Jekyll Island, GA & The Milky Way

I took the plunge and drove 4-5 hours to Jekyll Island, just north of Jacksonville.

I wanted to go and catch sunset and then get some Milky Way action after astronomical twilight. Storms during the past couple of weekends have put a stopper on going though. I took a risk this weekend even though there was expected heavy clouds until the middle of the night. With the moon also rising at 11:45pm, I was cutting it really close with a sky that would stay clear and be moon free. I got a lucky last time I went to Blood Mountain, so I thought what the heck.

The main reason why I wanted to go was because of Driftwood Beach, which has bare trees and washed up logs all along the beach. It’s also pretty dark down there, well compared to other parts of the East Coast. Looking south down Jekyll Island, would be the darker Cumberland Island (which is completely undeveloped, being under National Park management), so looking south, towards the Milky Way should show little light pollution.

Well that was the plan…...The one thing I forgot to take into account was how close Driftwood Beach was to Saint Simons Island, which is anything but dark. On top of the light pollution there was also the lighthouse on St Simons, that intermittently lit up the beach. I’m kind of getting ahead of myself though.

For sunset, I did plan to go to the north part of the island, which has some driftwood on the beach but more importantly would allow me to get the setting sun back-lighting the driftwood, as it was setting towards the north-west. While I was walking up there though I came across this open field with an amazingly green marsh and I thought I’ll pass up the driftwood shot (I was going to to shot it with the Milky Way anyway).

Don’t know if I was too happy with those big, stormy looking clouds being there. Don’t get me wrong, it made the sunset picture look great but I came for the Milky Way, and those clouds did look pretty ominous.

Once blue hour rolled around, I got my camera set up next to a cool piece of driftwood overlooking the rising Milky Way. With high tide coming in at around the time of the moon rise, I did have to move the camera but I got a nice blue hour shot, with some nice saturated colors and a just visible galactic core.

That stretch of yellow light on the water is from the lighthouse at St Simons and the red glow on the water is me light painting with my headlamp.

I did have to move the camera pretty soon after - tides move quick! Once astronomical twilight hit I got some decent shots with the Milky Way and it’s galactic core very much visible and on full display. All the light pollution from Saint Simons, did give them a nasty white-orange glow. I got rid of most of it with some light painting, using a flashlight with a blue gel. I even made use of the lighthouse; I waited for it flash towards the water so that it lit up the waves perpendicular to my flashlight.

You can see the Milky Way here in it's full glory.

Overall pretty happy, well I was till I had to drive another 5 hours back, soaked from the knee down.

Cocoa Beach Sunrise

Staying in Orlando, I couldn't pass up the opportunity at shooting a beach with a pier, which I missed out on when I went to Miami. The two big beaches near Orlando are Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach. I chose Cocoa Beach, hoping it would be less busy, though I did have to go on the toll frenzied Highway 528.

I went for a shot with the pier cutting across the frame and into the sunrise, rather than one down the pier or one with sunrise coming through the pier piling. There were a lot of people taking pictures around the pier, where I think they were hoping for a sun-star from one of the pier pilings, that never materialized. 

I got a little lucky that there was any color at sunrise at all. The weather reports were mixed for the morning, with showers in the afternoon. With the rain coming, I got some nice dramatic clouds and the bonus pre-sunrise glow, though no actual sun.

I tried a couple of longer exposures; trying to get a shot with a lot more motion in the clouds. Unfortunately not having a 10 stop nd-filter (I tired taking numerous 30 second exposure, hoping to stack them in Photoshop) and with the clouds moving left to right rather than forwards and backwards, the picture turned out so-so.

The above is one 30 second exposure. I tried stacking a couple of 30 second ones in Photoshop but it turned out not looking so good, guess I can't get around buying a 10 stop ND filter.