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It's not just about getting the clear skies...

Updated: Feb 5, 2019


The land of high passes, the land of Lamas, the land of extreme temperatures. YES! LADAKH!! It was no less than a battle ground for us during our Astrophotography Trip to this land of extreme tranquility!

Having a “clear sky” is one of the most vital elements for a successful Astrophotography tour! Who would like cloudy nights, fierce thunderstorms, and ferocious showers to ruin the trip?

Inspite of the unfavourable weather forecast our goal of shooting the Milky Way remained steady and unaltered and somehow convincing ourselves that we will get a clear window at least for some time every night, Umesh and I flew to Leh.

One of our friend Ninad, who was coordinating with the locals, reached Leh a day prior to our arrival. The moment I got his message, ‘Landed in Leh’, I instantly replied, "How is the sky? Is it clear?" and he quickly sent a photograph with a deep blue sky and no clouds at all! What a relief it was!

We landed in Leh at 7:30 am the next day, reached our Hotel and the first thing we asked Ninad was, “Did you have a glimpse Milky Way last night?” To which he replied,

“The Sky was excellent in the evening but by the time it was 8 p.m., thick black clouds covered the skies and entire Leh City was drenched with heavy rains. I couldn’t even see the compound wall of our hotel. Also, I was very tired after a long journey and needed rest and time to acclimatise and hence I slept at 11.”

He explained all the things mentioned above in just 6 simple words! “Barish tha BC..! I slept early!” (It was raining..I didn't give a shit!!")

And I knew the exact reason why he didn’t see the Milky Way that night! He didn’t follow the fundamental rule!!

The basic rule that I follow and every other person who aims for shooting the Milky Way should follow is- Stay awake till you see and capture the Milky Way or till the Sun rises! It’s as simple as that!

It is very convenient and easy to blame it all on the cloudy night, low visibility, haze, thunderstorm, etc and sleep in the warm tents rather than torturing yourself by staying awake and bearing the bone chilling cold, windy weather, with super tired body and watery eyes!!

But these were just minor road blocks in achieving our greater object, shooting the Milky Way and we refused to give up!

On our first night in Leh, we booked our stay far away from the city so that we do not miss even a single opportunity of shooting The Milky Way. The view was spectacular! There was no major source of light on the southern side, from where the Milky Way would show up!

After a power nap in the evening, and an early dinner, we got our arms out (our cameras) and set everything up on the terrace of our hotel. It was 9:30 pm and thick dark clouds covered all of the sky but we decided not to lose our hopes and stay awake anyway. The time was flying…10-10:30-11-11:30, still the situation remained same but so did our enthusiasm!

Somewhere around 11:40 pm, clouds on the southern side started glowing with white light. Umesh and I shared one look and our faces lit up just like the Shining stars up above! (Umesh is the one who taught me everything there is about the Milky Way, right from locating to processing). Soon, the clouds started to disappear, As they got thinner and thinner our adrenaline came to rest and around 12:20 we finally had a glimpse of the Milky Way!

The group was overjoyed as out of the Five of us Ninad, Chinmay and Mayuresh were seeing and shooting the Milky Way for the very first time. After struggling for a while with the technical things like aperture, shutter, ISO, arranging the tripods, adjusting the horizon, adjusting the infinity focus, all of us finally managed to click some decent shots of the Milky Way from Leh.

This first ever ‘patience test’ gave us the confidence and increased our zeal to capture many more mesmerising shots of the Milky Way!

It seemed like Universe was conspiring against us and testing our dedication and hard work as the clouds just didn’t stop following.

Every night we used to wait with our cameras till 2:30-3 AM past midnight for getting a sight of the Milky Way. Our endurance and strength was being tested as we had to travel for 10-12 hrs in the day and slept for less than 3 hours throughout the night!

Sharing one of the Milky Way photos clicked at Pangong Lake after the similar prolonged wait of two and half hours.

Shot with Nikon D500 + Tonina 11-20 mm f/2.8
Shot on the Pangong Lake. Ladakh, India

Stay tuned! The best is yet to come!

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