Our first experience capturing the stars in Melaka (from left, tiny Vernon, tiny Ee, tiny Kenn Wai, tiny Chow Gui and tiny Jacky)
Often looking at the stunning photographs of Milky Way other landscape and cityscape photographers have taken, such as signature stars shots of Church of the Good Shepherd in New Zealand, Mt. Bromo in Indonesia and etc., I always wanted to do it here in our home town Melaka. I kept survey for locations far from light pollution especially from places away from houses or buildings or traffics, with minimal light visibility.
During an engagement portrait the Klebang beach of Melaka last month, where I was photographing a couple at a sand dune by the beach of the reclaimed land, there were no street lights, no buildings, purely land of sands dug from the sea, piling up like a sand dune desert. It seemed like an ideal place for shooting Milky Way, dark and far from light source.
Hari Raya’s eve was a good day, it was new moon and the weather was good after we checked the forecast. We organized a small group of friends (Kenn Wai, Ee, Vernon, Jacky and Chow Gui) to travel together to kill time and for safety purposes.
When we arrived at site on the evening of eve of Hari Raya, it was very dark and we had to park our cars far from the sand dune, where the tracks of tires ended in sand. It was too risky to drive further in to the sand dune and might get the cars stuck in sand. We carried our gears and walked about 500 meters on a wide open area of sand to the sand dune.
The weather was perfect. No clouds with little breeze, and the sky was absolutely beautiful, filled with stars. We used an IOS app to track the position of the Milky Way. We could see partial of it with naked eyes.
It was 11:00pm, one hour to Raya. The Milky Way was at the south-eastern direction. We setup our gears facing south which was the direction of the Strait of Malacca.
There were three light sources which somehow would pollute our exposure. One from the east, which was a berthing Star Cruise on the Strait of Malacca, and one from the from the west which might be the oil refinery at Tangga Batu’s beach, and lastly the spotlights and street lights from the north which was the Dataran 1 Malaysia ground. Three sources were far from us however could still make impact to the shots.
Our main objective was to capture the Milky Way with sand dune in our composition. As for myself, I was shooting using a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens. 16mm was the widest range I could get into.
On the first 2 hours of our shooting, it was difficult to capture both Milky Way and sand dune even with 16mm focal length as the Milky Way was high up from the horizon, at about 70 degree. And the spotlights from the Dataran 1 Malaysia ground was annoying even they were kilometers away.
Patiently we tried and tried, from different angles and various camera settings, yet we couldn’t get any ideal shots.
At about 1:00am, the game was changing. The spotlights were switched off. The Milky Way ‘moved’ too, from south-eastern to the south and closer to the horizon, at about 45 degree.
Milky Way and sand dune were in our frame. We continued to capture with long exposure. At last, Milky Way was clearly observable in our camera’s playback. We got it.
It was exciting for everyone of the group especially on this very first attempt. We had fun with shooting the Milky Way, and did some lighting-painting group photo as memory.
There are still lots of things to learn of shooting the stars. Setting up few challenges in the future, I started to follow some stars everyday and read more about landscape and cityscape photography always.
Below is one success shot of mine captured on that Raya’s morning 1:30am. Specially dedicated to all parents of the world!
May all bEE happy. 🙂
Milky Way shot at the beach of Klebang in Melaka (Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II, ISO1000, f/3.5, 30sec exposure)