This Gorgeous 10-Second Milky Way Photo Was Shot Hand-Held

In an attempt to one-up photographer Aurel Manea, who shot these hand-held Milky Way photos with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II last week, New Zealand photographer Jonathan Usher took his own EM-1 II out for a hand-held long exposure. That’s how he shot this unbelievable image: a hand-held 10 second exposure of the Milky Way.

It seems we may have started some sort of Internet ‘challenge’ with our post about Manea’s Milky Way photos. He had used a super fast f/0.95 lens to shoot his, and said he couldn’t do better than a 4-second exposure hand-held. Usher wanted to see if he could stay steady a bit longer:

“I read the story PetaPixel published on May 19 about shooting the Milky Way handheld with the Olympus E-M1 MkII and thought I’d try it for 10 seconds, not 4 seconds—and with a f/1.8 lens, not a f/0.95 one (I used the Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye),” he told us over email. “The results tonight, from Wellington, New Zealand, I thought were rather nice!”

Rather nice is an understatement. Here’s the photo he captured without a tripod:

Ursher posted his photo on Facebook, along with the following description of the night he took it:

Just in from a quick shoot in Wellington, New Zealand, of the Milky Way tonight. I thought I’d try and do without a tripod (yes, handheld – and not braced on an object either) so as to see what the amazing stabilizer in the Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII could pull off. Even with a bit of a Wellington southerly blowing to make things a bit more shaky than I’d like, the results are, I think, impressive.

[This is] a single handheld 10 second exposure, which was the best of the four I took. I used the wonderful Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens and exposed at ISO1600 for 10 seconds at f/1.8. I’m really impressed at the detail that this shot retained.

Even at night, it seems tripods can be optional with the little Olympus E-M1 MkII. Astounding!

Not braced on anything, fighting the wind, and he managed to shoot a 10 second exposure hand-held… and keep it sharp! To help steady himself, Usher says he “tried exhaling slowly during the entirety of the exposure, which seemed to work well.” Any longer than 10 seconds, he tells us, and there would be a danger of running out of breath.

The location did help, he admits. “On darker nights, such as one in April, images of the Milky Way and Aurora Australis in one frame can be achieved,” says Usher. Here’s one such image he captured, this one using his D750 mounted solidly on a tripod mind you:

But as gorgeous as the image above is, the first one is truly unbelievable. Think you can do better? If you can beat 10 seconds (without cheating), let us know. And if you like Jonathan’s work, definitely check him out on Facebook and Instagram.

Image credits: All photos by Jonathan Usher and used with permission.