The luck of the light – Paul Le Comte

Sometimes when shooting the night sky, lucky or serendipitous things happen, as in this image. For this image of the galactic core of our Milky Way with the International Space Station to have happened I needed a bit of planning & a lot of luck.

This is shot from in the middle of Highcliff Road on the top of Otago Peninsula, it’s not one image, & that’s where the luck comes into it. I knew the Milky Way was going to be in a relatively low angle in the sky, so with my simple wide lens I was going to be more than able to get it in with the camera on it’s side, or what we call portrait aspect. But because my field of view is vertical more than wide, I needed to get at least 7 images side to side (creating the classic panorama), and this is where the luck was needed, standing in the middle of the road taking 7, 8, or 9x 30 second exposures, I really needed luck in that no cars were driving towards me during the shoot – as I would have to move the tripod & start all over again. Except this time, given the ISS tracker app telling me it was crossing the sky in that direction at that time, I knew/guessed the ISS would cross somewhere near the middle – end of the panorama.

Incredibly, despite it being a road in which cars do drive on at night, not one single car came along at this time, & with my camera set up on the tripod in the middle of the road, on the 6th & 7th frame of the panorama, the ISS passed over Dunedin from a WSW to ENE direction! Luck & planning. The rest was easy, clean up the images with basic adjustments, let Lightroom stitch the images together & there we have a super wide panorama of the Milky Way with the International Space Station crossing through the image.

Camera Settings

Nikon D750
ISO 640
9x 30 second exposures

Sale Details

$65 (inc GST)