Panorama of Old Woman Bay Under the Milky Way
Posted on: June 2, 2019
Old Woman Bay at approximately 4 a.m.in early May, 2019. Photo: Kevin Dempsey

More information about Old Woman Bay.

For those interested in the making of the image: This shot was planned out from home, in the weeks leading up to my drive to Ottawa, using some free software (Stellarium and Google Earth). There aren’t that many scenic places left that enjoy night skies free from light pollution and are still accessible to lazy photographers such as myself. This location I know pretty well from past drives, and so I thought maybe it would be a good night sky photo candidate. However, clouds and fog are often an issue in Lake Superior Park.

The night before I started my drive, I checked the weather, and it looked as though perhaps the sky would be clear. So I headed out, and once I got to Wawa, I checked again. The forecast had changed to cloudy. I thought, well, might as well set my alarm anyways, and see what it’s like. At 2:15, just before my alarm, my hotel neighbours came back from a night out. The dog started barking, so up I got. It still said it was mostly cloudy, but it suggested it might clear by dawn. I figured my chances were slim, since the darkest skies are not just before the dawn, but rather around 3am or so. Nevertheless, I headed out, coffee in hand. I wonder what the hotel manager thought of my early checkout.

On the road, me and Duke, the skies were still cloudy, until just before I got to the vista overlooking Old Woman Bay. Of course, I couldn’t see the scene from the road, but I could see Jupiter, and I realized the clouds were clearing. It was a tad creepy when I parked just before 3 am. There was another car, and they were just parking. We all got out of our cars, but we didn’t speak to each other. They seemed to be looking for something they’d left at the beach, and they left shortly after I set up.

The first few shots I took showed mostly cloud, but by the time I had figured out the composition I wanted, they had mostly cleared. My tripod ballhead has degree markers, which let me take 5 shots in 15 degree increments for the sky exposure, then put repeat for the foreground. (You can’t take two exposures in the same orientation and repeat five times, because the sky will have moved, owing to the several minutes it takes to expose for the foreground.) Several shots were spoiled by trucks coming along the highway, but for the most part Duke and I were completely alone. 

Stitching together and blending the images is still a bit of work. The two exposures inevitably don’t quite line up, as the camera position is never exactly the same. Also, getting the right amount of brightness in the foreground while not making it look too unreal is tricky, as is the blending along the horizon. (An earlier edit of this image had a darker foreground.) I realize it’s all a matter of taste. Some people love these shots, and some people think, well that’s not how it looks in real life. I’d argue that it does look that way, more or less, if you let your eyes adjust. The camera captures a bit more than we can see, but not more than we can feel when we’re out there.

…A big thanks from Infosuperior to Kevin for this photo.

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