On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

On The Road and In Your Backyard is a weekday feature spotlighting reader submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, please share your part of the world, whether you’re traveling or just in your locality. Share some photos and a narrative, let us see through your pictures and words. We’re so lucky each and every day to see and appreciate the world around us!

Submissions from commenters are welcome at tools.balloon-juice.com

Enjoy the day and pictures. Today is Paul Ryan’s last as leader of the House!


The pictures today – what joy! I’m especially fond of Orion.

Today, pictures from valued commenter 🐾BillinGlendaleCA.

The Offseason

During the winter months in the northern hemisphere the galactic center of the Milky Way is not visible. So what should a astrophotographer do when the interesting bits of the Milky Way are not visible. Either go to the southern hemisphere or concentrate on photographing something else in the night sky. There are things in our night sky here in the north that are absolutely beautiful. Some you can see with the naked eye even in the most light polluted areas(I can see the Orion nebula here in Glendale).

The technical stuff…
So photographing these wonders in the sky should be easy, I’ve been photographing the Milky Way for the past 2 years. While some things are the same(no moon in the sky, a dark place, and a skytracker), some techniques needed to capture these deep space objects are quite different. Rather than using a wide angle lens, you need to use a telephoto lens, which means that you need a shorter exposure time(the rule of 500: 500/focal length*crop factor), so what would be a 20 second exposure for a Milky Way shot becomes a 1 second exposure with at 200mm lens. While a startracker will relax the 500 Rule, the precision needed to take a really long exposure is difficult to achieve.

Taken on 2018-12-29 00:00:00

Glendale, California

After the experience at Red Rock, I refined my technique to shoot multiple 30 second shots with the skytracker and then combine those shots. This makes each individual shot less prone to exhibit star trails and still can produce a long exposure. This was shot with a 200mm lens with a total exposure time of 15 minutes and 30 seconds(31 shots).

Taken on 2018-12-16 00:00:00

Glendale, California

Comet Witanen was a visitor to our skies in December, so I shot a picture of it. It’s the fuzzy blue/green ball at the center of the photo. The star cluster to the right is the Pleiades which the Japanese call Subaru.

Taken on 2018-12-11 00:00:00

Red Rock State Park, California

While I was up at Red Rock taking pictures of Orion, I focused my old NX500 on another object in the sky that looks like a fuzzy star. While a nebula may have hundreds or thousands of stars, this object has billions of stars; it’s our local neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy. Both pictures from Red Rock where shot with short*(under 4 seconds) exposures and multiple pictures were put together to get enough light to see the objects. However, I found this technique a bit less than optimal and now use a method of shooting fewer, but longer shots.

*I was getting star trails when I tried to shoot multi-minute exposures with the startracker.

Taken on 2018-12-11 00:00:00

Red Rock State Park, California

This was also shot using a 50mm lens and was cropped. You can see two stars in Orion’s belt with the nebulousity of the Great Orion Nebula(M42) and the smaller nebula just above it(M43). You can also see the Flame Nebula just to the left of the bottom star in Orion’s belt.

Taken on 2018-12-08 00:00:00

Glendale, California

This is a “wide shot” of Orion, I say “wide shot” because it was taken at 50mm on my 16-50mm zoom lens. Here you can see Orion’s belt(the 3 stars just above the center of the photo) and Orion’s sword at the center. The fuzzy red “star” is what we’re most interested in, the great Orion nebula. The nebula is composed of quite a few stars and more are being formed in it on a constant basis. The red glow is hydrogen atoms being charged by the immense heat from these stars and emitting a reddish light.


Thank you so much 🐾BillinGlendaleCA, do send us more when you can.


Travel safely everybody, and do share some stories in the comments, even if you’re joining the conversation late. Many folks confide that they go back and read old threads, one reason these are available on the Quick Links menu.


One again, to submit pictures: Use the Form or Send an Email

20 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    I really want to jump on the nearest spaceship right now.

  2. 2
    Mary G says:

    That is a lot of stars for Glendale, Bill! Beautiful as usual.

    I have been reading about how excited scientists are about getting in pictures of Ultima Thule, in spite of Twitler and his war on science.

  3. 3
    JPL says:

    @Baud: That’s one way to add to your resume.
    Bill, Amazing photos!

  4. 4
    Amir Khalid says:

    His starscape photos are never less than amazing.

  5. 5
    debbie says:

    Orion has always been my favorite. How lucky you can even see Orion’s Belt!

  6. 6
    Auntie says:

    Photos are really beautiful!

  7. 7
    satby says:

    I don’t think I realized (or I’ve long forgotten) that one of the stars in Orion’s belt is a nebula. I’ll be looking again on the next clear night.

  8. 8
    debbie says:


    Now that I’m more awake, I can correct myself. That nebula is part of Orion’s Sword, hanging down from the Belt.

  9. 9
    Mike S (Now with a Democratic Congressperson!) says:


  10. 10

    @Baud: Orion’s 1500 light years away, and it might be detrimental to Baud!2020!.

    @Mary G: With long exposures and not shooting at the horizons(which you do for Milky Way shots), you can get some pretty good shots here in Glendale and lots of stars show up. However, it’s always better to shoot where there’s less light. Most of these shots were testing out technique and it’s much easier to do so here than driving 100 miles first and the results turned out pretty well.

    @JPL: Thanks, I’m going to try to get out and shoot in some darker locales before Milky Way season is upon us.

  11. 11

    @Amir Khalid: Thanks.

    @debbie: Glendale is in one of the most light polluted spots on the planet, I can always see the three stars in the belt(unless it’s cloudy).

    @Auntie: Thanks.

  12. 12

    @debbie: Correct, the great Orion Nebula is on Orion’s sword, however there are two nebula surrounding the left star on Orion’s belt(Flame and Horsehead). You can see the Flame nebula in the 4th picture(shot in a dark location, Red Rock).

    @Mike S (Now with a Democratic Congressperson!): Thanks, and congratulations on your new and rational representation. Here in Glendale, we elected Republicans for years until we elected Adam Schiff.

  13. 13
    arrieve says:

    Always wonderful to wake up and see your starscapes. That first nebula shot is breathtaking.

  14. 14

    @arrieve: Thanks, that’s the best I’ve shot so far. I’m going to try to get to a dark location in the next few weeks, weather permitting.

    These shots were pretty experimental, I was trying different techniques and there was an evolution in quality. I believe that given a dark location t and a change in technique will yield much better results in a dark location. In addition to a better shots of M31 and the great Orion nebula, a dark location will produce some shots of the Flame, Horsehead, California and maybe the Rosetta nebula.

  15. 15
    Wag says:

    Spectacular, as always.

  16. 16

    @Wag: Thanks, there’s pretty stuff up there. Best part is that you can even see a bit of the redness from the Orion nebula even in a light polluted sky, if the humidity is low.

  17. 17
    Buford says:

    great photos…I know how difficult it is to photo the night skies…that is why I stick to daylight, and occasional moon shots…

  18. 18

    @Buford: Thanks, the thing that made this possible was the skytracker. You can shoot the Milky Way without one, but you get better photos with one since you can shoot at a lower ISO and get less noise. It’s impossible to effectively shoot deep sky photos without one(shots 3 and 4 were shot without using the skytracker), the quality really does suffer even with stacking multiple higher ISO shots.

  19. 19
    stinger says:

    Bill, your photos are awe-inspiring as always! Though I have to say that I don’t recognize the Orion that I see here in the midwest in any of these images! The same and yet different, I guess.

  20. 20

    @stinger: It’s an extreme closeup. The Orion Nebula is on the sword that hangs roughly perpendicular to the 3 stars that’s the belt. The fifth photo should give you a lay of the land, so to speak.

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