It happens that, sometimes, you go to a place with an idea in mind. In this case, my idea was to take some night pictures of the sky. Being the Milky Way an object easy to locate, and visible all the year, I thought this would be a nice subject to capture. If you have seen it at least once, you will know that the Milky Way is a very dim “cloud” of stars, so getting far from the city was compulsory. Still, the reflected light in the sky is usually enough to compete with it, so even going far from the light it supposes a challenge to photograph.
We planned to go to Gasset’s Reservoir (in Spanish: Embalse de Gasset), a big reservoir 13 km away from the city, with a few hills between them. Usually we like to go to Vicario’s Reservoir (in Spanish: Embalse del Vicario) because it’s closer, but being more illuminated and close to the city made us chose the other option. The idea was to capture the Milky Way, in the dark, perhaps reflected in the water of the reservoir, with some hills or silhouettes in the horizon. Also, we found that an Iridium satellite would be passing, so we planned to capture it too (you know, in this country, at least for now, is still free to take a picture of a satellite).
It happens that, sometimes, all your plans go awry. When we arrived to the reservoir, we couldn’t find a path to the place we had chosen. We found more fences that we had planned, and after half an hour of driving around we decided to take the first viable point we saw, which happened to be next to the road, in a little depression of the terrain. The spot was not bad at first sight, but changed the plans in two ways: we were too far from the water to include it in our compositions, and we were too close to the road, so any car passing will illuminate the place and, if we weren’t careful enough, could ruin any picture being taken.
The Milky Way turned out to be dimmer that we expected, compared to the background illumination. Even at 13 km from the city, the horizon was glowing in orange light, very faint for the eye to see, but very bright for the sensor of the camera. So our expectations of photographing it vanished away. At least we still had the satellite… Except that on the time it should have appeared we couldn’t find it. I managed to capture it a little bit in one picture, just by chance, but it didn’t yield a good picture worth publishing. The lesson here is: It’s difficult to photograph something you cannot see, especially if you are expecting to see it.
But it happens that, sometimes, you get opportunities where you don’t expect them. In the place we were, opposing to the bright horizon and the dim Milky Way, there was a lone tree. And when cars passed by the road, it got conveniently illuminated. That allowed me to capture a few pictures of the tree against the stars, with and without illumination. They are not perfect, but can be considered catchy. The point is that not only I got those pictures, but also an idea, and this is how today’s picture was born.
I decided to compose a picture of the tree illuminated by a car… And, of course, we had a car, so we didn’t had to wait for one to appear (at 3 a.m. that doesn’t happen too often). I have to admit that I tried to use a flash before, but the power was too low to take a good picture, and the continuous light of the car bulbs also allowed an easier composition. Finally, I included the moon. Once it came out, all stellar photography had to be aborted, but at least I took advantage of what I had. The result is what you can see.
Side note: If you are in Spain and you want to choose a good spot for watching the stars at night, the best light pollution chart of the country can be found here. It is surprising that the best charts for Spain are made by French people, but I have to admit that they are especially good. If you want something more interactive, in LightPollutionMap you have a version that includes many more countries (although they are less precise, as they have less sensitivity in low pollution areas).