Milky Way From Sittong, India

My first Milky Way photography, Shittong, West Bengal, India:
It’s my passion to take pictures of the night sky & engulf its beauty through my lenses. North Bengal is one of those places where I exercise my passion on a most frequent basis. The problem is that you can’t do low light photography without a supporting tripod. A tripod is needed to get long exposure. In order to take long exposure, we need a star tracker.
At this time of the year, if you go to a hill station in northern part of Bengal, India, due to heavy winter luggage, it is not possible to accommodate the bulky steel tripod inside your suitcase. The tripod has to be taken separately.
On March 11, I reached Sealdah railway station (At Kolkata) and discovered that I had left my tripod at home in a hurry. Anyway, I boarded the train and decided to go to The Hong Kong Market in Siliguri after reaching my destination Station New Jalpaigudi on the next morning and buy a tripod. After long bargaining I bought a tripod of average quality. Only the camera could be installed on it. The tracker couldn’t be installed in the poor tripod.
After roaming various beautiful places of North Bengal by car, we reached our homestay at around noon at Shittong, a small picturesque village in the lap of the mountain. The location of the homestay was excellent. The view was also breath-taking. Mt. Kanchendjunga could be seen from the room. But the problem was that the location of the homestay was such that while Mt. Kanchenjunga looks impeccable, the southern and the eastern directions of the homestay were blocked by the pine tree forest within a radius of one kilometre. Basically, the beautiful pine forest was enhancing the stunning beauty of the place.
The problem was that at this time of the year, the core of the Milky Way rises from the south and east of the sky at around 2:30-2:40 a.m. Therefore, it was not possible to capture the Milky Way from this location in March. So, before I entered Shittong, I noticed a location from where I thought the Milky Way could be captured.
After lunch at the homestay, we went out for roaming around the place again. I went to a place called Namthing Pokhri Lake. Although all the water in the lake got dried up at this time of year, but the place was beautiful. And I knew that the Milky Way would go up over the pine forest by the lake. So I decided to come here at night. But the problem started when my wife started arguing with me that it was very risky to go out there at night as leopards may came out there. She argued that the Milky Way can be taken from the location of the Homestay itself. Later in the evening, we went out again for a walk to find a suitable spot to capture the milky way. After roaming in the mountains for an hour, my wife got convinced that the Milky Way won’t be taken from the location of the homestay. With great difficulty, my wife agreed to let me go at night.
But even if my wife agreed, it didn’t work. The driver of the rented car had also to agree. After many requests when I threatened him that I would take his car alone, the driver agreed to go. But before 3:30 a.m., he was not ready to leave. Finally, we went out at 3:30 a.m. We reached Namthing Pokhri Lake at 3:45 am. There was silence all around. It was so pitch dark that, I could not even see my hand. The driver stopped the car and fell asleep in the back seat within 5 minutes.
I was setting up my camera alone in that desolate place and trembling with fear, fearing that a leopard could be anywhere near me and can attack me from behind. I have never been so afraid in my life. However, within 10 minutes, I set up the camera and sat in the car which was kept 300 meters away from my setup. The place was so quiet that the sound of the shutter click of the camera could be heard from such a distance.
However, I took pictures till the early morning light and returned to the homestay again at 6 am.
Photo Details:
Camera: Nikon D5200
Lens: Tokina 11-16
Sky: 100 X 20 seconds at ISO 3200
Ground: 5 x 5 seconds (at bule hours)
Post processing: Sequator, Pixinsight, Photoshop

Autore: Basudeb Chakrabarti (sito)