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My first Milky Way photograph

The outer arm of our Milky Way galaxy

The outer arm of our Milky Way galaxy

On the darkest, clearest winter night of the year, the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye. Billions of suns come together to form the Milky Way arm you see above this camp in Pecan Island, Louisiana.

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Image Details

Acquisition

Date Taken: 1/5/2019
Location: Pecan Island, Louisiana
ISO: 3200
Exposure: 1 Minute 40 Seconds (5 Composite Images)
Lens: 24mm F/4
Camera: Nikon D750
Additional Details: Standard tripod with a 2 second interval shutter delay.

Post-Editing

I imported the images to lightroom and made some white balance adjustments and fixed vignetting as best as I could. From there I exported them to Photoshop where they were aligned and stacked.

Next I did something called “LRGB processing” which I learned from a tutorial by Lonely Speck. You copy the composite image three times and make three different layers: A high contrast black and white Detail layer, a low contrast black and white luminance layer where you capture the Nebulocity, and finally a layer that contains all of the Color. This allows you to capture as much detail, nebulocity and color from your shots. It’s a really neat process. At first I was just a monkey following along with the tutorial but once it clicked I understood what I was doing and began to learn a lot.

Once the LRGB processing was complete I made some vibrance and color corrections. Finally, I copied one of my original layers and made adjustments only to the camp and foreground and added it to the final image you see here.

Story

The conditions were near perfect for astrophotography so I head out to my family’s camp in a dark zone with some friends. We could see the Milky Way’s outer arm with the naked eye.

I took 5 composite exposures for a total of 1 minute 40 seconds of exposure time on a 24mm F/4 . Taken at the family camp in Pecan Island on 1/5/2019 during a stargazing trip my friends Bennett, Colby and Danny.

My histogram was not where I wanted it to be, so I didn’t capture as much data as I’d like. But that’s all part of the learning process. We’re going to keep going out there and to other dark sky zones and take more photos of the milky way. Hopefully each one is better than the last.

My emotions were beyond excitement when I saw the stacked image on my computer. My first ever Milky Way shot and it’s looming over the family camp. I also got a rush when I noticed you can faintly see the Andromeda Galaxy in the shot.

This is my first ever Milky Way photo! I’m beyond excited — I have a lot to learn about acquisition and post editing but I’m still more than happy with how this turned out. You can faintly make out the Andromeda Galaxy which blew me away when I noticed it.


Here’s my long exposure version of this angle. It’s about 42 minutes, resulting in star trails.



A week in the Smoky Mountains

Clingman’s Dome

The trek up to Clingman’s dome was some of the most pleasant hiking I’ve ever experienced. It was about 68 degrees, overcast, and every now and then a very slight mist would past through. The scenery and hiking trails were beautiful and had new sites at every bend.

When we reached the summit, we were higher than every mountain around us. Nothing in any direction could limit our site.

A storm rolled in, and we began to head back down. But not before I took one of my favorite photos from the trip.

This photo captures the namesake of the Smoky Mountains.

Grotto Falls

We decided we wanted to see some waterfalls. As Louisianians, any waterfall is impressive, and Grotto Falls did not disappoint. The clear pools of water and boulders to climb were plenty to keep our minds impressed.

This abandoned water mill was a nice treat on our way out. I snapped this shot of the tread.


Midnight Waterhole

We were lucky to stumbled across what is locally called the Midnight Waterhole.

After a day of ziplining, we made friends with the zipline workers who later showed us this hidden gem off the beaten trail. A cozy little tourist-free waterfall with a pool deep enough to jump off into.

Ahead of the falls I found some nicely flowing water over some rockbeds and snapped a few photos.

I also spotted a timber rattlesnake hiding in the brush.

Lorel Falls

We’d already seen a few waterfalls but we still wanted to hike. So we took the time to check out Lorel Falls. Along the way I came across a few noteworthy sites.

But my favorite part of this hike by far was seeing a mother bear and her cubs. They were so high up in the tree it was hard to snap a photo, but I managed a few just to prove the story.

Cade’s Cove

Horseback Riding

Our horseback riding was a fun and unique experience. There’s not much else to say, so here’s some photos.

Miscellaneous

Spelunking for Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls is a 145 foot waterfall about 1,120 feet underground inside the caverns of Lookout Mountain. To see it, you need to spelunk deep into the Ruby Falls Cave in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

I really love looking at stalactites and stalagmites are pretty amazing to think about. How incredibly gradual the process is for these formations to occur. The drip drop of limestone deposits built up over millions of years and now here I am with a camera to witness it. Pretty cool to stop and think about it.

Exploring a cave is pretty eerie. Cold and wet, the terrain is completely unnatural from what we’ve evolved to navigate. It’s a thrilling and rewarding experience.

Finally, at the end of our journey through Ruby Falls Cave we finally found the 145 foot underground waterfall — Ruby Falls. It’s lit up by multi-color lights fading into arrays of colors like red, blue, pink and green.

Weekend Hike: Wild Baby Rabbits, Bugs, and Mysterious Mushrooms

I took a VERY humid day hike on the third weekend of June and there was a lot of cool stuff in the forest this day.

I was walking through some brush where there’s usually rabbits dashing out, and I noticed a little tiny rabbit face. I could tell it was a baby and couldn’t really run away. I decided to ease up to him and pet him a bit before picking him up. Can you spot the little hopper?

When I was done with my rabbit photoshoot, I put him back in his nest and let him relax. Godspeed to you little buddy!

Next I found a few more colonies of Chanterelle mushrooms. Delicious! Here’s my yield for the day from about 5 separate Chanterelle colonies:

Next, I found some scary looking mushrooms. I took photos so I could post them to mushroom ID forums.

Then I found another colony of choice edibles, this time Meadow Mushrooms.

Then I got bored and kicked a tree and some bugs fell out. I think they were stick insects. Lost the photo tho.

Also here’s a some banana spiders I ran into. I think these are photos from the same day…

orb weaver spider

 

Bone Collecting on Thanksgiving

After some failed discipline at Thanksgiving dinner, we went out for some casual bone collecting to see what we might find. Our haul was pretty good for less than a day’s walk!

I found several cow spines, some ram skulls & spines, a coyote, a deer carcass, and lot’s of other bones. The coyote was still relatively fresh and so I only took the fangs.

I’m currently cleaning many of these bones to be displayed and others I gave or traded away. I’m really excited to see the ram skull on my wall. I may mount it on an old piece of cypress!

ULL Ragin Cajun Formula SAE Racecar


I’m riding my bike when I see two guys working on an awesome-looking Formula something looking racecar. I stopped to chat with them and learned they’re engineers Brady Fontenot and Andrew Dixon with ULL’s Formula SAE racing.

And as it turns out, it was my lucky day. They took it out to Cajun Field to test the fuel injection and suspension (let’s be honest, they just wanted to drive the thing). I was able to take a bunch of photos while we were out there and had the chance to chat with Andrew and Brady for a while. Really cool guys with an awesome racecar.

Formula SAE

SAE stands for Society of Automotive Engineers. It’s a Formula racing league for college level engineers and driver. The max cc is 710cc but 600cc engines are most common.

UL Lafayette’s Formula SAE Racecar

I’m no engineer, so I’m only going off what I was told! But it’s really interesting!

The ULL car was built from the engine of a CBR 600cc motorcycle. The motorcycle clutch and shifter have been brought together in the cockpit, and is handled somewhat like other Formula style shifters. You can see the motorcycle chain at the back of the car too.

Abandoned Catholic School in Lafayette, Louisiana

We went over to the abandoned Holy Rosary Institute in Lafayette, Louisiana to take some photos. The first place we checked out was the abandoned gym.

After stepping over some rubbish, the interior of the gym was still pretty open. The windows were still open and so we had a good view of the entire place. The basketball court had begun to buckle in the heat, and most of the wooden interior was rotten. The bleachers were old and creaky but we could still walk on them.

The equipment rooms were completely packed with old junk, so we left it alone and stuck to the gym which was interesting enough.

Next we walked around the campus where we found mostly boarded up hallways and classrooms. But some of the rooms were not locked off, so we were able to see what time can really do to a place. We found a few classrooms, a greenroom, and some other cool stuff.

There was no way to explore the interior of the school. All doors were either boarded shut or naturally overgrown. Many of the windows were blown out but even if we crawled through them, the bottom floor was a heaping pile of rubbish from each floor having collapsed almost completely. But that was no obstacle. The back wall of the school was completely overgrown with vines and was a sight in itself.

Everything will look like this someday. Beautiful.

Exploring a Giant Abandoned Factory in Eunice, Louisiana

The thing about exploring abandoned property is that you have to be courageous and stupid enough to actually do it. So this is the story about the day when I convinced my most courageous friends to go along with me to an abandoned factory in Eunice, Louisiana.

I was told about this spooky old abandoned factory/office in Eunice, Louisiana, a short drive from where I live. I was hyped by tales of giant old buildings and dangerously dark corridors. It worked.

A few days later it was the weekend and I was on my way to Eunice with a couple of friends and our cameras.

It wasn’t long before we found ourselves in front of a spooky old building with a forest growing out of it and 30+ years of no health code inspections. So naturally we dove head first inside of the totally safe building.

The inside was much like a cave. Dark and wet. Unless you’re near an entrance, the interior was pitch black. We used flashlights to see where we were going. And much like a cave, there were constant sounds of distant streams of water everywhere — the walls, the ceiling, everywhere. It was extremely eerie.

One of my favorite places inside was near the outdoor break area. Mother nature had begun to reclaim the courtyard and found her way indoors as well.

It wasn’t long before the pitch-black horror vibe of the building’s interior encouraged us to leave. We left to check out the junk yard next door.

The junkyard wasn’t as thrilling as a cave building but it still had some interesting views. We didn’t stay too long. Broken car here. Broken car there.

Check out the full album here.