Through the Viewfinder with Marian Howell

The night after the April New Moon I was driving the only car on Point Road at 1 in the
morning. I asked myself how had it come to this??

A few years ago I shot a partial lunar eclipse over the harbor and composited an image
of the moon’s eclipse phases in the descending arc as seen that night. Fighting the
summer night’s dew on me and my gear, I had a great time! Twenty months ago we had
a partial solar eclipse, and last January a total lunar eclipse. I enjoyed exploring these
events with my camera. During the winter I became fascinated by Milky Way images
and studied the various ways to shoot them. To me they were spectacular when done
well! Although they were shot at iconic locations or deep in dark sky areas, I was
hooked, and determined to do one here at home in Marion. I wanted to shoot “our”
Milky Way!

The visible Milky Way “season” here is March through September. I got a popular
photography app for my phone that had all the information needed to plan a place and
time for a Milky Way shoot. The first challenge was imagining potential locations. To
make the shot special I wanted to find an SLT site with the background in the SE-S-SW
for the Milky Way. Stewart’s Island came to mind as I had been the SLT Steward there
for a number of years and have taken many photos on it and of it. Scouting the area I
found a spot along Sprague’s Cove that would be perfect! Using the app, I was able to
stand on my chosen site in daylight, frame the view in my phone camera, and rotate the
Milky Way across my image as it would be on that future new moon night. I found the
exact time I had to be there to take the shot, and a good idea of what that shot would
look like.

So now it’s 1 am, the weather predicts clear skies, and here I am, on my way to get that
Milky Way image that has been swirling through my mind for months. I get the tripod
out, set up the camera, and take some test shots to make sure I am ready. Overhead the
sky is clear and filled with stars but the southern horizon has a long streaky cloud sitting
on it, hiding the glory of the Milky Way. I take some more shots, exploring different
camera settings, just because I was there, and waited an hour. Slowly the clouds clear a
little more and suddenly I look up to see the Milky Way is right where and when it is
supposed to be! The next hour is spent taking advantage of this visible opportunity
until the Milky Way disappears in the astronomical dawn. By 5:30 am I am home
happily downloading the results. My view of Marion had been magnificent!













Photographs and story courtesy of Marian Howell