Photographing the Night Sky
Astrophotography tips to shoot nifty images of the stars, moon and dark sky from photographers Diana Robinson, Pete Saloutos, and Deborah Sandidge.
At that place are a variety of techniques that can be used to create dynamic photographs of the nighttime sky, including capturing the stars as pinpoints of calorie-free, as star trails and by creating time-lapse movies of the stars every bit they move across the sky during the course of an evening.
We spoke with three photographers—Pete Saloutos, Deborah Sandidge and Diana Robinson—to discover out their techniques for smashing photos of the night sky. Nosotros besides asked our in-house film making guru and senior technical manager, Steve Heiner to give us tips for making bully time lapse movies of the stars.
“The subject volition ofttimes make up one’s mind if I pursue star trails or pinpoints of light,” explains Deborah. “If a scene has a lot going on in the foreground, stars represented every bit pinpoints may complement the scene, rather than overwhelm information technology.”
“Enthusiasts of astrophotography may choose to invest in special equipment for tracking the stars as the earth moves,” explains Deborah. A telescope mountain moves the camera/telescope equally the globe rotates. This allows for long exposures of the night sky that will option up the fainter calorie-free of the Galaxy for example.
To photograph the stars in the sky as pinpoints of low-cal, beginning with as wide an f/stop every bit your lens allows, and shutter speed of near 20 seconds. Any more than time than that and the stars will begin to blur. Increase the ISO as needed for a proficient exposure.
Diana says she’ll often permit the foreground be lit by moon light on nights when the moon is brilliant plenty considering there is plenty detail and light to add to the image. “On dark nights, I only light paint foreground elements when it makes artistic sense,” she says, noting that she tries to make the foreground look as natural as possible in most cases.
At that place are two techniques Diana uses when photographing the moon and stars in ane scene. At times, she will bracket the exposure and composite two frames together, so the last image will have both the moon and the stars properly exposed. Other times she’ll utilize multiple exposure to expose for the moon and stars separately.
Light up the foreground
Using a wide-angle or fisheye lens, yous can too incorporate the foreground into your images. Depending upon the field of study, the foreground as a silhouette may enhance the overall image, or detail in the foreground may complement the night sky. The foreground tin as well be lit using a multifariousness of techniques.
Loftier Dynamic Range (HDR):
Ane technique is to take multiple shots, bracketing or varying the bodily exposure time, and merge them as HDR which you can blended with the concluding prototype of the properly exposed heaven.
Painting with Light
is some other technique that can exist used if the foreground is close plenty. In that location are two ways to paint with light: using a abiding calorie-free source such as a flashlight or with a Speedlight.
Abiding light source:
while the shutter is open up, use a abiding light source to illuminate the foreground. Move the lite around during the entire exposure so you don’t finish up with hot spots.
while the shutter is open, press the Speedlight’s
push. Every bit with the abiding calorie-free, movement the Speedlight across the scene to allow the wink to illuminate the entire foreground.
And just considering at that place are clouds in the sky doesn’t mean you need to stay indoors. The clouds can add together an interesting aspect to night photography when they’re sparsely dotting the sky, allowing the stars to peek through.
If yous’re out shooting star trails, don’t forget that some of the private exposures you take to stack together may besides stand up on their own equally individual photographs. Deborah plant this to exist the example with the commencement paradigm. Information technology is one of the unmarried exposures that too ended up being stacked into a star trail image. “Oft a single shot of stars can exist beautiful,” says Deborah. “This prototype, because it was shot in clear atmospheric conditions, allows the Galaxy to be seen.”
Speedlights Painting with Light
Pete Saloutos creates unique, about unworldly images of the nighttime sky by incorporating the painting with light technique to illuminate the foreground. He uses Speedlights to paint with light, pressing the Wink button multiple times while the shutter is open during a long exposure, to “pop” low-cal into the scene. Colored gels over the Speedlights add a uniqueness to these photographs, each of which are created from a single long exposure, with the camera recording NEF (RAW) files.
Pete set the white balance on his D4 to daylight, and used an ISO range of 4,000 to 12,800 over the course of shooting at Joshua Tree National Park in California. Shutter speeds ranged from fifteen to 25 seconds. Pete manually focused the camera on the closest trees in the foreground.
“Its important to shoot during a new moon—when the moon is not visible in the night sky—to keep light to a minimum,” Pete explained. He too decided on the location based on its distance from cities, to eliminate light pollution affecting the images.
Both Pete and his assistant held Nikon Speedlights with colored gels over the flash heads. During the fourth dimension the shutter was open, they would “popular” the flashes, to illuminate the foreground trees and boulders. With Pete to one side of the camera, and his assistant on the other, they began painting with light from a distance of about 15 feet from the camera, each moving further from the camera, on an angle that brought them shut to the subjects in the foreground. This allowed the light to be more dimensional, wrapping effectually the trees. Each was able to pop off from two to ten flashes from each Speedlights during each exposure. Pete explained that while the Speedlights aren’t constant low-cal sources, you lot still demand to exist enlightened of where y’all’re pointing the flash then you don’t end up with hot spots in the image (overexposing a portion of the photo.)
Shoot the moon
Photographing the moon forth with the foreground mural tin be tricky considering of the broad dynamic range. Exposing for the foreground might cause the moon to exist overexposed, and exposing for the moon might cause the foreground to be also nighttime. In this case the optimum solution may be to create a multiple exposure or blended.
Paradigm Overlay: There are a few ways that you can add the moon to another image for a more interesting composition. One of those techniques is past using the Prototype Overlay function that is incorporated into many Nikon DSLR cameras. Deborah often uses this technique. In the shot of the Line-fishing Shack (photo 4 in the group above), she first photographed the moon, then the fishing shack, combining them in-camera using the Image Overlay function. (Check your manual to find out if your camera offers the Paradigm Overlay feature.)
Post-production composite: Some other technique is to photo the moon and the landscape as carve up images and combine them together using an image-editing program.
Use the aforementioned focal length lens that y’all shoot the landscape with, when you photograph the moon, for the well-nigh realistic look in the last composite. It also makes the bodily compositing easier to exercise. If you’re using a wide-angle lens and the moon is a small element, information technology likely won’t crusade the overall prototype to suffer if the moon is blown out with no visible details.
Remember to use a shutter speed of about i/15 2nd or faster since the moon really moves pretty fast across the heaven.
View stars in movement using time-lapse photography
Digital photography allows photographers the ability to use a lot of really cool techniques for capturing imagery—fifty-fifty the passing of fourth dimension—by using time-lapse photography. Many of today’south Nikon digital cameras (DSLRs, Z series, Nikon 1 and COOLPIX models) feature an interval timer congenital-in. [Check your camera’s manual to see if your model has this feature —editor] The interval timer controls the span of time between exposures and the total number of exposures made by the photographic camera for an orderly recording of images over the timespan you want the fourth dimension-lapse to cover. Yous cull the number of images to take, at specified intervals and the total period of time that you want the camera to shoot these images in.
One time y’all’re done shooting a series of images with the interval timer, you combine the images using software to create a moving picture file that shows the private images in motion. (One such program is Quicktime Pro, notwithstanding there are also free software programs available that you can use too.) You tin can go as creative as yous want—panning across the screen or zooming into the scene as the time-lapse movie plays. Multimedia artists call this the “Ken Burns Effect.”
Some higher-terminate Nikon DSLR models incorporate a fourth dimension release movie mode that takes care of processing the hundreds or thousands of individual exposures into a finished fourth dimension lapse movie, right in the camera.
Exposure starting point: Nikon’southward Steve Heiner does quite a bit of fourth dimension-lapse moviemaking—of varied subjects—including the stars traversing across the night heaven. We asked him for suggested exposures to commencement off with. And, because digital cameras let yous meet what you just captured, you tin double cheque the exposures and make quick adjustments on the wing.
Shooting time-lapse sequences is similar to shooting a unmarried image in that exposure is based on the shooting conditions. For time-lapse photography of the stars in the night sky, utilize an discontinuity of nearly f/5.6 if the moon is full, f/ii.8 if the moon is non full. In manual exposure fashion, shoot a test shot at 10 seconds. “I would always recommend using the transmission exposure mode to avert the exposure changing from one frame to the side by side which can cause an annoying flicker in the final time-lapse motion-picture show,” suggests Steve.
Check the image by zooming in on the LCD, to see if you tin run across the stars and any detail in the foreground. Adjust ISO, aperture and shutter duration for a practiced overall exposure without letting the shutter speed go any slower than twenty seconds or so, otherwise yous’ll stop upwardly with the stars beginning to streak into star trails due to the Earth’s movement. If you lot’re using a very wide-angle lens, slower shutter speeds may not be that noticeable, however you volition see the streaking in images that are shot with a normal to telephoto lens. Plough ON the Long Exposure Noise Reduction feature to keep noise to a minimum.
Steve says, “If my exposure for a shot is 20 seconds at f/2.8 at ISO 1600 I volition gear up my interval time for a 25-35 second interval (the interval time needs to include the actual exposure time plus additional time for the camera to process the image and write information technology to the media menu before it shoots the next frame. If you’ve ready the photographic camera’south Noise Reduction feature, an additional five-10 seconds may exist need to exist added to the interval earlier the camera volition be ready to take another shot.”
Other suggestions include non moving the photographic camera or changing the exposure once yous brainstorm the time-lapse—and most chiefly, the need for patience. Testing is important before y’all begin the interval shooting so you don’t end upwardly disappointed when you get back to the computer. “I like to shoot my intervals closer than most photographers who shoot time-lapse for the first time. It makes the final movie much smoother,” he adds.
Tips for Night Heaven Photography:
Look for cool articulate moonless nights (unless y’all specifically want to photograph the moon!), and avoid light polluted areas (big cities or towns).
Beginning with fresh, fully charged batteries.
Utilize a sturdy tripod and cablevision release; fix your composition, lock down the focus, and make a test shot. This will help determine exposure, and if you lot need to make whatsoever changes to your composition.
Shoot NEF (RAW) so you can more hands make adjustments in postal service-production if needed.
Set the white residuum between 2800°K-4000ºK. Check the histogram after you lot take the motion-picture show to make certain the image is beingness properly exposed. It’s easy to underexpose the stars or overexpose a foreground.
Zoom in to the image on the LCD to check sharpness.
Consider making a series of exposures for the foreground to merge as an HDR composite with the stars.
A skilful starting exposure for most star shots is to utilise the widest discontinuity on your lens, expose for xx seconds, increasing the ISO as needed for a good exposure.
If you’re going out to specifically shoot the moon, research the phases of the moon, so you know what fourth dimension the moon volition exist rising and setting each evening and so you know when to plan your shoot. As well notation the direction it volition travel in the sky to programme your composition.
Plow ON the camera’s Long Exposure Dissonance Reduction feature.
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