Winter is coming... Dust off your gloves, beanies, but most importantly your telescopes and cameras! Although it is the off-season for milky way photos, winter skies have plenty of shining marvels in store for you.
After a two-week period of particularly cold weather in Denmark, milder days are over us, and with them come unstable air masses, which in turn produce wind, clouds, fog and sometimes, sunny patches. For the past three nights, beginning Nov. 23rd, the weather has somehow been lenient with us and gave clear night skies with a thick layer of green and red airglow. However it is still possible to witness and photograph the beauties of the winter night skies in the northern hemisphere.
The first and most typical winter constellation is probably on everyone's lips: The Orion constellation. Right now it rises in the east and transits above the southern horizon during the course of the night to set on the south-western shore. Orion is the mythological supernaturally strong hunter that protect and guards the winter sky. Its most famous and recognizable stars are probably Rigel and Betelgeuse, along with the three stars that forms its belt. If you spend a little more time on the constellation, and if you happen to have a telescope, or take long exposures, you will probably notice a wide variety of emission-gas nebulae, including the easy-to-shoot Orion Nebula (M42), the Horse Head Nebula or Lambda Orionis (SH2 264).
Although it is the core of the milky way is well hidden under the horizon, you still might want to take a frame or two of the blue and magenta hues of Cygnus and North American Nebula, along with some other deep-sky object like the Andromeda galaxy (M31) or Triangulum galaxy (M33), both approximately situated in the same region of the sky.
The last three night have been really chilly and cold here on the Danish beaches, but what a great opportunity to shoot different skies with different foregrounds! I was able to shoot the milky way, the northern lights (with a fireball), and the great Orion constellation. I found several different colored canoes (some were wrecked) stranded in the coastal grass dunes, which offered an excellent foreground for my shots. I shot almost everything with my Canon 6D to test out its noise performances in the shadows. I am blown away! You just need a bit of noise reduction in post-processing, but the results are stunning! The camera gives a really cinematic and picturesque effect in the lit foreground! I love it. Here comes a little gallery of my recent shots, which are all constituted of panoramas takes with Samyang 24mm @f/3.2, ISO 6400 and 15 seconds.
The last three nights have also been decent enough to shoot aurorae, which were a bit weaker than previously announced by the NOAA. The due point was really high and temperature between 0 and 5 degrees C, the perfect molotov cocktail for due/frost to form on your lens. It took no longer than 20 minutes for the wind to take all those calories from my cams, and subsequently ruin some shots. It had been an all-night battle to try and tame the fog down with some small hand-warmers that kept falling off. Nevertheless it did not stop me and I was able to capture a little glimpse of the solar storm from the beach:
It only takes a small amount of northern lights to give a beautiful green and pink colors to the sky and here is a shot taken on Vraget beach (Southern Odsherred) right after sunset. The aurora was not that strong, but it was enough to create a really neat vibrancy on the frame (Canon 6D, Samyang 24mm, f/2.0, ISO 2500, 10'').
Last but not least, here comes a lucky shot taken on Høve strand: aurorae and a shooting star. The green glow of the fireball indicates that copper is burning (see the picture below). On this note, I will let you take on winter night skies with your telescopes and cameras, as many more objects and phenomena than are stated here, can be yours to gaze at. Game on!