Sunrise Milky Way

Image Description

I noted in my night sky apps that, it was going to be a good night to shoot the Milky Way. Headed out to Loveland Pass, Colorado to shoot the stars. There was only one other photographer there, he and I were there to witness the rising sun with the MW still visible. The glow on the horizon, I surmise, was due to the 13,000 foot ridgeline, lit up well before sunrise. There are no towns for many miles beyond that ridge. On the way back to the Denver area, I witnessed a spectacular sunrise of the same tone which illuminated the ridge.

Type of Critique Requested

  • Aesthetic: Feedback on the overall visual appeal of the image, including its color, lighting, cropping, and composition.

  • Conceptual: Feedback on the message and story conveyed by the image.

  • Emotional: Feedback on the emotional impact and artistic value of the image.

  • Technical: Feedback on the technical aspects of the image, such as exposure, color, focus and reproduction of colors and details, post-processing, and print quality.

Specific Feedback and Self-Critique

I used a variety of techniques to isolate the light / darks of the MW, including luminosity masks and dodging and burning to highlight the MW. Conversely , reducing the hightlights and glow of the light of the rising sun.

Technical Details

3 x 5 shot pano segment images. 5 images were stacked for each of the 3 segments, before combining into 1 panorama. Shot with a full spectrum Nikon Z6 with a UV/IR hot mirror filter. 13 sec f2.2 ISO 3200 20mm f/1.8. Edited in LR/PS, utilizing lumonasity masks.

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Very nice stars and nice light in the sky, with the hint of sunrise color. Were the 5-image stacks for NR? The pano stack of the 3 has given you some artefacts, though. Maybe better to revisit and try it by hand. Three repeats in the UL, an odd smudge with repeats in the LL, a sharply-defined lighter area in the UR and some strangeness at the right edge where the sky meets the horizon.

What software? More details on how you stacked?

Hi Gary,
that’s a beautiful nightscape shot. The rising sun adds a special atmosphere to the scene.

I agree with @Diane_Miller about the artifacts. This should be easy to fix.

Additionally, I wonder what the image would look like if you cropped it differently. Neither the sky nor the mountain have anything interesting to offer on the left side. On the right are the beautiful Milky Way core and the details in the mountains below.
So perhaps the overall balance would be improved if you cropped the image quite a bit from the left side.

Your picture makes me want to photograph the stars again. Well done!

I use Starry Landscaper Stacker (Mac OS) to stack images, which helps reduce noise in the final stacked image. Very easy to use. Typically, I will stack 16-24 images on on single image of the MW. I probably over complicated this shot hoping for a MW pano. For Windows uses it’s Sequator.

I haven’t used SLS in a long time but I think it generally works very well – but each stacked image aligning stars will have artefacts in the ground area from it being different relative to the stars in each exposure, so when you do the pano you’ll need to mask out the ground as the program can’t align both the stars and the ground – they won’t match. It looks like it tried to make up the info here but failed to do a good job – expectedly so. You should get a good result by doing separate FG and sky panos and then combining them. Just one exposure for each frame on the ground should work well, as you can use a longer time and lower ISO.

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Overall the image is a wonderful view Gary. Once those technical details/artifacts are worked out, this is a winner. The fact that there is some color from the coming daylight is a neat effect.