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Milky Way Photography at Current River

August 20 2019

Last week we made plans to go hang out at Current River with my wife's mom and dad at their campground. I immediately began checking weather forecasts early in the week and scanning google maps for good landscape photo opportunites. Forecasts were showing atleast a possibility of clear skies on Saturday night which gave me some hope. One battle that i knew i'd face would be the full moon but it wasn't scheduled to rise until closer to 10pm that night. Plus the surrounding cliffs would block out its early light so i knew that was something i could hopefully overcome. As the week progressed i kept an eye on the forecast i came to the conclusion that it was going to be a 50/50 chance of me getting anything at all.

Once we arrived at the campground on Saturday me, my wife and our 3 year old daughter made my way down to the sandbar beach along the river and while they skipped rocks i began scouting compositions for that night. I discovered that an old railroad bridge pier that i had taken an interest to the year before would be perfectly positioned for the milky way that night for a brief period. At this point the only question mark was the still cloudy sky and whether or not my 3 year old and wife would make it long enough for me to see the plan through. As the night approached the sky cleared and I could now see the milky way from the campground even. At go-time my brother-in-law Austin decided to join me on the hike down to the river and we made our way to the bridge in the complete dark using flashlights. Once there It took a few attempts to get the piers framed in the dark. When i was finally happy i began taking the frames i needed for the final product. I decided on 11 frames, 10 photos for hte sky that i would stack together for noise reduction plus one moon-lit foreground image that i could combine in Photoshop afterwards. This setup would give me the best quality final product with the least amount of noise or grain. It wasn't long into the session that a family of raccoons joined us and began foraging, sometimes within a few feet of us. In the dark all you could see was some moving shadows dancing around and the occasional peep, it was pretty cool but we kept a close on them. It wasn't long before reality came knocking in the form of clouds sneaking into the frame followed shortly after by my phone vibrating the tones of a tired/bored family. At this point any hope of taking the foreground shot under moonlight was gone so i moved onto plan b, a single 5 minute low-iso exposure of the scene to use for the foreground. Moon-lit would have been cleaner, but i didn't have much choice. Once that exposure completed we began the walk back to the campground. In the ten or so minutes that it took us to get back to hte camper the sky was completely covered in clouds. I've seen better nightscapes and i could have done some things better with less clouds, more time and better skills. All in all i am decently happy with the shot though and i was able to explore a new photography spot which is a win. Thanks for reading.

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