what I came back with (all 11 images stitched together using Adobe Lightroom CC) and it will soon be on my wall at home, as a large glass or metal print..!!!