As photographers, there are times where we have to photograph the same thing several times before getting the shot we’ve always wanted. Sometimes, this takes days, months or years. Sometimes, it takes a decade. That’s what it took to get this shot.
I first visited San Luis Obispo in California over a decade ago with my girlfriend Kristin (now my wife). Her aunt and uncle lived in a house off Vineyard Drive in SLO and this lone tree sat atop a hill by their house. I photographed that tree every day of that trip and at least once during every trip back over the coming years. But I was never happy with the outcome. I photographed it at sunrise, sunset, on clear days and days with cloudy or overcast skies. Nothing made me think I had captured it the way it deserved to be captured.
Then, in April of 2015, I finally hit paydirt. I was on a trip with my brother to the area and we stayed at my wife’s grandparents house in Atascadero for a couple nights before heading up to Yosemite. That night, I looked up where the Milky Way would be and noticed the celestial center would be due south at around 4:00am. And as luck would have it, you can get a perfect view of that tree on Vineyard Drive looking south. So, my brother and I woke up at 3:30 in the morning, headed over and I finally got an image of this tree I had always dreamed of. I chose to make the tree as minimal a part of the image as possible because the Milky Way was so prominent in the sky. The tree is very old, and it was the perfect foreground element against a timeless view of the night sky.
Photographing the Milky Way is one of the most rewarding things I’ve learned to do in photography. It takes a lot of planning, a little bit of luck and a good amount of technical knowledge to pull off. If you’re interested in learning to photograph the night sky, I just recently released my brand new ebook titled Sunset & Beyond: A photographer’s guide to sunset, twilight and the night sky.
This was shot with my beloved Sony a7s and Sony 16-35 f/4 at 23mm. ISO 4000, 25 seconds, f/4.