This last weekend I had some down time and took off for the north coast to explore and visit friends. Anyone familiar with that part of California must also know how remote some parts can be. The upside is there is almost no light pollution. Being in the heart of summer also meant I could stay comfortably outside well after dark. Once your eyes adjust to the pitch black night, all the stars reveal themselves and after about 20 minutes you can see the all the Milky Way galaxy dust lanes with the naked eye.
I have always wanted to explore the wider view as well but never really had such an opportunity. One look up at the sky and I couldn’t help but think this was going to be easy to capture with my Canon 5D Mark III – as it usually captures at least twice what I can see. I figured I could stack a few wide shots and be done.
In anticipation of this trip I added a new lens to my kit, the Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8. I will post more on that later. I am very satisfied with how it performed. The shot above is a panoramic of several shots at 16mm, f/2.8, ISO-1600 and 30 seconds. I also shot dark frames (with the cap on). However once I got back home and started processing the RAW files I realized I did not need the dark frames, nor did I need to stack the shots. I am impressed by the high dynamic range of the 5D Mark III RAW image data.
The image processing was done in Canon DPP. The panorama was stitched with PTGui. The final editing and prep was done in GIMP. This was where most of the work was done, mostly with light curves and masks to limit the effects of light pollution from the San Francisco Bay – even though we were several hundred miles north, the effects were still noticeable – see lower right corner of sky.