Fonts Point provides an incredible view of the Borrego Badlands and an immense view of the stars. Shooting with the Moon still in the sky here creates a lot interesting textures nearly 1300ft below. Sony A7RII – Sigma 14-24 f2.8 | 14mm | f2.8 | ISO1600 | 8 sec. All photos © 2018 Jack Fusco
Sigma Ambassador Jack Fusco had the chance to be one of the first photographers in North America to test-drive the new Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM | Art lens. Its edge to edge performance and zoom versatility has earned it a place in his bag for dark sky photography.
Before heading out for a shoot, I open my bag to make sure I have everything I need and also remove anything I won’t be needing. I think it’s safe to say every photographer wants to be selective about what goes in to their camera bag. If I’m not going to use it, why carry the extra weight? Why not replace it with something I might actually use? This is an even more important process if I’ll be traveling.
The amount of light given off from the Moon can certainly be surprising at times and even make some longer exposures appear to be taken in full day light. While exploring the park and waiting for Moonset, I found myself turning my headlamp off and letting my eyes adjust to the available light. Sony A7RII – Sigma 14-24 f2.8 | 14mm | f4 | ISO1600 | 6 sec
Consisting of 6 vertical images, this image captures the Milky Way stretching all the way across the sky above the arch rock. I took each image consecutively and without the same settings throughout. Sony A7RII – Sigma 14-24 f2.8 | 14mm | f2.8 | ISO3200 | 15 sec x 6
Although lens selection can vary with astrophotography, there are almost zero circumstances that I won’t be needing a wide-angle lens. All these are just the starting reasons I was incredibly excited about the new Sigma 14-24 f2.8 DG HSM | A lens. It’s the perfect combination of focal length range and aperture for capturing a huge landscape while pulling detail from the Milky Way as it stretches across the sky above.
Patches of snow along the trail in Mount Laguna certainly made for an interesting twist. It’s not completely uncommon for the area as it sits just below 6K feet, but not always something you expect so close to San Diego. Sony A7RII – Sigma 14-24 f2.8 | 14mm | f2.8 | ISO1600 | 10 sec. All photos © 2018 Jack Fusco
Speaking of the Milky Way, the 14-24 f2.8 DG HSM |A is arriving just in time for the return of the galactic core. While sections of the Milky Way are always visible, the core makes up the brighter and most often photographed section. At this time of the year, the galactic core is just making its way over the horizon in the early morning hours. It’s not a long window, but when I heard this lens was showing up, I had a feeling I’d be staying up all night.
As the very last bit of Moonlight hit the arch, the stars were nearly in full force. Even though the temperatures were in the 20’s at this point of the night, I barely noticed as the quickly changing scene kept my attention. It wouldn’t be long before the Milky Way would be visible over the arch. Sony A7RII – Sigma 14-24 f2.8 | 14mm | f2.8 | ISO3200 | 10 sec
Traveling at 4.76 miles per second, that bright line streaking through the sky and then visible through the arch is the International Space Station. This image was taken just as the first bit of daylight was starting to wash out the stars one by one. Sony A7RII – Sigma 14-24 f2.8 | 24mm | f4 | ISO1600 | 81 + 48 sec
Knowing I’d only have two nights before the Moon would be too bright, I planned out a few locations that I felt would really put this lens to the test. I brought it to Fonts Point in the Anza Borrego Desert, Garnet Peak Trail in Mount Laguna, and out to the dark skies of Joshua Tree National Park.
Strong winds kept me from shooting a few of the compositions I was hoping in Mount Laguna, so I decided a stargazer in the image would provide a nice anchor point as the Milky Way just began to clear the mountains in the distance. Sony A7RII – Sigma 14-24 f2.8 | 14mm | f2.8 | ISO3200 | 10 sec
After firing off my first couple of images, I spent a few minutes reviewing things on the back of my camera. The images looked clean and sharp from edge to edge. From that moment, my mood switched from, “let’s see how this lens performs” to “I can’t wait to capture the night sky with this.” Edge to edge, it is bright, and super-sharp, exactly what you need in a night sky zoom lens. And while true, it is slower than both the 14mm F1.8 and 24mm F1.4 Art lenses, trading the rocket-fast maximum aperture for the still-speedy F2.8 in exchange for on-the-fly recomposing is oftentimes a worthwhile tradeoff.
Looking up, these tall rocks caught the last bit of Moonlight. I love looking up and watching the shadows slowly move across the rocks as the more and more stars begin to appear with each passing second. Sony A7RII – Sigma 14-24 f2.8 | 14mm | f2.8 | ISO3200 | 10 sec
From the right angle, I couldn’t help but notice this rock formation looked like someone giving the “OK” hand gesture. The simple fact that it made me smile was reason enough to catch of a photo with the Milky Way behind it. Sony A7RII – Sigma 14-24 f2.8 | 24mm | f2.8 | ISO3200 | 15 sec
In between strong gusts of wind, I was finally able to capture an exposure without this tree moving too much. It was a bit of a cat and mouse game of, “I think it died down” and “here’s some wind right before your exposure ends” Sony A7RII – Sigma 14-24 f2.8 | 24mm | f2.8 | ISO3200 | 10 sec
I loved the way the Moon was lighting up the rocks and creating all sorts of interesting textures across the foreground. Joshua Tree is full of incredible rock formations and is the perfect spot for capturing this type of image. Sony A7RII – Sigma 14-24 f2.8 | 24mm | f2.8 | ISO3200 | 10 sec
Although I plan as much as possible and try to be prepared, there are only so many elements in a shoot that I can actually control. What I take with me when I head out, those key pieces of gear that don’t end up leaving my camera bag, is something I can definitely control. Those pieces of gear that become my
“go-to’s” end up having a huge impact on the images I come home with. I’ve only spent a short time with it so far, and I can tell already that the 14-24 firmly lands in the “go-to lens” category.