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Behind The Shot: The Artistry And Craft Of A Coastal Milky Way Masterpiece

There's a select group of photographers who prefer to work at the edges of the day. They pull their cameras out before dawn and as the sun begins to set, hoping to make images with gorgeous, diffused light. They will also often continue on shooting into the darkness, capturing beyond what we can see with the naked eye. Sam Binding (@sambinding) is a 42-year-old photographer who is primarily a sunrise photographer. He's always on the hunt for a misty morning, however when nighttime falls, he turns to astrophotography. We were inspired by his Instagram feed and wanted to learn more about this photo, made with a Sony Alpha 7 III and a Sony 20mm f/1.8 G lens, in particular. Keep reading as Binding explains how he created this image and how he works to achieve his creative vision.

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Photo by Sam Binding. Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony 20mm f/1.8 G. 25-sec., f/1.8, ISO 2500

Photo by Sam Binding. Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony 20mm f/1.8 G. 25-sec., f/1.8, ISO 2500

Photography for me really started a few years ago, when I caught a glimpse out of my son's nursery window of an incredible cloud inversion across Bristol. I decided from that moment to start taking my dog out during the early hours to try and capture some of these scenes on camera. It has really snowballed from there. Photography is a hobby for me - I work as a web designer full time, so sunrise and astrophotography fall quite nicely on either side of the working hours. My images have been featured in Landscape Photographer of the Year, Astronomy Photographer of the Year and Historic Photographer of the Year.

The Best Way To Find A Location? Listen To The Locals

On a family holiday down to Cornwall, I was desperately hoping for a decent window of clear weather at night. There were a few locations I had in mind, however after chatting to a couple of other local photographers who I knew, we decided to head down to Pedn Vounder for the night. This beautiful location, with its jagged coastline, sandy beach and turquoise water, lies in a really dark spot, looking out to the sea, and is perfect for astrophotography. With only fishing boats in the distance, and clear skies ahead we had the whole night perfectly set up.

"A Dream Combination" For Astrophotography

I shoot with a Sony Alpha 7 III, it is a tried and true camera that I love dearly. This image was taken using my Sony 20mm f/1.8 G lens - arguably my favorite lens, and one I return to again and again for astrophotography and for wide angle landscapes. It is super sharp and lightweight, and always has a place in my camera bag. The Alpha 7 III has fantastic low light performance, so paired with the 20mm, it is a dream combination.

It was a very dark location, and we arrived around 1:00 a.m. Luckily my fellow photographers, who had been here before knew where to go! I found a good spot to set up, did a few high ISO test images to check composition, and then properly set up.

My camera settings for this image were 25-sec., f/1.8, ISO 2500. 25 seconds is just about good with this focal length before you start to get trailing. I actually think I could have lifted my ISO to 3200 and it would have been even better, however I was happy with the results. I used my Three Legged Thing Brian tripod, which has served me very well.

Our group also ended up staying to watch a crescent moonrise just before sunrise. It was a pretty unreal experience and great fun to enjoy the moment with fellow photographers.

Photo by Sam Binding. Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony 55mm f/1.8. 8-sec., f/2, ISO 1600

Photo by Sam Binding. Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony 55mm f/1.8. 8-sec., f/2, ISO 1600

Stacking Images For Detailed Stars

I am normally a pretty impatient photographer – I usually take a single image and then move on and recompose. However I really wanted to pull out as much detail as possible from the Milky Way, so with this image, I actually took 10 images so I could then stack them. This improved the overall image and reduced the amount of noise.

I used Starry Landscape Tracker to do this, which was quite a simple process before reimporting the final image back into Lightroom, where I then made adjustments to bring out all the detail in the foreground and sky. I used selective adjustments to further bring out the core of the Milky Way, along with the detail in the bay down below.

Find a community of Sony Shooters in the Alpha Universe Forums. And be sure to follow Sam on Instagram (@sambinding) for more epic early morning and late night images.


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