This image of Comet Leonard over the natural spa pool at Injidup is from my first attempt at shooting the night sky. I noticed this amazing comet some days earlier on Christmas night when sitting outside at the in-law's farm looking at the stars. At first I couldn’t believe my eyes, Santa?! It was huge!
A week or two later and I was invited by my friend Chris, a bonafide space guru it turns out, to go and try to capture an image of Comet Leonard. I certainly did’t nail the shoot, but I did learn a lot. If you look in the gap between the rocks on the right hand side of the frame you will see the comet. It was much bigger when I first saw it so its a shame I didn’t act more quickly. Still, it's beautiful! I certainly could have picked an easier starting point for my night sky photography journey.
You forget how much Australia comes alive at night. Not just the stars, but the animals too. I saw so many critters over the course of the night, including a large spider that kept shooting its web onto my kit. You know it's a "real" long exposure when you have a spider making webs on your tripod! That was just one of the challenges we faced.
Firstly, we came across a large tiger snake that was out on the road. It was a very handsome snake but a little unnerving that it was out in the same patch that we were. Then I saw the eyes of a fox as we scrambled over the steep craggy rocks in the dark, and much later some Kangaroos. The swell was also unexpectedly large, meaning that you had to watch your back when down near the spa pool, but it was also throwing salty spray all over our gear. Finally, my camera settings were frustrating me to no end, which was compounded by the darkness and the spider trying to set up shop on my tripod. Turns out I had my shutter release cable locked on continuous shooting! Argh. BUT, it was beautiful.
We had low levels of light pollution and as such a lovely view of the stars. The cherry on top? A meteor shower, apparently a fairly rare and impressive one, not to mention the comet proper. We saw some beauties! I was shooting 10 second exposures wide open (or f/2) on the Nikon Z 7 and Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S. It was quite challenging manually focusing in the dark, but I ended up doing a sufficient job. Chris had a few lights set up as well which helped to illuminate the foreground. I was planning on merging several exposures into one image but I ended up going with the image shown above, which is a single take.
In all it was a fun experience and I learnt some good lessons. No doubt my skills and results will improve with practice. That I avoided being hit by a wave, meteor, of some kind of wild animal makes it a win.
Happy new year!