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Our Grandscape Photo Challenge Winner: Behind the Shot


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Congratulations to @My Flying Eyes for winning the inaugural Photo Challenge! His Grandscape image was stunning and we connected with him to learn more about how he made this shot. 

My name is Dany Tomas, I've been working in the music industry as a songwriter and producer for over 35 years. Due to a problem on my right ear I couldn't spend 10 hours a day in the studio anymore, which moved me to start exploring visual arts. At first I started filming with drones until I discovered my new passion which is Night Photography! It's been 3 years already going out and photographing the milky way. I published a book and made a 3 month show at a fine art gallery called "The House of Borrego Springs," in Borrego Springs, California. I also published an entry level online course and sometimes I organize workshops where I share my knowledge on Night Photography and Light Painting. Those can be found on my social media and my website.

Could contain: Nature, Night, Outdoors, Sky, Landscape, Scenery, Panoramic, Nebula, Starry Sky, Milky Way

The Scene
This photo was taken at the South Tufa area in Mono Lake, California. This was my 3rd time capturing the tufas with the background of the milky way. The picture is a Milky Way panorama made out of 26 pictures stitched together applying some light painting on the big Tufa. The idea of taking a panorama just came to mind when I could see the milky way arch going over the whole scenery.

Capturing the Image (or 26 of them!) 
The camera I used is my Sony Alpha 7 IV with the Sony 20mm F/1.8 lens. Which is my perfect set up for milky way photography. A wide angle lens with a fast F/1.8 aperture is able to capture a lot of light. This lens is also pretty sharp and always gives me excellent results.

To get this shot I used a tripod, a remote shutter, An Aputure AL-MC RGB On-Camera Video Light for light painting, a mini tripod to set the light and tons of patience. 

First of all I have to focus on the stars. I do that with the camera in my hands pointing it to the brightest star I can find in the sky. Then I set up my camera on the tripod right in front of the Tufa, making sure that the milky way arch position goes from one side, all the way to the other side of the tufa. Then I set up the camera settings to 3200 ISO, F1.8 and shutter speed 13".

Then I set up the remote shutter so I don't touch the camera when I take the picture. I also set up a 2" delay. Then I set up the Aputure light pointing to the tufa and I set the light intensity to the lowest and also the color to warm natural. ( I control my Aputure light from an app on my phone)

Then I start taking pictures covering the whole scene from right to left overlapping each picture about 30%. When I finish taking the 1st row of pictures I move my camera upwards to capture more of the sky and scene, but making sure I overlap at least 20% of what I captured on the 1st row. Then I take pictures of the whole scene again but this time from left to right and I repeat the process on a 3rd row of pictures, making sure that I capture the entire milky way arch. Then the process is done. I ended up taking a total of 26 pictures divided in 3 rows.

Building an Image 
To edit the Milky Way Panorama I start importing all the pictures in Adobe Lightroom and do a basic edit with lens correction, exposure, contrast, sharpness white balance, saturation, etc. trying to enhance the milky way. Then I copy the exact same settings to all of the pictures and I do a denoise with the Ai denoiser at 45%.

After I do that I select all the pictures and choose the option merge to panorama in Photoshop. Then Adobe Photoshop organizes and stitches all the pictures together as a panorama and I keep editing in Photoshop. First I use the Adaptive wide angle filter to correct the horizon. Then I duplicate layers and separate the sky with the rest of the picture using masks so I can edit them separately. Finally I keep editing sky and foreground separately to enhance each one and make them look beautiful.

Then I export the file to the format I choose and we have our Milky Way panorama finalized!!!

If I am going to print I might do post processing depending on the size of the print but for the internet so far that is all I do.

Thank you @My Flying Eyes for letting us know more about how you got this shot! If you'd like to have your work featured here on the forums, we'd love to see you submit some of your work to one of our photo challenges

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