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Skyline News Detail

Shoot for the stars!

Posted on Monday, 22 June 2015

Recent advances in digital photography means that now everyone with a Digital SLR camera has the opportunity to photograph our universe.  From Queenstown in New Zealand we are so fortunate to get an unspoiled view of our magical Milky Way.   The ribbon of silvery light we see with our naked eye is actually a side-on view of our very own glorious galaxy.  Our solar system sits about a third of the way out along Cygnus-Orion; one of the vast spiral arms of our galaxy.  We are living in the golden age of photographic technology; ten years ago a simple shot of the Milky Way would have been impossible, five years ago it was cutting-edge but now it is within the reach of any eager amateur photographer.

‘A stunning shot of the Milky Way and the Southern Lights appearing from behind Cecil Peak’


Why Queenstown...

Sparkling skies with a middle-earth backdrop makes Queenstown perfect for astrophotography.  We are privileged with a unique array of glittering objects ranging from the well known Southern Cross to the mystic Magellanic Clouds.  Winter is particularly magical for photo opportunities as our long dark evenings and dark skies allow for hours of photography.  We have been fortunate to get lots of aurora activity so far this year and Queenstown’s dark skies are putting on a magical performance.

This winter we will be treated to a spectacular line-up:

  1. Southern Cross; used for navigation
  2. Alpha Centauri; our closest neighbouring star
  3. The Milky Way; home of the almighty solar system
  4. Scorpius; the serpent of the night
  5. Mars; the red planet
  6. Saturn; the true Lord of the Rings


What you need...

When embarking on a stargazing adventure in Queenstown this winter remember to get away from the lights of town to setup your equipment.  

You will need to pack the following:

  • Digital SLR camera
  • Wide angle lens
  • Tripod
  • Headlamp
  • Warm layers
  • Star chart


Taking the shot...

  • Set camera lens to widest aperture
  • Set the shutter to bulb or the longest shutter speed that you can
  • Set the ISO to the highest number that you can
  • Set the White Balance to Tungsten
  • Focus on infinity and lock the focus there
  • Use the self-timer or a remote release to open the shutter
  • Try different long exposures


Inside info...

To get the perfect deep-sky shot of the Milky Way you will need a pure dark sky, this means no moon, and no other light pollution.  Queenstown is the perfect spot for capturing these unforgettable shots and the Milky Way flows across the Zenith (directly overhead) in winter.  The New Moon on June 17th is perfect for this, and the five nights either side.

The full moon on 3rd July brings with it a photo opportunity of a lifetime; setup your camera facing south to Cecil Peak and let the moonlight drench the snow capped Remarkables to create a silhouette shot that will be etched forever in your memories.

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘Once in a blue moon’, well here in Queenstown we have a fully fledged blue moon on display on 31st July.


Need help...

Skyline Queenstown are running two Night Sky Photography Sessions this month.  One on 18th June and another on 25th June, kicking off at 9.00pm each night.  These photography sessions are aimed at beginners and are run by a professional Astro-photographer who will share his many years of experience capturing the beauty of Queenstown’s sparkling skies.

To book visit http://www.skyline.co.nz/queenstown/whatsonwinter/

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