I went to Western and Central Australia in September to capture one of the most impressive starry skies on our planet. After the seemingly endless flight, we arrived in Perth and started directly north to the Kalbarri National Park, about 500 km away.
In order to cover the long distances and often deserted areas flexibly, we decided on a 4×4 off-road vehicle with a roof tent construction. So we could master dirt roads. Staying overnight in the most remote places.
In Kalbarri National Park we looked for the famous Nature's Window, a small rock arch, as interesting foreground. This one we additionally illuminated with the help of a human inside the bow. We placed an impressively visible Milky Way above it. We recorded these by means of a star tracker, which requires long exposure times (> 1 min) and thus low ISO values are possible. We were helped by a fast 14mm lens.
Due to the wide aperture of F1.8 we get short exposure times and thus a minimal rotation of the stars. This makes a panorama consisting of several successive shots during the night possible without any problems. Here you can see our Milky Way in the form of an arc over interesting rock formations in the Kalbarri National Park, taken in a panorama made up of 13 single images.
After two impressive starry nights we continued our journey towards Karijini National Park. On the way we drove along the entire Coral Coast, passing the azure ocean with pale pink shimmering coral reefs. We decided to take the wildly rushing sea together with the Milky Way. A zoom lens was used for this. The zoom combined with a wide open aperture opens up a whole new range of creative possibilities. So it is easy to shoot the foreground wide angle at 14mm and the milky way at 20mm and combine them to one shot afterwards.
The next destination was Carnavon on the West Coast The OTC satellite station at Carnavon was set up to meet the need for more reliable, high-quality communications for NASA's Apollo Moon Project. It was not easy to realize this shot. Normally the station is surrounded by a large fence. Illuminated by bright headlights. Luckily we met the friendly manager who opened the door for us. We switched off the lights outside. Turned it on inside. So now you can see the newborn space engineer Riccardo in front of his station, searching for new life in the space of our Milky Way galaxy! Thanks to the Carnavon Space and Technology Museum.
At night, we had to cleverly illuminate the foreground with our headlamps, as it was completely in the dark due to a lack of ambient light. This absolute darkness provided an incredible view of the southern hemisphere's starry sky and an F2.8 aperture was quite enough to capture the Milky Way center. With the help of the zoom it was more flexible to search for motives. The photograph shows Hamersley Gorge with its abstract-looking layers of rock. Harmoniously curved shapes during the night. The milky way rises.
After a great stay we continued on a 2000 km long tour across the outback. Starting with burst tires and a broken turbo as well as radiator we had extreme problems with our car on the way and we were about to cancel the tour. So it is urgent to have enough spare parts. Having a car expert with me in the outback. Finally, after some desperate days, we reached the landmark of Australia the Uluru (Ayers Rock).
I decided to photograph the Milky Way together with these gigantic monoliths in one panorama. I used the waxing moon to illuminate the foreground sufficiently. Later after the moonset I exposed the milky way. The 14mm lens was also the best choice here.
Afterwards I started the return journey again. Remaining are memories of a continent with unique nature and landscape.
If you love an unbelievable starry sky combined with fascinating landscapes and nature far away from any civilization, Western and Central Australia is definitely worth a trip.
Thanks Riccardo and Steve for the great trip
February 20, 2022
Hi Steve First of all the astro pics in this article are brilliant but I am sure that is a regular comment of visitors. I do have a few burning questions regarding 2 of your pictures which are #2 and the last one. I live in Perth/WA and know the locations these photos have been shot from. I have done quite a number of milky way shots but I am only scratching the surface of it. I do know that most astrophotos are the result of a stacking process. I haven't gone down that way yet as my Olympus OMD EM1 MK3& 7-14 wide lens give me pretty decent results without fiddling on a PC. Stacking multiple images and overlaying and compositing different views is another matter. So what I would like to know is how the 2 aforementioned photos came about. Looking at the milky way arch and the foreground I would say the angles don't add up. It could never be viewed like this in real life. Only explanation to me is that the milky way arch is a stacked image and the foreground is a separate exposure and the 2 have been combined. There are lots of astro photos like this on the net and at first it made me envious as I could not even imagine how to achieve this result in one shot. Recent research has led me to believe that many of these pictures are the result of compositing creativity. I don't know if you want to let me in on one of your secrets but I try my luck.