“Galactic Cave” By Adam Woodworth

Galactic Cave, Maine
Galactic Cave, Maine, By Adam Woodworth

This shot has been in the planning for about two years or so, and I finally had a chance to try it this winter. A lot of things needed to come together for this to work. It had to be early in the year (at the start of "Milky Way season") in order to even see the Milky Way from inside the cave, and I needed clear skies during the new moon when the tide was low enough to get in and out of the cave and still have enough time to try various angles and take all the shots I'd need. All those things came together except for some clouds that obscured the lower part of the Galactic Center of the Milky Way, and it was bitterly cold and very windy, although it was calm inside the cave. I think the ambient temp was somewhere between 0F - 5F. I had to snowshoe down the hillside through the woods to the shore, then put on Microspikes to cross the ice covered rocks and carefully make my way over to and inside the cave. All in the dark, but with a headlamp of course.

Note that I won't be saying exactly where this cave is located. It's not exactly a secret, but it has been removed from guide books for good reason: It's a fairly dangerous place and you could be swimming your way out if you're not careful, and it houses a fragile environment in its tide pools. All the signs for the cave, and the railing that lead to the entrance, were removed many years ago to protect those inexperienced from getting injured or stranded.

You'll notice that there's a lot of color in the sky, there's orange light from light pollution from towns up the coast, there's some green from airglow, and the reddish color might also be airglow.

Nikon D800E with Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 lens @ 17mm. Like most of my night photos, this is a blend of multiple exposures to get the scene in focus and exposed from the foreground to the stars. Technically 13 exposures were used to create this final image. Ten exposures of 10 seconds each at ISO 6400 were used for star stacking of the sky. Those exposures were blended using Starry Landscape Stacker for Mac. Then three other exposures were used for the foreground at ISO 1600 and at different focus distances, f-stops and exposures lengths.

Breaking Twilight, Panorama At Portland Head Lighthouse, Maine By Adam Woodworth
Breaking Twilight, Panorama At Portland Head Lighthouse, Maine, By Adam Woodworth

This is another shot that had been in the planning for a couple of years, but I never tried it early enough in the year to capture the Galactic Center before it was too far south for this location. I didn't have a pano in mind for this originally, but as I was planning the shoot, I thought I'd give it a try.

You'll notice that the photo goes from dark on the right to bright on the left. The shots that make up this panorama were taken at the start of astronomical twilight, which means that the sun was approaching the horizon (but still about 90 minutes away from sunrise) and close enough that its scattered light brightens the horizon. The glow starts around the area where the sun will rise, which is why the middle-left side of the image is brighter, and then on the far left it goes into light pollution from the Portland area and gets very bright. But also, the shots took about 15 minutes, so within that time the earlier shots (I started from the right) would be darker than the later shots as the sun was getting closer to the horizon.

I took 12 vertical shots for this, from right to left, although maybe only 9 or 10 were needed to produce the final result. Each shot was at ISO 3200 for 25 seconds at ƒ/2.8 using my Nikon D800E and Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. The raw images were then prepped in Lightroom and stitched and edited in Photoshop.

You can learn more about how I edit photos like this in my "Landscape Astrophotography Editing Workflow" video, which features over two hours of detailed information regarding my personal workflow for editing landscape astrophotography images.

These images are available as prints through Adam's website. To see more of Adam's work, visit his website at www.adamwoodworth.com. You can also follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Google+, 500px, and Instagram.

Adam Woodworth is a landscape photographer, award-winning filmmaker and software engineer. He has had a love of photography for most of his life and one of his main focuses is landscape astrophotography. His earliest memory of gazing up in awe at the night sky was as a child in a canoe on a lake in Maine, fishing at night. The intensity of the star-filled sky in such a peaceful spot was a powerful experience, and now he enjoys sharing that experience through his photography.

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