Somersby Astro – The Story Behind – Stars Over Somersby
Astro 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 – well it was a massive(!) night
My original photo story went something like …
Stars above Somersby, Somersby Falls, NSW
This photo is possibly the photo I’m most proud of for the whole 2022 year. I’d had a an idea of an Astro photo of Somersby falls in my mind for a while. I had seen images on the web and forgotten what they looked like, but recalled that it had to be taken in or around August. And of course the falls needed to be flowing! The weather had been lousy in terms of clear skies all year, but one night I decided that I was going to make it happen. I got to Somersby Falls by around 6:30.
And boy it was an experience.
Pulled up in the car in the pitch black. When I say pitch black, I mean pitch black. I could see nothing, but that didn’t stop my senses being somewhat alerted by the gentle pad, thump, pad of animals running past in the bush. So I assumed they weren’t venomous or carnivorous. I opened the car door and blackness and the damp descended. The house near the car park is now abandoned, and that just added to it. I immediately got shivers and goosebumps all over my body.
With my breath condensing in the night air, and a full backpack and tripod in hand, I descended the wet and slippery stairs into the ….
A few more details:-
What you don’t see.
This had to be one of the most challenging shoots I had ever done. Standing on wet rocks by the ocean you can generally see at least an odd light in the distance. This was working in the 100% pitch black. And in hindsight it was a ‘take a mate’ shoot. Although – in my opinion – there was only room for one to get ‘the shot’! In addition, I couldn’t get the tripod to ‘sit’ due to the water and also the boulders on the floor. So my compositions were just a few degrees out. Rinse and repeat!
What I saw Afterwards
Ah, back at home. I took one look at the source files and thought – that can wait! I had really only taken two compositions, one with a 24 mm lens and one with a 14 mm lens. Realistically it would have been really good to have had around about a 20-22 mm lens. I’d taken many, many, images and wasn’t ready to sort through them at the time. I took in many variations of light painting so the tree branches were a mixture of lights and darks. Add in many variations in exposure to capture the Milky Way correctly, and also to capture the foreground accurately. As such I had up to two dozen frames that I needed to pick from.
My first step was a really basic blend of the trees, I chose several images and masked to include the well-lit branches, from the dark branches (where I missed with the torch) to given even coverage. That gave me a base image. I then masked and blended in the Milky Way, as I usually do, with a mixture of contrast and clarity masks.
The final ‘glue’, which was after a good few weeks after I really got the base image right, was to add a subtle blur, some vignetting and to get the overall lightness correct for printing. Once I had worked out that I wanted to give the image a painterly feel, I then worked on that, refining the contrast and vignetting and this again took several weeks.
It’s amazing what happens when you revisit an image after two to three weeks. Sometimes you get a blinding flash of the obvious that you’ve done something completely wrong, and it looks genuinely bad. In which case you start again. But that’s OK. I didn’t actually start again here, but the gaps also helped the workflow.
Am I Happy?
For personal reasons, I’m particularly happy with this image. It just resonated with me. Some images do that, some don’t. There is no rhyme nor reason to it. I think this is possibly my favourite photo of last year, however I actually did take a lot less photos last year, a combination of poor weather (clouds for Astro, conversely clear or grey skies for landscapes) and illness.
Canon R5 ~ Samyang 24mm ~ multi-exposure blend ~ F2.8 ~ ISO 3200
9.5 / 10 (If only I had a slight wider coverage would have been the 10)
The Berowra Photographer. Well, the Somersby Astro Photographer this time.