Hurried drivers are crossing the Swiss Alps on their way home for the weekend, unaware of the display of eternal beauty above.
When I see a great landscape image, I immediately start wondering if it could be captured with Milky Way in the sky. That’s exactly what happened when I saw an image from one of my favorite Swiss Photographers, Sandro Bisaro, taken on Furka Pass: flic.kr/p/zo4B18
After finding out where exactly Sandro captured it and checking MW positions with my planning app, I found that my envisaged composition was possible in August. As I had no experience with car trail images, I was not sure if I could pull this off, but after reading some online tutorials, I decided to give it a try.
After setting up during sunset, I first shot the foreground part during dusk from 9:30 to 10:00 LT. It consists of 25 exposures in landscape orientation, ranging from 20 seconds to 4 minutes taken @ISO 100. The big change in exposure time was needed to get an equally bright foreground, while it was getting dark very fast.
Then I had to wait 4 hours for Milky Way to move into position. Of course I captured other images while waiting, but I left my tripod in place to keep the FOV. When Milky Way finally was in the right position at 2 am LT, I took a two panel vertical panorama, each consisting of 2 x 10 images of 10s @ISO3200.
During post processing I first stacked the foreground images to produce a nearly noise-free image. To get the red and white zig-zag effect, I then added the lights I need with the lighten function in PS and masked out all the rest.
For the sky, I individually stacked the two panels with fitswork4 and stitched the two resulting images with PTGui. Then I merged the sky with the foreground in PS and applied the final processing.
What looks like a normal image, captured in portrait orientation, is therefore a 3 panel vertical panorama taken in landscape orientation, consisting of 45 single exposures taken during the same night over a time of 4.5 hours. It is by far the most complex image I ever produced, involving a lot of planning, some luck with the traffic and weather, severe sleep deprivation and quite a bit of freezing during a very cold and damp night in an alpine environment. In other words: It was exactly what I am after as a nightscape photographer…
Canon EOS 7D mk ll
Samyang 24mm f/1.4
Unguided 3 panel panorama:
Foreground: 25 x 20s – 240s @ISO100
Sky: 2 x 20 images of 10s @ ISO3200