Natures Window (Kalbarri, Western Australia)
Natures Window wth the Milky Way astrophotography
Back in August 2016 I had family holiday up in sunny Kalbarri and managed to get out to do astrophotography on one night. Natures Window has long been on my target list but it has it’s challenges! So many challenges that I’ve been sitting on the images and processing them on and off over the last 3 months, still struggling with most.
If you think of doing astrophotography at Natures Window take precautions!
- There is no mobile reception
- It is VERY dark
- There are steep cliffs surrounding the window
- It is easy to trip on the undulating rock in the dark
- It’s quite a drive inland, some of it un-surfaced and bumpy, which you need to take carefully due to the abundant wildlife that can jump out in front of your car
To manage the risks I had my Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) with me, had a set time my family was expecting me home and used white light whenever moving around the rock feature near the cliffs, to easily see what was in front of me (I find red light can easily hide detail, especially hen the ground is red!).
Natures Window is difficult to photograph for astrophotography. The primary reason is that you cannot get away from it! Once near it, the cliffs drop away on either side after a short distance. This leaves you with limited framing opportunities and the need for a very wide angle lens.
I have many more photographs of it to process, but they are taking some time! Maybe another 3 months 🙂
Pre-dawn celestial signs of the Wheatbelt. Pleiades, crescent Moon and constellation of Orion.
Continuing on from my early morning astrophotography session out in the WA Wheatbelt in July this photograph is from just before dawn, the golden twilight colours showing and progressively hiding the stars. The Pleiades, constellation of Orion and other stars are still clearly visible along with the delicate crescent Moon low on the horizon. Low mist is in the distant valley with a hint of the green wheatfield visible. What a magical time of day.
This astrophotograph was taken with my Fuji X-E2, my current favourite camera. Colours are exactly as shot in-camera with no increased saturation or altered levels. The Fuji X-E2 does a great job of rendering colours and controlling noise. This is a HDR composite of three exposures in order to retain the Moon which would have otherwise been overexposed. You can see the crescent is white, with “Earth Shine” illuminating the remainder of the Moon.
The Moon, photographed using a Fuji X-E2 camera on a William Optics Megrez 90 telescope.
Well, it may “just” be The Moon but it still satisfies an itchy camera trigger finger! This was a casual snap using my Fuji X-E2 on the Moon. To be honest it’s the first time I have used the Fuji for the Moon, and it performed very well as expected. Great low noise levels and fun using the remote connect and transfer app to the iPad, saving me craning my neck in to position to check focus. The v4 firmware update from Fuji for the X-E2 introduced Electronic Shutter, which makes for silent and vibrationless shooting which was fantastic in this case by removing the vibration otherwise introduce by the shutter. The lighter weight camera body compared to my 6D makes holding it firm on the telescope easier, as there’s less weight to pull on the focuser draw tube and associated fittings.
The moon was not quite full in this photograph, about 12 hours off being full, so you can see a little bit of shadow detail on the left.
I traveled to one of my favorite locations in the WA Wheat belt for a night of astrophotography on Saturday 2nd July. Unfortunately it wasn’t long after arriving that the rain started! (even I can’t always predict the weather with 100% accuracy.). After much analysis of the weather predictions I set my alarm for 4am and went to bed. 4am came and wow was it a clear sky! A quick excursion ensued, exploring the surrounding area and coming across some fantastic nightscape scenes.
My first surprise was when I turned out the gate from the paddock on to the road, walked a few steps, looked up, and wow, there was Orion! Hello Orion! It’s always so surprising how quickly Orion comes back to our morning sky.
Constellation of Orion rising in pre-dawn Zodiacal Glow down country road.
Turning to the south another fantastic sight greeted me. This time the Magellanic Clouds perfectly positioned over a wonderfully sculpted eucalyptus tree.
Magellanic Clouds in Wheatbelt WA
To cap it all off, here is a beautiful panorama of the Moon rising low over mist and cloud with the star cluster Pleiades on the left, the constellation of Orion on the right, and beautiful zodiacal glow extending up from the horizon. Oh, also throw in just a hint of beautiful pre-dawn colour on the horizon.
Pre-dawn bliss. Pleaides, crescent moon rising, Zodiacal Glow, and the constellation of Orion!
The Horsehead and Flame Nebulas in the constellation of Orion.
People often don’t realise how hard to see the horsehead nebula is. It is quite a faint nebula located in the constellation of Orion, faint enough that you need a reasonably large amateur telescope (for example 15″ aperture reflector such as a dobsonian) and dark skies to visually see it.
Photographically the Horsehead is well known and captured by amateur astronomers. It sits along side one of the brighter stars in the constellation of Orion, Alnitak, which is one of the three bright stars making up the Belt of Orion. The Flame Nebula is also located adjacent to Alnitak.