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Chasing the Milky Way… and a comet

By on July 25, 2020 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments
A speckle of stars reflect on Jameson Lake.

By Marilyn Sherling

First off, let me give you my photographer’s credentials. 

I have none. I am an amateur photographer who loves taking photos as a hobby. 

So, what you see here is a result of that interest.

When I was a kid, my folks let me borrow their Kodak Brownie camera to take pictures when we were on vacations. 

I bought my first camera when I graduated from high school. I had received some cash for graduation gifts and I put it together to buy an Agfa 35mm Rangefinder camera with a 50mm lens. I used a separate, hand-held, exposure meter to determine my aperture and speed settings for taking the photos. 

Over the years, I have taken photos of a myriad number of subjects.

The comet Neowise as photographed in mid July at an abandoned farm just east of Douglas.

One of the subjects that really piqued my interest is the night sky. I grew up in the city (Los Angeles county) where you could barely see any stars at night. 

But, as time passed, I was introduced to the beauty of the sky in very dark places. I photographed star trails, Halley’s comet, and home made a tracker apparatus for my camera to take time exposures of Jupiter.

Fast forward to a few years ago and the purchase of a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera and chasing the Milky Way was born. 

Milky Way photography can be very complex and there is a plethora of information on the internet on how to perform it. 

I’ll just mention that the most interesting photos often contain the galactic core, which is only visible in our hemisphere from March to September. 

It needs to be completely dark to capture all of the details possible in the Milky Way, so a person needs to know the exact times of sunset, and when astronomical twilight ends and true dark begins. 

You need to pay attention to the moon phases, and take the photos during the new moon, or after the moon has set, if there is one. Settings for ISO and speed are determined by your camera and lens type. 

Here are a couple of photos I have taken of the Milky Way here in Eastern Washington. 

I am not pushing any products, but I have a little app on my iPhone that is a treasure called PhotoPills. It gives you all of the information you need for determining sunrise/sunset, moonrise/moonset, twilights, dark, location, position of the Milky Way and the galactic core, plus a million other things. 

If you haven’t already tried shooting the Milky Way, give it a try. 

As this issue was going to press, a new kid showed up on the block — Comet Neowise.  

A comet is a rare thing, doesn’t stick around long, and can’t be ignored. So it entered the chase in the northern skies.

Marilyn is retired and greatly enjoys spending time in nature — either learning about the natural world we live in by day or observing the      wonders of the night sky.

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