Milky way




Sriharsha Ganjam
Milky way
Made this image in Dudhsagar this Sunday morning. The constellation right above the waterfall is the Big Dipper or the Saptha Rishi Mandala according to the Indian mythology. In some cultures its represented as a giant cosmic ladle, and I saw this emerging right above the waterfall that morning and the minute I realized this I had this image in my head. Luckily I had trekked to the base of the waterfall the earlier evening in daylight so I knew the terrain I was about to tackle in the dead of the night (04:30 am) so off I set with my torch and equipment to frame the shot such that the "Cosmic ladle" was right above the falls to symbolize pouring of the "milk of life" from this giant cosmic ladle on to the earth. In a way making just to the name given to this waterfall "Dudhsagar" which literally means "Milky Sea" in the local language . And I thought it would only be fair on my behalf to call this image the Milky Way, after all that's how I want to put forth the thought process I had that chilly morning, and in a moment I realized how the balance in Cosmos works with every thing falling into place just for that one perfect moment and all seems to make sense.

This image is a composite of two images one exposed for the stars at 06:00 and the other exposed for the mountain at 06:13. I had an exposure of 60 sec for both the images at ISO 800 and f4 at 10mm. Focusing was achieved by dialing in the hyper focal distance and hoping for the best as it was impossible to auto focus in almost pitch darkness.

More on the Big Dipper at
And Vangogh's version ... _Rhone.jpg

Thanks for looking
Tue Dec 22, 2009 1:14 am
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Sriharsha Ganjam  Joined CNP On 23 Jun 2008    Total Image posts 92    -   Total Image Comments 818    -   Image Post to Comment Ratio 1:9    -   Image Comment Density 49     -     Total Forum Posts 42

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Commentby joseph_ta on Tue Dec 22, 2009 8:38 am

Stunning work.. totally loved it... The details on the falls and the sky are stunning... Thanks for Sharing


Commentby Pramod Viswanath on Tue Dec 22, 2009 8:54 am

Brilliant image, great execution and super effort there Harsha!! This is ground breaking work in terms of landscape photography. I always wanted to make milky way shots with waterfalls in the foreground too! Now that you are the harbinger, it is a great inspiration for me to proceed with the work when I get a similar opportunity. Coming to the image, the mood is perfect in terms of giving the viewer the nocturnal feel and definitely the composition is spot on. I know the noise performance of 40D and this is fairly acceptable too! Even though this is a composite image, I don't see a reason why we shouldn't appreciate the work considering the amount of planning and effort going behind it. Also the composition should blend in too!! Every thing has fallen into place in the image. In a word - this looks 'perfect' at this point in time, to me!

Pramod Viswanath
Frames from wild | My Blog
Our only limitation is imagination !

» Last edited by Pramod Viswanath on Tue Dec 22, 2009 8:55 am; edited 1 time in total

Commentby Madhav Jois on Tue Dec 22, 2009 10:16 am

Hi Sriharsha,

I just came back from a 3 day trip to Kodachadri. While the clear open sky studded with countless stars is still very fresh in my mind, this image took me back to the night that I spent gazing at the night sky. I am sure you would have enjoyed very much while making this image. Very ecstatic capture.
IMHO, I would have included a bit less water at the bottom of the frame and bit more sky at the top. Thanks for sharing this wonderful picture.


Best Regards,
My Gallery

Commentby Praveen P Mohandas on Tue Dec 22, 2009 12:19 pm

excellent effort behind the image..and very well executed....i agree with madhav regarding the spacing..... i liked the tone of the image very gives the feel of night....well done...


Commentby Santosh Saligram on Tue Dec 22, 2009 1:21 pm

Lovely one, Harsh! Great planning and execution indeed; and really hard to guess that the image is a composite. Hearty congratulations for pulling off this excellent creation.

On this uncalibrated monitor I can't see any details in the lower hundred pixels at the bottom, so if this is indeed the case, I'd crop a bit of it if this were mine.

Commentby Sriharsha Ganjam on Tue Dec 22, 2009 2:17 pm

Thanks for the views guys. @ Madhav, Praveen and Santosh - This is a full frame and I decided on including the water as much as I have, to capture the complete reflection of the water fall without cropping it off from the image. Not sure if you can catch the reflection on an uncalibrated monitor, but I realized that the reflection of the fall itself was worth retaining when I was trying out the composition by lighting the fall with my torch light and it took me close to 20 exposures and and hour of moving about to get to this composition. I decided to sacrifice on some stars to make way for the reflection of the waterfall.

Commentby Ashwini Kumar Bhat on Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:05 pm

This is extra ordinary Harsh! My jaws are dropped on floor! Excellent! Loved the feel of the night and the softy flow of water! Amazing execution and thanks a tonne for sharing...

Ashwini Kumar Bhat
My scribblings | My Portfolio

Commentby Vijay Mohan Raj on Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:12 pm

My bows on achieving this, night out in Dudhsagar first thing which comes to my mind is the roaring campfire at Castlerock which could not hold back the chill wind and we huddled back into the guesthouse even after many rounds of spirits. You did this on a night at the base of the waterfall waiting to create magic like this makes more sense why photographers should not hit the bed after the sun goes down. I would not change a thing, I like this as it is. I wish you had a full frame and low noise body like the 5DMkII and then even an hint of noise would have vanished. Great pathbreaking work in the Indian context.

A creative mind is a restless soul...

Commentby A Ramakrishnan on Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:34 pm

Man!! You are definitely taking your photography to the next level, faster and finer. Appreciate your efforts behind this and I know, and have watched to what extent you would go once you have the image you intend to make. Congratulations on this, buddy!! It truly looks like a very carefully painted masterpiece! I have no eye for critique, mate! :)

Commentby Mahesh Devarajan on Tue Dec 22, 2009 8:22 pm

Loved the image to the core. Fantastic thought process and great execution. This is great example for landscape and astro photography coming together.

Commentby Nevil Zaveri on Tue Dec 22, 2009 9:28 pm

stunning interaction between heaven 'n earth, sriharsha. great seeing and executing.


Nevil Zaveri

Commentby Shankar Kiragi on Wed Dec 23, 2009 2:31 am

Harsha, An excellent image from you. Every minute of your effort is worth. This is mind blowing and new bechmark in landscape photography.
Many boardrooms need this wall hanger. Congratulations !

Cheers, Shankar Kiragi

Commentby ramesh_adkoli on Wed Dec 23, 2009 11:55 am

An extremely beautiful image, Harsh. Kind of image that i want to make! Faint reflection of the water fall adds to it. Only thing to consider is: 60s exposure means you will get star streaks due to earth's rotation. Worth trying a faster SS for the sky. TFS.


Commentby Ganesh H Shankar on Wed Dec 23, 2009 9:27 pm

A very well seen and executed image Harsha. I would open up the lower region just a bit and close down the land just a bit to enhance the feel of night. Over all you have a winner here ! Thanks for sharing..

Ganesh H. Shankar
Wishing you best light,

Personal Websites Fine Art Nature Photography
Facebook Pages Ganesh H. Shankar | Fine Art Nature Photography | Art Of Life

Commentby Sriharsha Ganjam on Thu Dec 24, 2009 3:40 pm

Thanks for all the comments and appreciation everybody. Ramesh this is regarding the shutter speed and the star streaks you were mentioning in your comment. You are true a very long shutter speed would render the stars as streaks which may not be preferred all the time. This time around I wanted to avoid any star streaks as I wanted to show the Big Dipper and other stars as light points. But since I was shooting at 10mm and the fastest aperture I could use was a f/4 I had some flexibility to keep a 60sec exposure.
According to a rule of thumb I picked up from a web article, the longest exposure you can have without rendering the stars as streaks is got by using the simple formula t= 600/f. Where t is the shutter speed in sec and the f the focal length in (35mm format). So according to this my max shutter speed was 600/16 = 40 sec. But at 40 sec I wasnt getting the stars as well defined as I wanted. So I used 60 sec instead. Yes I do have slight streaks visible on the stars, but when compressed to the web size they are not prominent. So I took this compromise and dialed in a minute long exposure. Hope it helps