Craters of the Moon National Preserve
I went to Craters of the Moon National Monument yesterday with the primary objective of taking Milky Way photos. Craters is designated as a "dark sky" area and I thought a change of venue from the Swan Valley old schoolhouse was in order as well. This was very much a learning experience for me.

One objective I had was to try to achieve better focus in my astrophotography photos. For those of you who have been following my blog, you have heard this before.

Another objective was to discover what the difference might be in shooting in a "dark sky" location.

This wasn't an objective going in but I really learned how MUCH you cannot trust your eyes to determine the beauty of the Milky Way. I didn't even think the galactic core was in the sky all night long! I shot from around 10 pm until 1 pm hoping that the galactic core would magically appear. As far as I knew at the time, it hadn't and I finally gave up and drove my car to my tent and warm sleeping bag.

The statement I often make when someone asks me if I got a good picture (I won't know until I get home and look at them on my computer) is true in spades when it come to Milky Way photography!

To demonstrate this last point, the slide show above will display eight of the best ones from last night. The photos are presented in pairs (sixteen total slides). The first of the pair is the photo as it came out of the camera (i.e., no post processing). The second of the pair is the post processed version.

For those of you who are photographers and may be interested in how I took these photos:

Equipment: Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens, Manfrotto tripod

Focus was achieved by setting the lens to Manual focus. I then pointed the camera at the brightest star I could see in the sky. I set the camera to Live view, set the camera to magnify that view by 10 times and manually adjusted to achieve the sharpest focus I could discern on the camera screen. I left the lens at this manual setting for the remainder of the evening's shoot. If you would happen to change the focal length, you would have to go through the focus process once again.

I readjusted the camera on the ball head to achieve the composition I wanted... in this case with the lava formations included to provide some interest and perspective.

My camera settings were: ISO 3200, f/2.8, 24 mm focal length, 10 second exposure, 2 second delay on the shutter button

Note: After I posted these photos, I noticed that all of them will need to be reprocessed with some noise reduction!