I posted this image on the site’s Facebook page yesterday and received both a record number of likes, shares and responses/ questions – some doubting the authenticity of the image – so I thought it’d be a good candidate for reviving POTD.
Here’s the backstory: the image was shot out of an airplane window at 32,000 feet while returning from the USA tour; my wife was in the window seat and idly wondered if she could see stars, after the crew turned off the cabin lights for the night to encourage passengers to sleep (I suppose to theoretically help them get over jetlag). She stared for a while, acclimatising her night vision, and said there were quite a surprising number. I finished editing the batch I was working on, and joined her at the window. I could actually make out a very faint band of something running through the middle; I thought it might make an interesting photography experiment.
My previous attempts at astrophotography have been both severely limited and countable on the fingers of one hand; I had a feeling this one might be special. I picked up the Nikon Coolpix A, set it to manual and a 15s exposure, chose ISO 800 and f2.8 and gave it a shot, bracing the camera against the window. No dice: too faint, and too shaky, and worse, there were internal reflections from both the second window layer and some of the few ambient lights left in the cabin.
I tried again, this time using my black sweater as a dark cloth and light baffle against the window, drawing down the window shade as far as it would go, and bracing the camera against the sill. After experimenting with a few combinations and having several attempts (including a 100s bulb exposure) ruined by turbulence, this image was the best of the lot – 30s at ISO 1600 f2.8. It’s not perfectly sharp at 100% as airplanes vibrate and transmit these vibrations through their windows; in hindsight, I should probably have used the OM-D and 12/2 I was also carrying (the camera’s excellent stabilizer might have been able to compensate for some of the airplane’s vibrations/ motion), but nevertheless I’m still pretty pleased by how this turned out – and moreover by just how clean the long exposures from the Coolpix A were, even at high ISO. There’s little noise overall and no banding, amp noise or hot pixels, despite turning long exposure noise reduction off. MT
Clicking through the image on Flickr will give you full EXIF data.
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