A Tapestry Of Satellites
Smack bang in the middle of lockdown, cannot go anywhere, cannot meet folks, cannot do anything outside of the house. This was a problem, even worse was the fact that in January I had bit the bullet and bought the awesome Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG Art lens purely for Astro projects.
Over the years I had toyed with Astro, mostly to capture the milky way in various locations, and up until then it had gone well. Sure the results were mixed but as I went I found out more about it especially once you are confident enough is to then be able to look at a location, run a few checks, figure out if it can provide you not only the target of the Milky Way but also something in the foreground to pretty much complete the shot. Another massive problem for me is where I live I am surrounded by horrendous light pollution, and I mean horrendous ruling out any chance of even a glimmer of the milky way let alone any detailed shots. I did however have a solution, go to Greece. And I did, with a lot of success, however, this was the worse case scenario, cannot go anywhere and I had this new lens to try out. It was not looking good.
As the time went on I was getting more and more annoyed with being so restricted, but like everyone else it was out of my hands, just had to wait but, I couldn’t, I had to do something. The question was? What? There were two saviours. The International Space Station (ISS) and also SpaceX. And thank God for that. Luckily my house faces north to south giving me a perfect vantage of an east to west view from my back garden which ties in perfectly with the ISS passing over from east to west whenever its orbit passes over northern France or even the UK. Add to that, at the time Space X were launching there Starlink satellites as and when they could and with 60 satellites on each launch if you saw them, you knew it.
(The International Space Station, the Moon and Jupiter with a tiny tad of star trailing using the RF24-105mm lens).
With not much else to do I opted for a Starlink/ISS pass. Checked the phone app, sure enough the ISS would come over an hour after sunset followed by the Starlink mob.
I set the camera up on a tripod in the back garden, checked to see where the ISS would pass over my house and set the angle up in the hope it would capture as much as I could. Using a nice wide 14mm lens I had plenty of room for error so did not have to be absolutely bang on, all had to do was wait.
Sure enough, a few seconds after the ISS app pinged there it was, speeding across the night sky, I set about taking the shot. This is where I found the first problem, even with it being relatively dark to the eye the lens was picking up so much more light and so initially the exposures were less than 5 seconds. Yuk, I was not in the mood to be blending multiple exposures to get one light trial, so some fettling with the aperture and exposure extended the shutter to 15 seconds, that I could live with. The less images to blend the better, however, on reviewing the shots after it had passed I noticed a lot more activity had been captured, from other higher orbit less visible satellites.
(Pushing the limits of the lens to stretch out a shot, the ISS passing over a building close to my house, again slightly trailed stars but by now and honing it in).
WOW.. OK, a couple of minutes and it would be the Starlink mob to come over. I left the camera as it was in the same position. Again right on time they started to appear, one after the other, I counted them and at 60 that was it, they were done, gone, BUT. On checking again, I was still picking up even more including a couple of meteors. By now it was getting good and so I decided, why not try an extended session, take some 10-20 seconds exposures for an hour or so and see just how much I could get. Once I had finished that was it, I transferred the images to my PC, and by now it was getting late I would edit the images the next morning.
The next day, first thing I fired up the PC and then set about editing the images from the night before., Oh boy, how little I had known, every single frame had something going on.. In fact multiple things going on, there were dozens of satellites and after combining the images to make one master image I was astonished. It takes a lot to surprise me, and, seeing the results I was gob smacked. That lens had captured so much, not only the Starlink and ISS but more meteors, and so many more satellites. If anyone ever says the night sky is quiet and boring, I have proof that it is anything but. Later that morning I posted the shot on both my facebook and twitter accounts and within an hour I had the local paper calling me asking about the shot. It was published by them later that day.
I named the image: A Tapestry Of Satellites which I think sums it up perfectly, I hope you do as well.
(This is the final shot compiled from 80 seperate images. It is pretty easy to spot the Starlink satellites)
(I have added this second image so you can see where the meteors are in the image)
So now for the boring techy bits.
Camera: Canon EOS-R
Lens: Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG Art. Canon EF fitting using the Canon EF to RF adapter.
Tripod: Benbo One.
Also using a wired remote trigger that I will say is unbranded as I got it on Ebay and consider it a throw away item as they do not tend to last long when used a lot. I could have used the wireless facilities built into the camera but in all honesty I did not have much faith in the reliability and so opted for a manual wired set up. I was able to program the wired remote to take x amount of shots for x amount of seconds, which I did taking a total of 80 shots over a period of 1 and half hours.
ISO was set to 800 to keep down the noise and to have an extended shutter time and the aperture set to f2.4 again to negate as much light pollution as possible. Using the camera on Mode B with a shutter maximum time of 10 seconds.
If you would like to see more images that I have captured over the years, what places and adventures I am involved in as well as assignments or maybe even dropping me a line on social media here are my links.