June 2013 - Milky Way

Category: Newsletters 12 June 2013

Milky Way

The Milky Way over Lago Roca, Patagonia, Argentina.
Canon 1Dx, 14mm lens, 20 secs @ f4, ISO 12800.

“At 4am the Milky Way will be bright in the sky over Patagonia looking south west”. I gulped, holding back the urge to add “I think”. I’m not sure that qualification would have gone down well. The twenty faces around the table at the Pre Production Meeting stared back intently as I plunged on; “I’m confident Lago Roca is the location to go for.” The conference call speaker in the middle of the table squawked as the Campaign and Art Directors, already in Buenos Aires, added their bit. I was committed. In a few days I’d be on the plane south tasked with converting the concept into photographic reality. As the meeting moved on to print schedules and logistics I reflected on what I’d just proclaimed. A day spent researching the movement of heavenly bodies through the night sky in the southern hemisphere and virtual location searching via Google Earth had led to my assured proclamations, but had I got it right? A major advertising campaign and a shoot involving complex organisation and scores of people for a multinational corporation and camera manufacturer you may just have heard of called Canon was riding on it; no pressure then.

Of course I knew how many things could possibly scupper our plans. A completely clear sky was a must. The location seemed remote enough to be unaffected by light pollution, but you never really know until seeing it for real. Haze could rob the Milky Way of all impact, and then there was the potential for a multitude of technical cock ups inherent in piecing together in the pitch black a picture that can’t actually be seen. And that was just one shoot; another involving kayaks and glaciers would also present a host of potential pit falls. Still as I flew south I was relaxed; dealing with such challenges is what being a professional photographer is all about. I was more worried about getting through Argentine Customs with the mountain of gear I had stowed.

Last March I undertook a shoot in Patagonia for Canon’s latest advertising campaign. Working on such a high profile, interesting and challenging job was a tremendous privilege and opportunity. Now, a few months later the campaign has gone live and I am at liberty to talk about my involvement. I’m relieved to say my proclamations regarding the stars were well founded; as we got out of the vehicles at Lago Roca in the middle of the night I looked up and saw the Milky Way arcing through the sky brighter than I had seen since my sea going days. A huge weight lifted from my shoulders. The location was strong and all the elements were in place; all I had to do was make the shot. Following recent night sky adventures in Burma and Utah that was the easy bit.

A kayak at the Spegazzini Glacier, Los Glaciares National Park, Patagonia, Argentina.
Canon 5D mkIII, 24mm lens, 1/125 @ f16.

The next day I was bobbing about in a canoe at the foot of a glacier, trying to avoid tipping into the icy water with a 500mm lens and monopod on board. It was our third visit to the location, but miraculously the whole job came together pretty much as planned, with just a few hiccups due to the weather, and after just 6 days in Argentina I was on my way home. You f11 Members will be able to read all about it next month in the July edition of the Chasing the Light eZine.



Speaking of the eZine here’s Editor Freya Dangerfield with a roundup of what’s on offer this month:

In the June edition we continue our exploration of light in David’s series Seeing the Light as we consider twilight – exactly what it is, and how to use it’s lighting to best effect in our photography. And in the final article in his current series of Composition Tutorials, David talks us through the creation of his exquisite shot of Schwedagon Pagoda, Burma – the lucky confluence of a temple, a nun and a crow…

For Behind the Lens, David brings us up to date with his current photo activities in Umbria as he shoots the beautiful Italian landscape – amongst other things, in the May snow! And for Stepping Back, David reflects on the exertions of photography, and how a previous trip to Italy resulted in a summer without photography after a fall – as well as a major sense of humour failure. Beware!

Professional photographer and ezine regular Garry Ridsdale uses one of our Field Trials to put super-telephoto lenses through their paces, looking at how to use them and what to consider prior to purchasing one. This month landscape photographer David Ward, renowned for his unique eye for shape and form, has written our Guest Feature, providing an invaluable insight into his inspirations and approaches. In addition we have two instructional videos from David, including his usual exploration of post-production techniques.

And for those of you not yet an f11 member, take a look at the benefits of f11 membership. By joining, you’ll receive full access to the monthly edition of our ezine, as well as other goodies and all back issues.

An image from Behind the Lens in this month’s eZine.
Castellucchio and the Piano Grande in the snow in late May, Monti Sibillini National Park, Umbria, Italy.
Canon 5D mkIII, 24-70mm lens @ 65mm, 1/400 sec @ f10

I’m writing this in Umbria where we’re in the midst of our annual Workshops. June is just a few days away, yet we’ve been shooting snowy landscapes and hilltop villages etched in ice. It’s mad, but the unusual conditions have made for some tantalising photographic opportunities. I’m not sure our guests quite expected to be wearing so many layers, but the view looking down on Castelluccio and the Piano Grande draped in fresh white was worth freezing our extremities off for.

Poppies and barley swaying in the wind near Campi, Valnerina, Monti Sibillini National Park, Umbria, Italy.
Canon 5D mkIII, 17mm TS-E lens, 80 secs @ f11, 0.6 ND grad & Big Stopper filters.

Italy has suffered the same interminable winter and dismal spring as much of Europe, yet it has to be said this year the colour in the fields and the profusion of wild flowers in the hills is the best we’ve seen. I’ve been having fun crouched in amongst the poppies and swaying barley experimenting with a prototype Lee filter adaptor for my 17mm TS-E lens, tilting, shifting and exposing for several minutes. Talking of filters we now have stock in of our precious Chasing the Light Filter Kits.

We came via Chamonix, where camping for four cool, soggy days under grey rain laden skies netted just 10 minutes sighting of Mont Blanc appearing through a gap in the clouds shortly after dawn. Still, that’s the name of the game I know so well, and those are the moments we photo-obsessives live for. It was a sight to behold, as was the Milky Way over Patagonia, both of which I know will remain etched in my persona well past my sell by date.

Mont Blanc appearing through the clouds at dawn, France.
Canon 5D mkIII, 70-200mm lens @ 123mm, 1/125 sec @ f8, polarising filter.

Keep exposing.


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Every month we publish an issue of our unique magazine Chasing the Light exclusively for f11 members. With features from behind the lens and on the road with David Noton it combines stunning photography with David's unique style of writing. Technical features, humorous anecdotes, travel notes, a member's gallery, news and the stories behind the pictures make it an entertaining, informative and inspirational monthly read and information resource for all who love photography and travel. All this for less than the price of a coffee and a biscuit a month. F11 members can also download other exclusive content such as Despatches+ and video blogs for free as they become available.

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