Looking Up: Nightscape Gallery 2

Jan 28, 2019

Credit public domain / www.goodfreephotos.com

This week on Looking Up Mike Procell has a few more tips on nightscape photography.

The world can be a dark place. Half of it literally is at any given moment. The good news is nowadays you can readily capture beautiful images in the dark.

I'm Mike Procell, and on a previous edition of Looking Up I gave you the 101 basics of DSLR nightscape photography. Maybe by now you've been online and found a world-wide wealth of information, and even gave it a try.

A couple good points to remember - do not keep your camera shutter open for much more than 30 seconds unless you have a motorized mount that can accurately track the sky, or you’re purposely looking to make star trails in your picture. There are some spectacular examples of star trail photography online. Side note to that, good star trail shots usually require exposures of at least 15 minutes.

Another key thing to keep in mind is the more you zoom in and magnify a scene with stars in it the shorter time you'll have before those trails appear. Additionally, if you aim towards the circumpolar constellations like the Big Dipper, which surround Polaris, the North Star, you might gain a couple seconds of exposure time, especially at those wider angle settings.

For the mathematically inclined there's a formula for calculating the exact amount of time any given lens can stay open before blurring begins. For the rest of us, suffice to say shooting at a wide angle and towards the north will give you the maximum shutter time on a fixed tripod. Whatever your nightscape photography intentions may be, your imagination and the sky’s the limit. 

The Milky Way meets the moon. Technical info: Pentax K-30; ISO = 1600; 10mm lens at F4; 27.8 second exposure; graduated filter to allow capture of the Milky Way without over exposing the moon.
Credit M. Procell

If you would like more information about astrophotography or to find out about free public star parties, please visit csastro.org.