Kata Tjuta Milky Way

Last June I visited the red centre of Australia and was fortunate enough to be given permission from the traditional land owners to stay in the park after closure to shoot the milky way. The aboriginal culture has an interesting interpretation of the night sky. Where Europeans mapped objects using the stars the Australian aboriginals mapped objects using the dark nebulae between the stars. Here as the milky way rises the dark shapes in the core reflect ‘the emu in the sky’.

What technical feedback would you like if any?

Anything. This was by far the darkest sky I have ever seen with no human light behind the formations for about a thousand kilometres. I’ve processed this image low key to reflect how dark the sky was.

What artistic feedback would you like if any?

Anything, Do you have a preference for the silhouette or the image with details in the foreground?

Pertinent technical details or techniques:

(If this is a composite, etc. please be honest with your techniques to help others learn)

I shot the night sky with 12 15s exposures at F3.5, ISO 8000 at 16mm. I stacked the night sky images using starry night stacker to remove noise. The image with the foreground is a single longer exposure for the foreground only at 101s, f3.5, 16mm, ISO 8000

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You may only download this image to demonstrate post-processing techniques.


Terrific night sky image and especially of course the Milky Way.

I think your main question is regarding the foreground element. for sure, the silhouette and really just the shape of the rocks works nicely regardless of whether or not they’re dark or have detail. For me, the inclusion of the land and rock formation could work - provided the details are there. In this case the vegetation is pretty soft, it looks a little noisy and the brighter areas really are detracting.

The silhouetted version on the other hand works very well just having the basic outline of the rock formation as the anchor to the Milky Way image. The silhouette version is the winner for me.

One observation. In both versions it looks like your blend still has some stars - or at least bright points coming through in the land/rock area. I would clone those out as if they were dust spots.


What Lon said.
I prefer the second with maybe slightly more detail in the foreground to breakup the blackness. The composition is two lines in a box. Maybe play with how that’s working if there’s more file to work with, or not. How convenient that a map of the stars and a map of the Emu, is the same map.
TY for post

I’m on board for the silhouetted version. The sky and FG white balance do not quite go together in the first IMHO

Great work Nate, Areas with very dark skies like that are often difficult to shoot as exposure times tend to need to be a bit longer and it gets difficult to balance tack sharp stars. I personally prefer the one without the silhouette even though the foreground is pretty noisy it still works better for me. For me the silhouette version might work better if you darkened the bit of grass at the bottom as for me it takes away from the rest of the darker foreground. As Lon pointed out in both versions it seems like you have a few hot pixels which I would try to clone out.

Nathan, I really like your sky here, the Milky Way, and the processing of it look great. I like the blue tone in the sky, that’s my personal preference for MW images. It’s amazing how the stars can look when you have truly dark skies like you had here.

In terms of the foreground I prefer the non-silhouette image, despite the noise. I like the muted color of the red rock and the grasses. I’m okay with movement in the grasses, personally I would have tried a foreground exposure at lower ISO for more like 4 or 5 minutes, and accepted grass movement to get less noise. I would try to do further noise reduction on the land as presented, it may or may not be possible to rescue this further. You could even take the grasses (but not the rocks) darker to hide some of that noise.

I think the silhouette is not as interesting as presented, too much dark negative space with too little detail. If you were going to go the silhouette route, i would try something like this crop instead.