I’m really not. I can’t paint or draw myself out of a paper bag to save my life.
I do like taking pictures and I’m decent at both the technical aspects as well as at least instinctively getting composition and lighting stuff right. Mostly.
A few days ago I managed to try something I’ve been wanting to do for ages but somehow never did.
I wanted to take pictures of a starry night sky. Trouble is, where I live ((Germany. Central Europe)) light pollution doesn’t make it easy. I don’t have New York City levels of light around, but I’m also not exactly in the middle of the Outback.
Being close to the 6W/50N intersection, a little to the south east of it in a red clump, mostly when we look up and see ANY stars we see maybe a dozen or so.
I’m looking forward to get a few chances in my 2015 vaction, but I couldn’t wait this long. So I did some research, grabbed my tripod, went out and took a bunch of pictures, which I tried to enhance a little afterwards. Not all of them, though. Turns out, it’s near pointless depending on the source material.
Check list for taking pretty pictures of a starry night
– go to NYC, Museum of Modern Arts. ((Kidding. That’s where the painting is))
– tripod. A small one will do, just make sure it’s something that allows pointing the camera upwards
– flashlight (possibly a hands free one you can wear on your head)
– camera, preferably a DSLR with a wide angle lens with a good lens speed
– cable/remote trigger for minimal vibrations
– make sure there are no clouds in the sky. early fall or most of winter is often pretty good for that, except coooold
– try to find out when the astronomical sunset for your current location and time is. it might be quite a while after sunset and means the sun is far enough below the horizon to avoid interference
– moonless nights work best. Obviously. Maybe just go after moonset?
For me, last weekend astronomical sunset was at around 9PM. Moon didn’t set until about 2AM though, so I had to work around that by ways of location
If you want nothing but stars, just find a space where you can point your camera upwards
If you want to experiment with scenery, try the coast of a sea or lake. Or maybe an elevated position so you can look into a valley.
Most important: If you can’t go out after moonset, try to find a place that allows you to point your camera AWAY from the moon. In the opposite direction, prerefably. Otherwise moonlight will bleed into your picture, even if it’s not in the frame. I was pretty surprised how much that affected my shots.
You’ll have to play a little with those depending on the desired effect, but to avoid noise try a relatively low ISO setting first. But do experiment.
I had the best results with:
– ISO-1000 to 1600
– exposure time between 15 and 30 seconds
– aperture value as low as possible (wide open)
I currently don’t have a remote trigger for my camera so I made sure to set it to a time delayed release of 2 seconds. If you use a DSLR, using mirrow lockup will also help to reduce vibrations a lot.
And that’s pretty much it. Fire away, share your results. Here are some of mine!