Milky Way Symphony
Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, Maine, July 1, 2014, 01:04 AM. On Monday night I helped Mike Taylor with a private night photography workshop for Eastern Maine Camera Club. We had a great time and this is one of the images we captured. The light on the horizon is the lighthouse on Baker Island. The meteor was just sheer luck! I saw it streak overhead while I was standing there with my hands in the air like Dr. Soran trying to get back to the Nexus, and hoped it was in the first 30 second exposure of the sky.
I used a Promote Control in HDR mode and shot three exposures of 30 seconds, 80 seconds, & 200 seconds in 1.3 EV steps at 14mm, f/2.8, & ISO 4000. I then shot the three brackets again at f/22 with the lens cap on to create dark frames and removed the hot pixels with PixelFixer later—free download at http://pixelfixer.org/ I had already held my hands in the air for 5 minutes and didn’t want to repeat it for long exposure noise reduction in camera! Haha!
For post-production, I edited the RAW files in Lightroom. I kept the manual white balance of 3450° K and added some highlights and white to the darkest frame with a little clarity, vibrance, and saturation to make the Milky Way pop. I added a bit of highlights and lights to the tone curve as well. I also added some noise reduction, sharpening, and lens corrections. For the longest exposure I added some contrast and dropped the exposure and shadows some because it was quite bright compared to the dark sky of the shortest exposure. I then blended the two exposures in Photoshop manually with masks. I didn’t need the middle exposure, but it’s good to have more than you need than not enough! To select the sky for my mask I disabled red and green channels leaving just blue and selected highlights with the color range tool, then re-enabled the other two color channels. I had to touch up the mask some manually and add some feathering to the edge, but it helped select the lifeguard chair and myself against the sky easier. I softened the edge along the horizon in the distance, but left it pretty sharp against the chair in the sky.
After shooting this we turned north and shot timelapses of the chair in front of the North Star (Polaris) to get circular star trails until astronomic dawn. Unfortunately clouds started rolling in, which makes for a great timelapse, but not great star trails. So we decided to pack up and shoot the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, which did not disappoint through the clouds! ;-)