Earlier in the summer I shared our annual family photo from the beach (we call it Camp Manitou), but I didn’t take the time at that point to share any artistic images from our time at Isle of Palms, so I wanted to do that now.

Last year I captured a picture of the Milky Way, stretching out over the beach, and I wanted to shoot the night sky again this year (with my new camera!)… but with a fresh idea.  I like the beach, of course, but it’s can be challenging to take compelling pictures of it.  At the end of the day, it’ll always have a board flat horizon, and at night, the waves will get lost in the long exposure. So… what to do.  One of the things I always enjoy looking at when we go to the beach are the boats.  There’s just something cool about marinas I think.  Well this year I decided to try mixing all that together, and the image above is what I came up with!

The capture part of this one was a little complicated, so let me explain (for those that are interested).  Boats, even sitting in a marina, move – no way around it – so shooting a really long exposure of a bunch of them will likely turn into a blurry mess.  Plus, to get close like this shot, you basically have to be standing on the dock… which means you’re moving some too.  More blur.  The second issue is that where the boats are, is always where a bunch of houses and businesses are, which means lots and lots of light pollution.  Not a good thing for trying to capture the Milky Way.  So how I solved all this was to capture this scene in two “takes”.  One for the boats, and one for the sky.  The boats I captured late in the blue hour.  There was a still enough ambient light that my shutter speed was only a few seconds, so the boats and everything else was nice and sharp.  The camera was pointed in the correct direction such that if it were possible to see the Milky Way, I was looking in the right direction (I personally like to at least honor celestial mechanics when I do these “blended” shots – not every one cares).  Then I went to the coast and shot the Milky Way out over the Atlantic, which is the darkest spot near Charleston, and I blended the two images together in post processing.

What I’ve learned in my endeavors of taking pictures of the Milky Way is this – the conditions of the sky have as much to do with getting a good shot as the camera gear you’re using to capture it.  You of course need a good camera to get the detail, but if you’re shooting through lots of humidity and light pollution, you’re not going to come away with as good of an image as possible.  BUT, this is really true of any scene, right?  If the conditions don’t play out… the image just isn’t going to be as great as it could have been.  All that said, given that this was near a sizable city here in the US, and it was really humid (as it always is at the coast), I think this one turned out pretty good!  🙂

More next week!

–Dan Thompson

TitleAddress Description
Cades Cove
50 41st Ave, Isle of Palms, SC 29451, USA

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