Stan Lee Pengelly's Travels

Astrophotography Up High

The Night Sky and Isla Suasi

The Night Sky and Isla Suasi. Camera: Canon 60D. Lens: Canon 15mm Fisheye f 2.8. ISO: 1000. Exposure 30 seconds at f 2.8.

Since about the time I was a zygote, I’ve been impressed by stars.  I can’t get enough of looking at them and with a digital SLR I can take their photo.  The problem is I live at live near sea level and immersed in light pollution.  I am lucky to see any nebulae (gas clouds in the sky) or the Milky Way where I live.  So when I was on a little island named Isla Suasi (elevation 12,526 feet) in Lake Titicaca, Peru, hundreds of miles away from cities, I was in the perfect place to enjoy the stars and photograph them.

The air was cold but not too.  I set up my camera on a tripod and began experimenting with using the available light of the stars and sliver of Moon.  I brought a flashlight to “paint” items on the ground during long exposures but found out soon that luck would provide just enough light for me to work with.

There was a small building next to a trail leading to the island’s highest point.  I experimented with exposing for the sky and then illuminating the building.  That wasn’t very interesting.  I wasn’t happy with the way I was lighting it. So I changed locations and tried just using the stars and moonlight.  That was better.  In fact, it was the best place and time to photograph.  There was just enough moonlight to illuminate the scene yet not wash out the sky.  The result was a great photograph.

If you are ever up high in altitude and away from light pollution, take the opportunity to photograph the stars.  With a little experimentation, you will make a photograph that really impresses.