It is not every day (or night) that you see the Milky Way erupting from the ground with an explosion of stars, dust and gas in to space! Well that’s what this photograph looks like.
Here the red earth of Kalbarri National Park with a peak resembling a Volcano and the Milky Way to finish it off as if to be the smoke and ash plume extending from the Volcano 🙂 Well, if use your imagination!
This popular photograph featured as a 30″ x 20″ photographic print in the Earth, Above and Beyond exhibition in December 2013, and in the AstroFest 2013 exhibition (later to be sold at charity auction).
I have been working on-and-off with several shots like this, both individual and panoramics much larger than this one, trying to find the right balance between the extreme natural reds and browns of the Kalbarri gorges and the night sky. Of course there in person with no torch or other light you see a darker scene than this. But as an artist I am trying to bring the different elements of the landscape together, the beautiful dark night sky and the amazing vibrant layers of sandstone, and attempting to end up with an attractive balance. I may yet revisit this one as I continue with other images from the 4 nights at Kalbarri.
Shown are the Small Magellanic Cloud (left) with the Milky Way extending from horizon to top right. The Southern Cross and Pointers are visible not far from the horizon in the Milky Way. Antares is the bright red/yellow star near the top right corner surrounded by a little pink nebulosity. Saturn is at the bottom right, almost directly below Antares and appears fainter than Antares and the Pointers.
This nightscape was taken in the Kalbarri National Park. The foreground is illuminated using flashes with specifically chosen gel filters to best approximate daylight colours, giving you this great combination of the gorge and the night sky.
Standing here in the dead of night at the top of 100m cliffs, with large waves pounding the coastline and strong gust 60km/hour winds, a ghostly feel is given to the “Shipwreck Coast” of the Kalbarri National Park. Being there in person it is easy to imagine the horror of coming to grief on this coast some 200 years ago, in the dark of night. Now the light pollution of Kalbarri gives some sense of civilisation, but then there would have been nothing but the daunting cliffs.
This night was plagued by very strong winds, preventing me from photographing at some of the other gorges. Where I did capture successful astro photo’s I was solidly pushing down on the tripod with a steady stance for the duration of all exposures. Certainly the strongest winds I have attempted astrophotography in! The loud pounding of large waves below the cliffs was really something else.
The cliffs are illuminated largely by starlight. The light pollution of Kalbarri visible above the cliffs would have been having little impact on the cliffs in the foreground. I was surprised after 30 minutes of eyes adapting, how much of the waves and coastline was subtly visible on this moonless night.
It had been over 10 years since I last visited Kalbarri (mid-west Western Australia). Before that my family had regularly holidayed there during my childhood and teenage years. Returning now with astrophotography capabilities the 4 nights I was in Kalbarri was a bonanza for both daytime landscape photography and night astrophotography.
It was disappointing to discover in the time since last at Kalbarri urban sprawl has occurred including the introduction of many new streetlights in new housing developments, streetlights often on completely vacant streets (no houses, and obviously been that way for some time). Street lights which don’t point all the light down at the ground. Such a waste of electricity, money, and the town’s night sky which otherwise could have remained a tourist attraction. As a result it was hard to exclude light pollution from photographs at many of the gorges.
This photograph shows Venus setting over the ocean from the cliffs of Pot Alley on the 6th September 2013. Pot Alley is one of the many coastal gorges of the Kalbarri National Park. The red/yellow colours of the cliff are quite striking, lit in the foreground. This is the first of many astro photo’s I captured over a 4 night stay.
Below is a photograph showing the similar area and me during a sunset photography trip there earlier in the afternoon (photograph courtesy of my wife).
CAUTION – “DO NOT DO THIS AT HOME”! I advise against doing night photography in the gorges without proper precautions such as: Having someone else with you, other people knowing where you are, having long lasting and bright torches/lights and taking extreme care. The gorges are without doubt dangerous places especially at night, it is easier to slip at night on the dusty slopes and wobbly rocks, easy in the dark to become temporarily disorientated potentially losing your way, not see a freak wave approaching, and not realising how close you are to a cliff. The wind is also unpredictable and often strong.
Finally, here is one of many sunset photographs from the Pot Alley area:
My wife sitting under the Milky Way at Kalbarri National Park (Island Rock).
When I mentioned Kalbarri gorges and astrophotography it wasn’t long before my wife told me she was coming to make sure I didn’t come to grief. Perhaps prudent concern considering my recent ankle injury and the rugged Kalbarri landscape!
Here Christine is sitting patiently waiting while I shoot a bunch of astro pics. She’s sitting on a bench at the path which meanders 1m from the edge of a ~100-150m cliff face with no railing. It was a bit disconcerting at times hearing the huge waves crash at the bottom and having the stiff offshore wind blowing.
It’s worth taking extreme care around these gorges. The paths are generally well formed (the one shown is even wheelchair friendly!) but the cliff’s are steep and the ground often uneven, slippery with sand over rocks, or such, and mobile reception patchy. I do prefer working in a group/team at such places, for peace of mind.
Throughout my childhood my family often came to Kalbarri for holidays. It’s been 12 years since I was last here, and it’s great to return for some long awaited astrophotography at Kalbarri. In the years since 2001 there’s been significant upgrades to the national park, which together with improving technology makes astrophotography of these locations a possibility.