A Sigh of Relief

Single Frame 2016 vs. Pano/Stack 2017

I believe there was a post made a month or so back on the Milky Way Chasers Facebook pageabout comparison photos of where you started in the beginning of the year shooting Astrophotography vs. where you ended your season. While I have plenty of work after August from last year I came across two images that were taken on the exact same calendar date, just a year apart and decided to include a bit of the emotion I have felt since the first image was taken and how discovering photography in general really pulled me out of a battle with depression.

In the Summer of 2016 I was attending design school thinking I was about to embark on a career in Web Design and decided to take an Intro to Lightroom class at Otis College in Los Angeles just for fun. I had always had a fascination with photography and especially more so during my time working as a marketing coordinator for a real estate company looking at beautifully shot architectural photos. I was also struggling with a lack of direction in my career so I decided the course would be a nice outlet from my mundane job. A friend had recommended a Canon 7D as a good intro camera for architectural photography so I snatched up the first eBay deal I could find.

As the semester went on I found myself more and more interested in shooting long exposure photography, especially beachscapes. At the time my grandparents lived in Palm Springs and due to my grandfathers declining health my time at the beach was becoming less and less so I turned to giving star trails a go in the desert. My first few attempts blew my socks off! I couldn’t believe how much the stars moved during the (literally) 30 minute exposures I was taking, let alone that I could capture them. After a few shots I quickly started looking into all sorts of astrophotography I could find on the internet.

I think one evening I must of stumbled upon a Youtube video made by Milky Way Mike and soon downloaded Photographers Ephemeris to figure out how I needed to orient my camera in order to capture any sort of galactic center in the milky way galaxy. I learned to read Dark Site Finder and discovered that Palm Springs wasn’t too far off from some really dark areas, so one evening I decided to set out into the night. Salton Sea, here I come!

The photo attached from 2016 wasn’t exactly my first astro attempt, it was probably my 4th night out in a row, but I was extremely happy with the results. My settings were something like 17mm, f/4, 30 seconds at ISO 1600 and I dodged and burned the crap out of the milky way in post processing to make it really “pop”.


Fast forward a year and on August 30th, 2017 I decided to take a solo road trip from Los Angeles to Santa Cruz stopping at Shark Fin Cove, the old Davenport Pier and if I had time Pigeon Point Lighthouse. The conditions for the evening could not have been any better and moving from spot to spot was such a breeze. By the time I rolled up to Pigeon Point Lighthouse I decided to really test the knowledge I had acquired over the past year. I noticed a lot of people where driving up to the light house and that the chances of a flashlight ruining my shot would be higher than if I positioned myself about a 1/4 mile up the road. Not too long before this trip I had purchased the Canon 70-200 f/2.8L and really hadn’t used it much. Feeling a bit ambitious I quickly shot a 140 photo pano/stacked Milky Way of Pigeon Point Lighthouse, each exposure being at 70mm.

Over the past year and a half photography has really done a lot for me mentally. In 2016 I was very stressed out with my 9-5 and lost in general with what I was bringing to the table compared to my hard working wife. We fought a lot and I was really starting to question what I had to offer her. On top of this I had hobbies but nothing I would say I put more than a C+ effort behind, and they certainly weren’t “careers”.

Photography really came to the rescue when I was in a mild state of depression. Mentally and emotionally I am more stable now than I have ever been. Every day I look forward to early sunrises and late nights under the stars. Planning trips to Yosemite, Death Valley, Oregon, Bay Area. Chasing the milky way skies in the Eastern Sierras, and Fogrolls in Malibu and San Francisco. This has become my daily routine.

I have made friends with a lot of photographers over the past year that I have no problem including on my trips. I used to keep to myself and discover alone, now I welcome the companionship when my wife can’t make it. It’s peaceful and fun to share the experiences.


August 30th, 2016
⌁ Location: Bombay Beach, CA
⌁ Camera: Canon 7D
⌁ Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4.0L
⌁ Filter: N/A
⌁ Tripod: Zomei Z818
⌁ f/4
⌁ 30 seconds
⌁ ISO 1600
⌁ Single Image

August 30th, 2017
⌁ Location: Davenport, CA
⌁ Camera: Canon 6D
⌁ Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
⌁ Filter: Hoya Filters USA Intensifier
⌁ Tripod: Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 & Manfrotto 410 Geared Head
⌁ f/2.8
⌁ 5 seconds
⌁ ISO 6400
⌁ 140 images Pano/Stacked

To see more of my work you can follow me on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/stevenjmagner