I try to indulge in night photography whenever I can on moonless and clear nights, especially between spring and autumn when the galactic center shines high above the horizon during the dark hours that span dusk and dawn twilight.
This scene had been on my wish list for some time when the elements finally seemed to come together. In order to get the Milky Way directly over this portion of the gap and railroad tracks, the photo has to be taken in early spring. And since the White Mountains of New Hampshire regularly experience finicky weather at that time of year (including snowfall), conditions are frequently neither favorable nor predictable. But on this night, it all seemed to work out.
I took the photo around 3am on a very cold night in early May as the Milky Way passed vertically over the gap in the railroad tracks. These days, the tracks only service the daytime tourist trains of the Conway Scenic Railroad, so it was perfectly safe to be standing on the tracks in the wee hours of morn. The glow at the end of the tracks is light pollution emanating from one of the towns in the White Mountains — in this case, I think it adds a distant point of interest to the scene.
I took a sequence of twelve 10-second frames at ISO 10000 to create a “star stack” that was later processed using the Starry Landscape Stacker application. Shooting a star stack has the benefit of yielding sharp and round stars, while the software also reduces noise. In addition, I shot a 10-minute frame at ISO 1600 to bring out the foreground. The two resulting frames were carefully blended in post to yield the final image.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor