Behind the Image – Kieliekrankie Milky Way


We stayed at Kieliekrankie wilderness camp for three days during our trip in 2012 to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape, South Africa. For those that do not know, Kieliekrankie is an unfenced camp with only five cottages (including that of the tourist assistant) in the middle of the red kalahari dunes.





Needless to say, I had to take my chances at shooting the milky way and some star trails.

The moon came up early the previous evening and only disappeared at about 03H00. It was in the middle of winter and sunrise was only at about 07H00. The cycle of the moon forced me to get out of bed at about 03H45, to make my way out of the cottage to the dune which I have identified the previous afternoon and “marked” with my folding chair – It was only some 25 meters from the safety of our cottage.

My “excursion” was to somewhere behind the bush on the left of this image

I eventually got to the spot with my heart pounding and all my senses at high alert – the complete darkness, isolation from the rest of the world, the wide open space and evening sounds of the kalahari desert (which included a passing owl every now and then) were too much! After all, the tourism assistant told us in detail the previous afternoon about the lions that visit the camp and its waterhole during the winter, as they prefer the warmer dunes at that time of the year! I fiddled around with my tripod and the settings on my camera and attempted to take a couple of images of the milky way, but ney… I could pretty much only think about how far the beam of my headlamp was visible and who or what could see it in the pitch-black darkness of the night. After about 20 minutes I eventually decided to take a leisurely stroll (you do not have to believe me) back to the cottage.

“Kieliekrankie Milky Way”

So, no dune in the foreground lit with a headlamp in this image…!! It was taken in the safety of the cottage’s stoep (balcony) a couple of minutes later… Mmmm, it is funny now…

The image was taken on a sturdy Manfrotto tripod and with a remote cable shutter release to prevent any camera shake, as the shutter had to be open for a substantial time. I used my Canon 7D and EF-S 10-22mm lens at 10mm with manual focus set at infinity (∞). As a general rule the shutter should be open between 20 to 30 seconds, as any longer exposure will start to show some movement in the stars. Similarly I used the lowest f-stop of my lens to get as much light as possible to the sensor in the shortest period of time.
A rather high ISO was also necessary to compensate for the very low light conditions. Unfortunately the Canon 7D does not have the best reputation when it comes to very high ISO shooting and noise, but I was pretty chuffed with the outcome of this image, which was eventually taken at ISO 3200 and F3.5, with an exposure time of 28 seconds.
Well, I cannot wait to return to the red dunes and give this another try (with hopefully a friend or two for some moral support)…
1 comment