“Celestial Neighbours” by Luke Austin

Long timed exposure of the Milky Way over Clay Cliffs in the Canterbury Region of the South Island New Zealand

Celestial Neighbours by Luke Austin

This is an image from a trip I took to the South Island of New Zealand during 2013. I was aware of the “Clay Cliffs” that are located on a private property in the Canterbury Region of New Zealand. While doing a little research on the area prior to the trip (using Google Earth, Images, and the Star Walk app), I visualized an image I would try and seek out. I like to have a few shots planned in advance but try to keep an open mind on location as it is easy to get tunnel vision.

I set up the main composition around dusk and took a series of exposures with different focal points (from the immediate foreground to infinity). These exposures were to be blended during post processing to ensure the image was sharp front to back. I would then be able to control the overall clarity and depth of the image as I saw fit. The night sky exposure was taken around first light as the Milky Way was positioned on a slight diagonal across the sky in the West.

The area has a large population of nesting birds that return to their nests around dusk. It was a strange experience…….. The sound of their fluttering and chirping bouncing off the walls of the natural amphitheater. Although things quietened down as the dark of night took hold, it was still very eerie hearing the occasional flutter bouncing off the walls.

Once I returned from the trip I used a variety of techniques during post processing to blend the exposures and highlight particular areas. An image close to what I had initially visualized was the final result. – Luke Austin

This image is available as a print here. Based out of Perth, Western Australia, Luke Austin runs photography workshops across both Australia and New Zealand. He also offers one-on-one tutorial sessions both online and in person. To find out more about the photography workshops available and to view more of Luke’s work visit www.lukeaustinphotography.com. Follow him on Google+ and Facebook.

Equipment and settings: Nikon D800E, Nikon AF-S Zoom Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED AF lens. Sky exposure: 25 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 1600 – Stacked exposures for rock detail: 1/10th at f/8, ISO 100