180+ Degrees of Pine Mountain Club at Night
180+ Degrees of Pine Mountain Club at Night
180+ Degrees of Pine Mountain Club at Night
My wife, Barbara, and I have lived in the beautiful small town of Pine Mountain Club (PMC) for nearly three decades. Surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest, PMC consists of only 2400 houses plus another 600 unimproved lots. Our home is perched at 5900 feet elevation, and sports an extraordinary and minimally obstructed view of the surrounding mountains, valley, and sky. PMC's lack of proximity from any major cities provides us with dark skies with very little light pollution.

In this panorama of PMC at night, you can see roughly 195 degrees of the view from our deck - right next to where I use my telescope. On the left side of the image, Woodland Drive is brightly illuminated by a car (as it happens, this was my car that I intentionally drove up the street while Barbara triggered the exposure). Woodland points towards the back side of Mt. Pinos behind it, while the other mountaintops of Sawmill, Grouse, and Abel (aka Cerro Noroeste) follow to the right. After the trough of Apache Saddle, San Emigdio Mountain begins to rise at the extreme right (see the annotated version of this image to help identify these and other landmarks). The Zoomable High Resolution version of this image can be helpful to see some of the fine details throughout the photo. That version of the image contains a whopping 144 Million pixels! Believe it or not, that's still downsampled to just 1/4 of the original total data.

Above the landscape is the early morning sky of mid-Spring. The plethora of stars from our Milky Way Galaxy rises almost vertically near the center of the image. This fascinating part of the sky includes such Sagittarius notables as the Eagle, Swan, Lagoon, and Trifid Nebulae. To the right of the Milky Way is the colorful constellation of Ophiuchus. Shown here are the Rho Ophiuchi region of the sky, the Blue Horsehead Nebula, the Zeta Ophiuchi Nebula and several other reflection nebulae. All of these objects are also identified on the annotated version of this image.

To capture this image, I created two separate mosaics - one for the foreground landscape and one for the sky. In the early evening, when there was a first quarter Moon in the sky, I captured 14 panels of 90 seconds each (3 subexposures of 30 seconds each per panel). The 50mm lens panels were oriented in portrait mode (vertical orientation) so that each panel was approximately 25 degrees wide and 40 degrees tall. Each of the panels had some overlap with it's neighbors, thereby yielding me an expansive panorama of about 210 degrees by 40 degrees (I eventually cropped the span of the mosaic down to 195 degrees). The reflected sunlight from the first quarter Moon was enough to illuminate the landscape.

The following morning, I captured a similar sequence of panels for the sky portion of the image. However, there was enough high clouds that morning that my data was not very good. Fortunately, the following morning the conditions were ideal - perfectly clear with very dark skies. I then captured 14 more panels. Because I had the camera fixed (not tracking the sky), I had to limit each subexposure to 10 seconds to avoid excessive trailing of the stars. I captured 20 such subexposures for each panel, so the sky portion of this mosaic is the equivalent of an exposure of only 3 1/3 minutes across it's entire breadth. Nonetheless, it turned out to be enough to create usable data.

Finally, I had to create a custom rig to mount the camera. Although the view from our deck can be quite stunning, the visibility from about 10 feet higher is that much better. In order to make good use of this vantage point, I built what I called my 13 foot quadrapod (a 4 legged tripod). Namely, I used my 13 foot step ladder and mounted a jig to hold a ball head adapter. This added a bit more of a challenge to capturing the sky data - repeatedly climbing up and down a 13 foot ladder at 3 o'clock in the morning in order to reorient the camera!

Exposure Details
Lens 50mm f/1.8 Olympus Zuiko prime lens
Focal Length 50mm
Focal Ratio f/2.8
Mount 13 foot step ladder with custom jig for mounting ball head
Guiding Unguided and untracked
Camera Hutech modified Canon 6D
Exposure 28 panel mosaic - 14 panels of 3 x 30 seconds each for landscape plus 14 panels of 20 x 10 seconds each for sky (68 minutes total exposure)
Calibration 40 darks, 40 flats, 200 bias
Date May 2 and 3, 2017
Temperature typically 55F to 60F
SQM Reading 21.60 (Bortle 4)
Seeing 4/5
Location Pine Mountain Club, California
Software Used Images Plus 6.0 for camera control, calibration, stacking, digital development, and feature mask. Photoshop CS5 used for photomerge, levels and curves, high pass filter, lab color, vibrance, saturation adjustments, selective color, and match color. HLVG for additional color correction, Gradient Xterminator for gradient removal. Registar for aligning stacks.
Notes This is my first attempt at putting together a complex mosaic of both land and sky. While I'm sure there were better methods I could have used to create this panorama, I'm overall quite happy with the final image. I think it's amazingly detailed, and it shows well what a beautiful view we have from our home.