HE Wilson Photography

Chasing the Stars

I have been trying to capture a photo of the night sky, in all its vast beauty, for years. I’ve traveled to a few destinations that, while not officially designated as dark sky areas, are isolated and well outside areas of light pollution, hauling my gear along and waiting in anticipation for nightfall, to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way and capture that perfect photo. But every time, no matter how clear and still the day, as night rolled in so would the clouds to blanket the sky entirely. And there the clouds would stay, well into the morning light.

It is of course on the one trip on which I was not prepared, and grabbed my camera more as an afterthought, that my opportunity arose. I cannot say it was a perfect moment, as I was in cottage country and lights twinkled around the lake. But come nightfall, the sky was perfectly clear, and the Milky Way, though faint, stood out above the lake. I have always loved the stars. In a way, I feel connected to the past through them. I imagine all those who have gazed up at the same sky, but also wonder how it may have changed.

I gazed at the stars, feeling impossibly small and thrilled at the possibilities of space, I could not shake my sense of disappointment. Here, at last, was a chance, and I had wasted it. I had brought little in the way of gear, and had no tripod to speak of. But I was determined to make the most of the opportunity. And so, I grabbed my camera, went to the end of the dock and climbed into the pontoon boat that was anchored there. In a stroke of luck that the waters around the dock were so shallow that the boat rested on the sand and was not moved about by the waves. having nothing else available to me, as the canopy of trees blocked the milky way from the house, and the boat blocked it from the dock, I adjusted my settings, placed my camera flat, lens pointing straight up, on the table in the middle of the pontoon boat, held the shutter and crossed my fingers. I expected to get nothing but fuzzy blur, anticipating that even resting on the sand there would still be some motion in the boat. I was pleasantly surprised to find this was not the case. The resulting photo was not what I had imagined, for one my aim being limited by the angle of the table I was only able to capture a corner of the Milky Way. There is plenty of room for improvement, but the more I look at this picture the more it grows on me. It reminds me to savour the spontaneous, to make the most of what is around me. Sometimes, a boat can be a tripod.

Milky Way, above Eagle Lake, near South River, Ontario

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