These Beautiful Images of the Milky Way Were Shot on Impossible Project 600 Film

Images by Daniel Stein. Used with permission.

Photographers have very mixed opinions on Impossible Project’s film, but there’s no denying that Daniel Stein nailed this photo of the Milky Way. Using an SX-70 and IP600 film, he was able to use the film to capture this hypnotic and beautiful moment.

“In brief, I first got into photography a long time ago when I was 10 (I am 23 now).” says Dan in an email interview with us. “I am quite visually impaired, seeing primarily out of my left eye only. Holding a viewfinder up to my face gave the world a new meaning to me.” According to Dan, this allowed him to see things beyond what his physical vision could see.

Sounds pretty strange right? Well, it isn’t. I’m legally blind too, and I’ve interviewed a number of photographers that have visual issues but still end up creating beautiful photos. Dan says that he was actually decent at this vs the more traditional hobbies like sports due to a lack of hand-eye coordination.

“But under a red light darkroom where anyone’s vision is just as limited as mine, it was a perfect place.”

Here are more of Dan’s words and images.

Film has been with me ever since until I got to high school where I purchased my first DSLR. Once in college at James Madison University however, I quickly returned to the film world thanks to my school’s state of the art darkroom. This is about when I first explored instant film. Simultaneously, I was also working at my school’s one of a kind planetarium. Like many photographers today this got me into astrophotography on the digital front. Yet, this was not enough to satisfy me. I needed to create more powerful images, and that is when I decided to experiment with instant film in astrophotography.

The problem is that despite the name, Impossible film is not really that instant. With digital, you can take a picture of the Milky Way and know if your shot looks good within minutes. With this film or any film for that matter, you have 30 minutes or until the next time you are in the darkroom to see your results. With that said, I took advantage of the instantaneous feedback from my DSLR to roughly compose an image for my Polaroid. To take a photo, I assembled my iOptron Skytracker atop a Manfrotto 055XProB tripod and then aligned it with Polaris. Then, I placed a Manfrotto 496RC2 ball head on top of the tracking mount where I can mount my 5D Mark IV. I used the 24-70 f/2.8 L II lens to roughly compose at 70mm. The SX-70 has a focal length of around 65mm, so I figure this is close enough. I messed around with the DSLR for a bit, trying to get a composition that I want to shoot on the SX-70.

Once I was satisfied, I locked the ball head in place and swapped the 5D for the Polaroid on the tripod mount that I created for it. I used a distant star to focus the camera, then I set the exposure compensation dial all the way into the white. After the camera is mounted and the shutter button is pressed, the SX-70 analyzes the light plus the exposure setting and will most likely want to do a 30 second exposure automatically. During those 30 seconds, I flipped the film lid open, trying not to shake the camera and ruin the exposure in the process. The tracker has to be perfectly aligned for this to work properly. Even the slightest misalignment off by a few nanometers will cause the stars to streak. In the example of the photo I posted, you can see some streaking caused from an imperfect alignment. At the end of the exposure time, which I have determined based on current weather and light pollution conditions, I closed the lid, pressed the button, and then the image ejected. Rather than waiting around for it to develop, I recomposed another image with the 5D and took another exposure.

I will not look at the Polaroids until I am home from the shoot, confident that what I have done worked. I feel as if this gives the images a sense of surprise when they do actually come out. Once that is all said and done, I will scan the images that are successful and place them in an archival/acid free storage box.

Be sure to check out Dan’s website and Instagram.