Astroscapes

Astroscapes are landscape images that feature the night sky. These are what I have spent most of my time on in photography. Although I have more recently (As of 2015) been honing my skills and knowledge in deep sky imaging, I still love the challenge of finding and timing new landscapes to shoot against the night sky most of all.  My older images are mostly shot with a static camera and may be a single image, or a stack of several images of the same frame with the sky processed separately to the landscape. More recently I have been using a tracking mount to increase exposure time for the sky and allow me to use a smaller aperture. The increase in quality as a result is too hard to pass up despite the extra patience it takes to set up equipment and blend the two exposures.

None of my images are ‘Photoshopped’ or composites in the sense that they are not combinations of landscapes and sky shot at different locations or on different nights. I make a rule for myself that I will never use images of the sky shot on different nights in combination. Therefore, all these images faithfully represent a time and place. The actual sky at the time of shooting at the landscape pictured.

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Hooker Lake in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. I walked the Hooker Valley track with a lot of heavy gear and camped overnight in approximately -7C. It was well worth the effort.
The warm glow of moonrise in 'Mesopotamia' New Zealand. This is the home of Mt Sunday, Edoras in the Lord of the Rings films, actually just a small hill compared to the mountains beyond.
North of Lake Tekapo are the Godley and MaCaulay valleys. This is shot from part way up the Godley Valley, looking back southeast towards Lake Tekapo (out of frame)
A redo of an earlier shot at this location on the western shore of Lake Tekapo. This time with the summer milky way and red hydrogen alpha nebulae of the orion molecular cloud complex shining through.
I had been trying to get a shot of Matariki (The Pleiades) rising over the eastern ranges from near to home but had not succeeded before this shot. Although it was well after it had risen, I was was camping with friends near Mt Wolseley and saw waited for the cluster to be directly over the peak.
While shooting a timelapse in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park I decided to put my 300mm lens on Mt Cook and leave the shutter open for 15 minutes.

Mary Waterfall - Possibly the most detailed astro shot I've ever taken as I don't do a lot of wide panoramas. This one doesn't cover a large area but is shot with an 85mm lens, 36mp per frame (2x3 frames) and the sky tracked. The scene is of Mary Waterfall and the Naumann Range near Lake Ohau, New Zealand.

Spring Melt - A beautiful valley in Otago, New Zealand. A friend and I camped near here in late October 2016. These are some of many waterfalls around our campsite.

Ice Bridge - The top of a frozen stream with background waterfall in the Godley Valley, Mackenzie Country, New Zealand. The stream was flowing under this large sheet of ice which was over a foot thick in places with others where contact with the flowing water was eroding it away. Such as the small hole in the foreground.

Skyfall - Another addition to the black and white Mackenzie waterfalls collection. I plan to create a collection of the vast number of waterfalls around the valleys of the Mackenzie region. This one from the west side of the Godley River

Jupiter Venus Conjuntion - The conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in August 2016. This was two nights after the closest point of conjunction and I got some shots with a telescope but liked this shot with a 135mm lens best. Mercury also features in the upper left and Jupiter's Gallilean moons can be seen as the bright dots beside it just above the mountains.

Shards - The western shore of Lake Tekapo where the water level rises and falls throughout the year, sometimes partly submerging the trees. Being winter they still had no leaves and made dramatic sillouettes against the sky.

Altair Mountain - A recent favourite spot in Mackenzie Country, New Zealand. Towards the end of a nights shooting as I was almost ready to pack up and head home, I noticed the bright star Altair creeping up the ridge of this peak and had to wait until it was just above the top. I'm aiming to get back to this location soon and camp a bit closer to the waterfall.

Eruption - This is a region of the milky way I don't often focus on as I usually time my shots around the earlier rising regions above the galactic centre. I used a 35mm lens to get a bit more detail on all the dust lanes and nebulae and have the milky way fill more of the frame.

Eruption B&W - Another shot for which I couldn't quite decide if I liked the colour or black and white version more. I like the intense colour of the nebulae in the milky way that the camera picks up but sometimes it looks a little too extreme compared to what your eye sees and is too much contrast against the landscape.

Shadow Falling - I got this shot on a recent drive up the Macauley River and started shooting just as the moon was rising. By the end of setting up it had started to illuminate the tops of the mountains and I watched the shadow fall as I waited for my exposures to finish.

Macauley Sleeps II - A couple of hours earlier in the night I shot "Shadow Falling", looking north up Macauley River.

5am & -10 - A case of disappointment turning around. I got up at 5:30am in -10 degrees C to get this shot with the galactic bulge setting above this waterfall. But I misjudged the timing by about an hour. Even though sunrise was not until 8am, the height of the cliffs surrounding the waterfall meant that it was already setting by the time I made the walk from the hut. However, I really like the end result as the bright dusty core of the milky way seems to accentuate the peak above the falls.

Patience - I had shot this tree earlier in Autumn around the full moon but could see the potential for a winter shot with the landscape covered in snow. The first heavy snowfall of late May didn't disappoint and it looked like a completely different place apart from the tree, patiently bracing for another snowy winter.

5% - The new moon transitions into a thin crescent and sets below the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Shot from Canterbury University Mt John Observatory in Lake Tekapo.

Orion Sets - This was one of my last chances to shoot the Orion Nebula for the 2015-16 summer. I missed shooting it with a telescope and the only way to see much detail with a camera lens is to use a longer lens. But I wanted to capture some of the landscape too so I chose an 85mm and tracked the sky separately. This is the Liebig Range lit entirely by starlight over two minutes of exposure.

In passing this waterfall earlier in the day I could tell it would make a great astro shot with the galactic bulge rising above the cliff face. So I determined to return at the right time to shoot it with a longer lens (85mm) to bring out the detail of the dusty lanes around the core regions of the galaxy which have a similar look to churning water. On processing the image I found that the vibrant colour of the milky way was just too much contrast against the duller colour of the cliffs which felt like it cut the image in two. So I converted it to black and white and love the way the waterfall stands out.

This tree is too photogenic not to shoot. This shot was taken in late April under an almost full moon with the mountains still bare of snow. I could also see the potential for a winter shot with the landscape transformed. See the photo titled 'Patience'

The Tekapo Show - Lake Tekapo is in the heart of the Aoraki-Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve. Its turquoise glacial waters still subtly show in a long exposure at night. The rock flour in the water scatters blue light more than the other wavelengths. This was one of my first shots of the galactic bulge rising for 2016.

The Tekapo Show II - The rocky western shore of Lake Tekapo looking North East. With the water slightly more rippled over a long exposure the colour is brought out more by the rock flour scattering blue light.

Reaching - Another from Lake Tekapo's western shore. The gnarled semi submerged trees make awesome sillhouettes against the billions of stars above.

Temple Valley Sermon - Temple Valley, Lake Ohau. I wasn't aware of the campsite at this place before arriving but it is a great campsite next to this river flowing into the lake. Being early February the Galactic Bulge wasn't rising until about 3am, so I stayed up and got this shot as it rose over the mountains.

The reverse direction to the previous shot titled 'Temple Valley Sermon'

Portal - The Clay Cliffs, Omarama. This is a very un-New Zealand looking landscape with tall pinnacles of clay in amphitheatre like circles. Great for astrophotography as it's so easy to make cool compositions while still pointing high in to the sky.

The first shot I liked the look of as a square frame. Shot on a warm summer's night on the MaCauley riverbed north of Lake Tekapo.

I had aurora alerts this night and decided to make the trip to a good position to shoot south. It wasn't a very strong aurora but I really liked the landscape and composition of this shot and the thin high cloud diffuses the light of the stars and makes the brighter ones appear larger

Thought this contrasty image looked good as a black and white also.

Alexandrina Sleeps - The shore of Lake Alexandrina in late winter 2015

Rainbow Beach - This is Rainbow Beach in Great Sandy National Park, Queensland, Australia. The only night shot I liked from a trip to Brisbane and road trip North in July 2015.

Milky Shores - The South Coast of Wellington, New Zealand where I grew up is a great place for astrophotography as the hills block a lot of the light pollution coming from the city. This is Wainuiomata Coast east of Wellington Harbour's entrance.

Another from the rugged Wainuiomata Coast.

Jesus Camp - This is within the grounds of a shrine to Christianity in the Californian desert near a town called Slab City. See the shot titled 'Crown of stars at Salavation Mountain'.

Crown of stars at Salvation Mountain - Salvation Mountain is a shrine to Christianity in the Californian desert near Slab City and The Salton Sea. It's a very strange place. It was over 100 degrees F during the day and didn't cool much at night. The green cast to this image is from strong green airglow that night. The Pleiades Cluster was sitting very close to the top of the cross when I set up so I moved the camera slightly to position it right on top.

Zion Falls - This waterfall is in Zion National Park, Utah. The overhanging ledge meant I could walk right under it without getting wet. I used my headlamp to light the falling water.

Lough Leane - Close to one of the other gold rated dark sky reserves of the world. This is Lough Leane from Ross Castle near Killarney, Ireland. Although the weather was good for my 5 day trip, this is the only night shot of my time in Ireland I liked.

Over the Hill - On a road trip up the North Island of New Zealand I stopped on the way back at the lookout on Paekakariki Hill to get a shot overlooking the ocean. But I liked this one looking in the opposite direction more.

Pauatahanui Inlet north of Wellington, New Zealand looks amazing when the water is calm, which is not very often. For this shot I used a graduated ND filter upside down to reduce the brightness of the lighting.

Dormant Tarawera - Lake Tarawera in Rotorua, New Zealand. When this volcano at the far side of the lake erupted in 1886, it buried a Maori village kilometres behind this beach and destroyed the pink and white terraces which were becoming a very popular destination for travellers wanting to rejuvenate in their healing waters.

Blue lake, Black Sky - While shooting at the Blue Lake, Rotorua, I liked the look of these trees reaching up to the Milky Way lit by the lakeshore holiday park lights.

Coastal Stairways - My entry into Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014 which won the Sir Patrick Moore prize for best newcomer. This is Wairarapa, New Zealand coastline with awesome rock formations. See my other shortlisted entry for 2014 'Sky Bridge' .

Sky Bridge - My other shortlisted entry into Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014. Shot close to my winning entry 'Coastal Stairways' on the Wairarapa Coast of New Zealand.

A wider version of the shot 'Coastal Stairways' which I also liked. All these shots from this location were back when I was doing lightpainting to illuminate foregrounds. I now prefer to do separate exposures for landscape and sky so that I can use only the natural starlight which I think looks a lot nicer.

Shattered - One of my early shots from rural Wellington which I still like.

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