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The Milky Way At Blood Mountain, GA


Recently I headed off to Blood Mountain, up in the Georgia Mountains. I wanted to get my second dip in the water with astrophotography and in particular photographing the Milky Way (my first attempt, at possibly the best place to take it in the northern hemisphere).

First, I'll walk you through the research before I headed out. As anyone with any experience with astrophotography will tell you; you need dark skies. I headed over to lightpollutionmap.info to check how much light pollution there is in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Turns out there's still a couple of good dark locations in Georgia! The thing to look for in this map is not only the light pollution in the area you are thinking of going to but also the light pollution in the direction you're camera's going to be pointing, unless of course you're going to point it straight up.

Light pollution map showing Blood Mountain and the light polluted towns of Dahlonega and Cleveland towards the south.

Light pollution map showing Blood Mountain and the light polluted towns of Dahlonega and Cleveland towards the south.

To get the galactic core of the Milky Way in the frame you're more than likely going to be pointing the lens towards the south. As you can see, Blood Mountain has the heavily light polluted towns of Dahlonega and Cleveland towards the south. They seem reasonably far away from Blood Mountain though so I thought it's would still worth the trip.

Next, I checked for clear skies - don't want those pesky clouds blocking the stars. I use the Climendo app/website (pro version has hourly reports) as it aggregates several weather forecasts. I kind of risked it as clear skies weren't certain.

There are couple of other things you may want to do, like checking for the composition of the Milky Way with the surrounding landscape using PhotoPills or Stellarium, and of course make sure it's between April and October so the galactic core of the Milky Way would be visible after astronomical twilight.

 

And now for the results:

In the first shot (the one to the left), you can see the town of Cleveland (might be Dahlonega) giving off a lot of light pollution. There's also plenty of cloud cover covering it up, which is softening up the light glow pretty nicely.

I waited a bit and moved to the left and got a straight up and down shot of the galactic core. The cloud cover by then had passed and revealed the light pollution glow in it's full glory.

Panorama of three fisheye shots, from a rock sledge on top of Blood Mountain.

Single shot using the Sigma 15mm f/2.8 ex dg.

I used every flashlight and headlamp I had to light up the foreground the best I could. Next on my to-buy-list, a better flashlight!

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the visibility of the Milky Way in the photographs but I think I spent too much time focusing on the stars rather than on the foreground and I've ended up with some noisy, dark foreground subjects. Third time should be the charm and next on the list is going to be Brasstown Bald, a little further north from Blood Mountain.

Check out my blog post about the Milky Way over Jekyll Island, GA.