Thursday, October 4, 2012

Herbert Raab: Captures Central Europe TWAN Style

Ruins of the medieval fortification called "Steinscloss" in Styria, Austria ~ © Herbert Raab
Herbert Raab lives in Austria, in a small village, about 25 km south of the city of Linz. He loves to capture the beauty of the night sky, and share it with other people. "A lot of people live in light polluted areas and many of them are unaware of that beauty. I hope that images like mine will help to make people aware that a dark, natural sky is a wonder of nature that needs to be preserved."

Finding TWAN: Herbert has been interested in astronomy since he was a little boy. After seeing a presentation by the German TWAN photographer, Stefan Seip in 2009, he realized that digital imaging technology has enabled us to capture that beauty, and he decided to try to take TWAN style images himself. TWAN ("The World At Night") is a pool of photographers from around the world that tries to capture the beauty of the night sky over different landscapes. These images are displayed on the TWAN web site. "Personal contacts with some of the TWAN photographers (including the founder of TWAN, Babak Tafreshi), have inspired me a lot," says Herbert.

In the above image Herbert spent much of the night in the ruins of this medieval fortification, with bats as his only companions. It was an intense experience, still etched in his memory! A stack of 40 individual frames, each of 60 seconds exposure time (using a Canon EOS 550D, Sigma 10mm fisheye, f/3.5, ISO 800), resulting in a total exposure of 40 minutes. The ruins and the landscape were illuminated by the first quarter moon.

"Harvest Time" is a stack 38 individual frames, each of 60 seconds exposure time ~ © Herbert Raab
"This group of trees is located not far away from the place where I live," says Mr. Raab. "I have passed these trees almost daily for years before I finally recognized that they would make a nice foreground for a star trails image." He used a Canon EOS 550D at ISO 1600, with a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens at 50mm, f/4.0.

"Twilight" is a panoramic image composed of three single exposures of 20 seconds each ~ © Herbert Raab
When bright planets align in the sky, Herbert feels it's always a great time to do some night photography. In this image, Venus and Jupiter form an eye-catching pair in the evening twilight. Some of the brightest stars in the sky appear left of the two planets, including Betelgeuse and Riegel in the constellation Orion, as well as Sirius, Procyon and Aldebaran. This composite pano was taken with a Canon EOS 550D at ISO 1600, and the Tokina 11mm lens @ f/4.0, with a Cokin P830 diffuser.

"River of Stars" over an alpine lake in Grebenzen-Zirbitzkogel (Styria, Austria) ~ © Herbert Raab
 The Milky Way is sometimes described as "a river of stars". In this picture, it looks as if a boat would be ready for a ride on that river of stars. In a dark, moonless night, the Milky Way can be a spectacular sight. "Unfortunately," laments Herbert, "An increasing number of people who live under light-polluted skies have never seen the Milky Way." This is a single, 60 second exposure, taken with a Canon EOS 550D, at ISO 3200, using a Sigma 10mm fisheye lens @ f/2.8.

Technique and Tools: "Interestingly, many people think that night images require heavy image processing. Actually, that is not the case. In most cases, some tweaks during the RAW-conversion is all I do --with color balance and noise reduction being the most important," says Raab. He uses Adobe Camera Raw as his main post processing software, with ImageStacker for stacking star trail images, and PTGui for blending panoramas. Other than his Canon EOS 550D (A.K.A. the Rebel T2i in the USA, and the EOS Kiss X4 in Japan), he finds his Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 wide angle lens, with the Cokin P830 diffuser in front, as his most valuable pieces of equipment.

Balancing life and photography: Herbert considers being at the right place at the right time as his biggest challenge in doing TWAN photography. "Considering the facts that I have a full daytime job, a family with three small kids, and that the weather here in central Europe is not always very cooperative, every night I can spend under the stars is a small miracle by itself," reports Herbert.

TWAN photography giving balance to life: He has observed that watching the stars slowly move across the sky is a counterpart to the busy, fast-paced world around us. Herbert sometimes philosophies about the photons that have crossed the universe for hundreds or thousands of years, that are now captured by his camera. "Every time I look at those photos that I took in such a night, the calmness returns," he says.

More of Herbert Raab's photography can be found on his Flickr Photostream.

1 comment:

  1. Each of your posts whether your photography or others' inspires me.

    We just got back from the Tetons, but the moon prevented us from getting any Milky Way shots.

    Thanks for keeping up the good work.