Milky Way Panoramas in the Spanish Pyrenees

Spanish Pyrenees Milky Way PanoramaSpanish Pyrenees Milky Way Panorama

It is often difficult to view stars from where I live in San Sebastian due to persistent cloud cover and overall light pollution. On the eve of the 2017 Perseid Meteor shower, I had been checking local forecasts when I saw a small weather window of clear skies. On a whim, I rented a car and took off north-east for a solo overnight in the Spanish Pyrenees.

Before setting off on my trip, I spent a couple days researching locations throughout the Pyrenees mountain range. After creating a short list, I cross referenced these spots with the informative Light Pollution Map to ensure I would be far enough away from city lights. I arrived to the Caldes de Boi region a bit later than expected and after chatting with a park ranger, I was told of a trail that would lead to a full 360 degree view of the entire mountain range. Here is a look at the light pollution emission map in Western Europe, and some pictures from my road trip in the badass Fiat Panda:

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This year’s Perseid meteor shower coincided with a rather large moon (a 67% illuminated Waning Gibbous on my particular evening), set to rise in the east just after 12 midnight. I knew my window for viewing the meteors would be limited to only a couple of hours. I set one of my Canon 6D’s on top of the ridge-line looking north to capture stars rotating around Polaris – shot on the Canon 16-35mm f/4, controlled by a Syrp Genie Mini. Finding Polaris (the north star) is always fun to do unassisted by today’s GPS technology, and the end result turned out great:

Spanish Pyrenees Polaris
Photo by Jesse R. Borrell, NOCOAST

My previous research mentioned that most of the meteors would be viewable in the northeast part of the sky, but in reality, they came from all directions. I saw 24 meteors over the course of 3 hours, and unfortunately, most of the large bursts of light were not captured in camera. I used my second 6D as a mobile unit and shot a 26 frame 360 panorama on the Canon 15mm f/2.8, lighting up the foreground with 2-second bursts of my headlamp. For my post workflow, I edit all of the RAW images in Adobe Lightroom CC, export at JPEGs and then stitch them together using ptGUI – the final composite is a whopping 18,565 × 11,372-pixel resolution.  I am really happy with the results overall

Ultimately rising moon overexposed the view of our Milky Way, but I was able to capture some unique time-lapses as the light exposed the landscape around me. Overall, the experience of hitting the road and exploring the Pyrenees was well worth it, and I definitely look forward to visiting the same spot next summer under a new moon.

Check out a behind-the-scenes video and a couple of my finished time-lapses here in 4K:

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