Twinkle twinkle many many stars

There are many advantages of living thousands of miles from civilisation. We can watch our movies on full volume without worrying about the neighbours (I doubt the penguins would file any complaints with the local police). We can run outside totally naked when the temperatures reach -49.9, but the best part about living so far away, is the lack of pollution… Especially light pollution. The sky at night unveils a magnificent array of dots, blurs and shapes. You have to stay outside for 10 minutes for your eyes to get accustomed, during which you’ll almost freeze your bits off, but it’s definitely worth it.

I went outside a few nights ago to appreciate the cold air, which only Antarctica can provide. The way it stings your nose and makes you cough if you take a deep breath. The way your eyelids freeze over and develop blobs of ice, making it difficult to blink (I’m not exaggerating here, it really does happen). Knowing full well that the Sun is eagerly making it’s way back to us in a few weeks, I realised that the Antarctic night sky would soon disappear, leaving sunny blue skies and pale white moons. I figured I better get out and capture a sky I know I’d miss…

Unfortunately, The Man has yet to invent a decent affordable camera that can accurately portray what the human eye sees when he looks up at the stars. Despite this, I grabbed my faithful Canon 20D, attached my 10mm wide lens and pointed up, snapping photos with gusto.

The initial results were disappointing. Too dark or too grainy, but mostly out of focus. The main problem with stars is focus, as it’s virtually impossible to see a star through a 10mm lens let alone see enough of it to focus. This is exacerbated by the fact that it’s a really bad idea to stick a magnesium-alloy camera body next to your face in -40 air, so looking through the eye piece is very difficult. The auto-focus is no good as there’s not enough light for the censor to read. So, I stick the lens on infinity and I proceed with a series of trial and error photos and try to nail the focus…

I take a photo of the stars (ISO1600, f3.5, 30sec @10mm) and look at the screen for the results, I then carefully zoom in on a star to see if its in focus. The star has probably moved a little in that 30 seconds, so I have to take that into account also. It’s hard to do this in ideal conditions, but when you’re standing outside in total darkness with cold hands, a colder camera body and a screen that now updates itself over 5 seconds due to the crystals freezing in the display… you can imagine the hassle. Anyhoos, I repeat this process for a good 30 minutes, until I’m happy with the focus levels.

A bit grainy, but you can clearly see the Milky Way and pleeeeeenty of stars.

A bit grainy and over-exposed, and the stars have moved too much. Stupid stars bah

Here’s straight up.

The best shot I took was an angled shot of the Laws. It was my line up photo for a few more, but my battery died and I couldn’t get any more. The sky above doesn’t quite look as vivid as above, but it’s so much brighter than anything I have ever seen before.

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2 Responses to Twinkle twinkle many many stars

  1. Jonno says:

    Looks fantastic! =)

  2. matthew says:

    I think that first photo is fantastic, wow.

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