Astrophotography is one of those genres I love to admire from a distance. I’ve tried it occasionally and failed miserably every time. I’m sure most of it is down to my technique, although I’m going to blame clouds and light pollution anyway. I’d love to be good at it, but it’s just not going to happen.
So, when I see work from people like Russian landscape photographer, Daniel Kordan, I am both amazed and impressed. During a recent visit to Sala de Uyuni in Bolivia, Daniel managed to capture something incredible. The Milky Way reflecting off the surface of the flooded salt flats.
Curious about the work, we contacted Daniel to get some insight on how the images came to be.
There are not so many places in the world where you can enjoy absolute dark sky. Light pollution is in the cities and even small villages.
Altiplano suits as the best possible place on Earth to observe stars. So I planned a month-long road trip for astrophotography.
The most incredible experience was on the flooded Uyuni! It was hard to believe our eyes and senses.
It seemed that we float in the open space. Our spaceship is parked in the distance, and stars are blinking with blue, red and yellow colors.
You stand in the deep night with stars above you, aside from you and underneath! It’s space on Earth, isn’t it?
I certainly won’t disagree there. It’s a beautiful sight to behold, and I can’t even imagine what it was like to see it in person.
Daniel told us about some of the difficulties encountered with creating these photographs.
First of all, high elevation. Photography session was on 4000-5000m above sea level. We needed 5-6 days to acclimatize and next spent 2 weeks at Altiplano, full time at 4000-5000m!
Of course, its hard to move and hard to breath. But due to proper planning, we were safe and healthy.
Planning is important in any location shoot, but when you’re going somewhere for two weeks, it’s vital. I often go away for a few days at a time to shoot on location. Usually my locations aren’t quite this extreme, but planning and preparing ensures everybody’s safety and good images.
One part of the planning Daniel had to do is something most of us probably wouldn’t even think about. Things like this only come with experience.
It was incredible experience to drive in the night on the flooded Uyuni salt flats. Literally you can’t see a thing, just absolutely black tunnel in front of your car.
What you feel is just how your car is going through the mess of water and salt. It’s very easy to get stuck on the dangerous surface. Usually it’s up to 5-10 cm of water above the salt, but sometimes it go deeper.
We made a gps track during the daytime to this exact place and followed it precisely in the night.
It sounds a lot like navigating an invisible maze. Without the forethought to map out GPS coordinates, they could’ve very easily become stranded during the night.
We asked Daniel about the equipment he shot with.
The entire series was shot on the Nikon D810a with 14-24mm f/2.8 Nikkor. It’s a special astrophotography camera, wich is why you can see so much color in the Milky Way.
One always needs to take time to enjoy one’s self on a location shoot. This is especially true, when one is just waiting around for the right time.
Daniel told us that he keeps his post processing fairly simple.
Most of them are panoramic images, stitched together in PTGui and slightly processed in Photoshop (contrast in curves).
Well, the results certainly seem to have been worth the effort. We would like to thank Daniel for speaking with us. I’m not sure my own astrophotography will get any better, but it was fascinating to learn some of his process.
Daniel is currently heading to the Faroe Islands and Greenland to guide several photography workshops. I for one definitely look forward to seeing what images those produce.
You can find out more about Daniel on his website. You can also follow his adventures on Instagram, or reach out to him through Facebook. Images used with permission.
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