It’s not the camera – until it is.

I am super excited to share this series of images with you over the next couple of weeks because for me they represent an advancement in technology.  I have tried and tried to capture the Orion Nebula and the greater Orion constellation with varying degrees of success, but even still, I’ve always thought I could do better.  This past winter I set my mind to capturing the winter Milky Way, which is much much fainter than the dramatic end of the Milky Way you typically see me post.  I failed – a LOT.  Right as we were saying goodbye to the winter skies here in East Tennessee, though, I managed to capture this scene, thanks to a new camera system I got (I almost hate admitting this).  I’m excited to share this particular image with you because now I KNOW I can do better.  You’ll be seeing more of this end of the Milky Way next winter for sure.

When I talk to people about photography, I feel like I spend a fair amount of time trying to convince people that the problem with their images is not the camera, but rather poor choices during the creative process.  As a testament to this, the images you’ve seen posted on this blog from the last several years were all taken on a camera that was launched in 2012 – that’s 9 years old as of this writing.  In technology terms, that’s ancient, BUT it still took great images, when I put myself at the right place and time, and executed well on the capture process.  Night images, however, is where this story falls apart.  Night photography, and very specifically photography of the night sky, is the most demanding thing we can ask of our cameras.  On top of this, camera manufacturers put filters in front of the sensors that block out certain types of light – types of light that we just happen to want to see in the night sky.  In this image, for example, all the reds that you’re seeing in the sky are all but blocked out by most stock cameras, and this was the main issue I was struggling with.  By getting a modified camera, I now have the ability to capture all those gorgeous reds.

So, what are you looking at?  Behind the tree you can see a band of stars, which is the faint part of the Milky Way that is in our skies through the winter months.  To the right of that is the Orion constellation (including the Orion Nebula, which looks more like a bright circle at this focal length – this is what it looks like zoomed in).  The big red C shape that cuts through the Orion Constellation is known as Bernard’s Loop, and then if you look around you’ll see a number of other red objects in the sky which are other amazing nebula objects much deeper in space (just over the one tree branch, for example, is a red blob known as the Rosette nebula. I highly recommend Googling these names so you can see their beauty).

At any rate, you can tell I’m excited for next winter, a time of year I don’t traditionally shoot much night sky images except for star trails.  BUT, more next year!  Next week, we’ll jump to the end of the Milky Way you’re all used to seeing on this blog.  Till then, have a great week!

–Dan Thompson

Title Address Description
Cades Cove
Rich Mountain Loop Trail, Townsend, TN 37882, USA

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