Forresters Beach Astro – The Story Behind – 10 Seconds of Forever
Milky Way Photography – read all about it! So this is an occasional series where give a full account of a particular image… in this case it’s all about – ah-hem – staying safe…
My original photo story went something like …
10 Seconds of Forever, Forresters Beach, NSW
Forresters Beach is one of my favourite Astro beaches in Aus. The standalone rocks toward the edge of the rock-shelf keep calling me. One day I will get low tide and little swell, and get closer to them than I have to date. The tide was running moderately and only up to my ankles on the main rock shelf. I set up as close as I could to where I needed to be rocks-wise, and began the painstaking process of composing the image and setting precise focus in the pitch black. I got nearly set – and then a slightly larger wave would come in, nudge the tripod legs, and I needed to start all over again.
Eventually I perched myself atop a large rock. And a good idea that was! The waves started, very unpredictably and erratically, to come in much faster and bigger. So there stood I, my small backpack firmly on back, tripod firmly set up, and the waves rushing either side of the rock.
I grabbed 20 or so exposures for the core for Sequator, and one for the sea. For aperture, I used F1.4 and experimented with a lot of shutter speeds, took another dozen or so frames, to get this.
I look back on this image and am so in awe of what I saw that night in the sky above me, the sound of the waves, and how immersed I was in taking the images.
A few more details:-
What you don’t see.
The South End of Forresters Beach is a good ten minute walk along the soft sand. I walked along the sand, backpack on, tripod in hand, head-torch glowing. Ahead of I could see very little, but what I could see was the moisture and sea mist in the air swirling like a thousand fireflies into the torch beam. Very eerie and surreal. Plod, plod plod through the very soft sand, most of which is at quite an angle.
When I arrived at the rock platform at the South end, it was really dark, really noisy, and really awesome. It was just a teeny bit dangerous as well. The challenge is that it is such a large flat shelf, the conditions you encounter are so very different each time. A few inches of tide height means you lose tens of metres of shelf depth. A bigger swell, rushing waves, and half the shelf will be off-limits for safety.
So I was careful, and standing on a metre-tall rock was indeed the way to go, to get myself well out of the way of any rogue waves. It played havoc with my back, though, standing there on an angle taking two or three dozen 30 second exposures! There was me, and of course my tripod, in not too much space! I was careful to note the tide levels, as well, due to an incoming tide.
I cannot, however, put words into how surreal and immersive it all was. The noise around me, the salt in the air, the Milky Way above, almost visible to the naked eye, and the LCD on the camera showing Pure Gold with each image. I was truly alive.
What I saw Afterwards
Ah, back at home. Phew. I recalled the conditions, and was so pleased with how many variants I had captured from one evening before I grew too tired. It was clear I had a ‘Hero’ shot from the evening. A well framed Milky Way with really good foreground. And it was such a different shot! I sort of followed the rule of thirds, but not quite.
I used a number of images to blend to make the final shot. Because I had a very surreal outcome in mind. It took a while.
- To get the ‘smooth’ feel of the Milky Way, I blended all the layers I had taken, around 20 of them into a program called Sequator. This removed all the noise from the sky.
- I then chose a couple of separate images for the middle ground rocks. It’s very hit and miss but I used a torch to light some of the rocks. Doing this even with a little practice will give you frames with overexposed rocks and black rocks. So I blended a couple of frames in using masks in Photoshop.
- Lastly, for the wave movement, I took a few separate images at my maximum aperture, F1.4. I used 6400 ISO to enable me to get a shutter speed of 5 seconds which was not too smooth. I then blended in the best single layer for wave movement with a mask in Photoshop
Am I Happy?
I am sooo happy, as would any photographer, to get such a different image of what is essentially the ‘same old shape’ of the Milky Way.
Canon EOS5D Mk III ~ Samyang 24mm ~ 15 secs F2.8 sky and rocks ISO 3200 blended with 6 secs F1.4 waves ISO 6400
The Berowra Photographer. Well, the Forresters Beach Astro Milky Way Photographer this time.
Psst – It was actually 15 Seconds of Forever but Dave Brock wouldn’t be happy with that, now would he?