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Milky Way over Picket Post Mountain, Arizona Territory
Lens: Sigma 18-35/f1.8 Camera: Pentax K5IIs Photo Location: Picket Post Mountain, AZ ISO: 1600 Shutter Speed: Above 6s Aperture: F1.8 
Posted By: interested_observer, 02-28-2017, 09:57 PM

This is Picket Post Mountain at 4am over the weekend. It's about 60 miles east of Phoenix. Off to the left is the light dome of Superior about 8 miles away and off to the right are the lights from the Ray Mine - an open pit copper mine about 30 miles away. Phoenix is directly behind me. This is at the Uno trail cattle chute and loading pens on the way to the Picket Post trail head which is about a mile away.

Shot using a Pentax K5IIs, Sigma 18-35/f1.8, tripod and a Manfrotto 410 geared head with a Nodal Ninja 3 on top. Panorama is 5 panels wide. The sky and ground shots were composited together using Affinity Photo pano tool (which still has a masking problem).
  • Sky - 13 seconds, ISO 1600, f1.8 at 18mm
  • Ground - 2 sets of shots - a stack of 6 images, 30 seconds each, f1.8 at ISO 200 - then a single 120 second image, f1.8 at ISO 200, all of which were stacked together.
I was all setup to use the Pentax GPS Astrotracer to track the stars, but after a couple of hours out in the cold, my fingers (with gloves) were just too frozen to operate the buttons on the camera. So, I just had to be satisfied with a short set of non tracked sky shots. I need to bring a thermos of coffee with me next time.



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02-28-2017, 10:06 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Quiet an effort. Nice shot and thanks for sharing.
03-01-2017, 05:07 AM   #3
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Very nice! Thanks for describing the set up
03-01-2017, 08:31 PM   #4
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Well Done!

07-24-2018, 03:34 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
This is Picket Post Mountain at 4am over the weekend. It's about 60 miles east of Phoenix. Off to the left is the light dome of Superior about 8 miles away and off to the right are the lights from the Ray Mine - an open pit copper mine about 30 miles away. Phoenix is directly behind me. This is at the Uno trail cattle chute and loading pens on the way to the Picket Post trail head which is about a mile away.

Shot using a Pentax K5IIs, Sigma 18-35/f1.8, tripod and a Manfrotto 410 geared head with a Nodal Ninja 3 on top. Panorama is 5 panels wide. The sky and ground shots were composited together using Affinity Photo pano tool (which still has a masking problem).
  • Sky - 13 seconds, ISO 1600, f1.8 at 18mm
  • Ground - 2 sets of shots - a stack of 6 images, 30 seconds each, f1.8 at ISO 200 - then a single 120 second image, f1.8 at ISO 200, all of which were stacked together.
I was all setup to use the Pentax GPS Astrotracer to track the stars, but after a couple of hours out in the cold, my fingers (with gloves) were just too frozen to operate the buttons on the camera. So, I just had to be satisfied with a short set of non tracked sky shots. I need to bring a thermos of coffee with me next time.

What a standout!
07-26-2018, 09:45 PM - 3 Likes   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Photogoof Quote
What a standout!
Well, here is an update. 95 feet away off to the right, behind a bush and right at the top of about a 40 foot cliff, there is this location....

I returned a little more than a year later with my new K1. I took 150 frames of this scene - with the DFA 15-30/f2.8 all taken at f2.8, taken at ISO 800, 1600 and 3200, mainly taken at 30mm. All of the sky segments were taken with the astrotracer enabled at 50 second exposures. I'm in the process of stitching these as a 2 row, 7 frame stitch, with 4 of the frames overlaid on the top row for better resolution. I was also shooting the MW as it was rising over the mountain. So, about 18 frames per final stitched, masked and composited together result into a single final image. Trying to decide on some new post processing utilities and work flow - it's going slow....

Right at the last minute before packing up and heading home at midnight, I took these three panels for a quick stitch as a test - essentially a throwaway (I wish all my throwaways were this good). These three are at 15mm, vertical frames stitched together - all tracked (sky and ground) at 50 seconds. Note, I should have taken a dark frame - but alas, I didn't.


01-11-2019, 10:54 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
Well, here is an update. 95 feet away off to the right, behind a bush and right at the top of about a 40 foot cliff, there is this location....

I returned a little more than a year later with my new K1. I took 150 frames of this scene - with the DFA 15-30/f2.8 all taken at f2.8, taken at ISO 800, 1600 and 3200, mainly taken at 30mm. All of the sky segments were taken with the astrotracer enabled at 50 second exposures. I'm in the process of stitching these as a 2 row, 7 frame stitch, with 4 of the frames overlaid on the top row for better resolution. I was also shooting the MW as it was rising over the mountain. So, about 18 frames per final stitched, masked and composited together result into a single final image. Trying to decide on some new post processing utilities and work flow - it's going slow....

Right at the last minute before packing up and heading home at midnight, I took these three panels for a quick stitch as a test - essentially a throwaway (I wish all my throwaways were this good). These three are at 15mm, vertical frames stitched together - all tracked (sky and ground) at 50 seconds. Note, I should have taken a dark frame - but alas, I didn't.


Great image and great composition, especially compared to your original post with the Sigma 18-35mm...
01-11-2019, 11:09 AM   #8
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Excellent shots, that second one is wonderful.

01-11-2019, 05:41 PM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by mtgmansf Quote
Great image and great composition, especially compared to your original post with the Sigma 18-35mm...
The first image was from my first time at that location. I found the windmill via Google Earth and made some guesses where some good sight lines would be. Got there at 3am and spent 30 minutes beating the brush with a flashlight, trying to find a good composition, knowing that there was a 40 foot cliff some where close by. I really didn't want to take a header over the cliff out in the middle of the desert at night. I just gave up and went back to where I parked the truck and shot from there to see how the overall site looked and the light domes played with the landscape.

Went back during the day and did some scouting. Then returned several times during the year trying various approaches. I decided that if I was going to do this, a full frame body was in order.

I have found that the Sigma shoots cooler than the Pentax, which has warmer colors. Regular day time shots really do not show this, however low light shots really brings out the differences.

01-12-2019, 09:31 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
The first image was from my first time at that location. I found the windmill via Google Earth and made some guesses where some good sight lines would be. Got there at 3am and spent 30 minutes beating the brush with a flashlight, trying to find a good composition, knowing that there was a 40 foot cliff some where close by. I really didn't want to take a header over the cliff out in the middle of the desert at night. I just gave up and went back to where I parked the truck and shot from there to see how the overall site looked and the light domes played with the landscape.

Went back during the day and did some scouting. Then returned several times during the year trying various approaches. I decided that if I was going to do this, a full frame body was in order.

I have found that the Sigma shoots cooler than the Pentax, which has warmer colors. Regular day time shots really do not show this, however low light shots really brings out the differences.

Thanks for the additional background information. Curious what you would have improved with a black frame? Also, love to see your final image with the elaborate composite you were working on, and first mentioned in the history and your methodology.
01-12-2019, 12:49 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by mtgmansf Quote
Thanks for the additional background information. Curious what you would have improved with a black frame? Also, love to see your final image with the elaborate composite you were working on, and first mentioned in the history and your methodology.
The dark frame would have helped me remove the thermal noise that manifests as "white dots" in the shadows. The image here is significantly compressed in resolution so they don't show up (yea - I cheated).On the final image, I went from 15mm to 30mm which doubles the area of the physical aperture, which effectively doubles the amount of light that is collected. So, with the additional light, the 30mm also increased the detail (by about 4x for each pixel) in the overall frame. The finished image should be around 15,000 by 10,000 pixels and have significantly more detail that is hidden away in the shadows (the entire landscape section is effectively one large shadow). Capture One just released a new version - that I want to try out along with getting a trial of Photoshop (which is effectively the only utility that will composite in full 32 bit).

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