Here in Marlborough, New Zealand, I've been able to indulge two of my passions: night sky photography and mountain biking. But my time in this part of the world is almost up, and lately I've been wondering how I can combine these. So a couple of weeks ago I did a bit of location scoping around the outlying hills. I jogged to the top of the mountain bike park, and ended up at a spot that I might be able to make something of.

Back in front of the PC I consulted the planetarium software, Stellarium, and checked the moon phases. Conditions looked OK in just a couple of days, but would the forecast cloud cover hold off?

On the day I set my internal alarm and had a glance outside, almost hoping there would be cloud so I could retreat under the covers. Not to be, so I leapt on the bike and put the hammer down to get up the hills in time. I really had to shift it as the galactic arc was dropping rapidly—anything too long after 3:30am would be too late. After a brutal hill climb in subzero conditions (and the odd wrong turn in the dark) I made it to the spot. Time: 3:31am.

I allowed myself a minute to catch my breath and then set up the equipment for the panorama. The idea was to radio trigger the flashgun and position it on the fence line, but with frozen fingers and a lack of time I decided to keep the strobe in the hotshoe instead. To get myself into the frame I simply used the self-timer.

A number of attempts were needed to position myself and then get the flash output on point. Because I had decided to shed my heavy jacket for the shoot, there was a degree of urgency before I froze solid. Finally I was satisfied, and then there was the dicey descent back to civilization.

The great thing about night sky photography is the surprise that awaits back at the PC when you stitch the images together. Not bad, I thought. It would have been nice to have a bit more moonlight on the singletrack, and the arc a bit higher, but for a first time Milky Way Mountain Bike Self Portrait... I'll take it. Thanks Marlborough.


Sarnim Dean is a photographer and loyal DPReview reader who has been featured previously in a reader showcase here on DPR. To see more of his work, be sure to visit his website.