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Stars Trails in Himalayas
November 3, 2017

Tips for Night Sky and Star Photography

Why take night photos? While they’re not difficult but they can be a challenge. Photography by definition is writing with light, and at night well, you get the picture you want if you have right preparation and understanding. This is the general guideline for night landscape and stars photography. One might need to change settings based on location and light situations.Personally, I love to photograph starry nights with mountains. Here I am going to tell you some basics about Stars and Night Landscape Photography and what one should take care in general. I will divide Stars and Night Landscape Photography into few steps.

  • Equipment
  • Camera Settings and Understanding
  • Preparation
  • Post Processing

Camera Equipment which I use for Night shoots:

  • Nikon Full Frame Camera System (D700 and D810)
  • AS-F Nikkor 24-70mm F/2.8
  • AS-F Nikkor 16-35mm F/4
  • Nikkor 50mm 1.8/D
  • Manfrotto Ball Head Tripod
  • Camera Shutter Release Cable / Remote

Before you start night photography, you must understand where you are performing all manual settings on camera so we must understand main points as below.2, Understanding of Camera settings / Hardware

  • ISO (Sensor Sensitivity)

Here you will be shooting with the high number of ISO start with 800 to 3200 depends on the light available in sky and where you are shooting. Full Frame camera performances better on high ISO. Higher the ISO more digital noise on an image, be careful with your shots.

  • Long Exposure (Shutter Speed)

Generally, you will start with 10 seconds to 30 seconds for the starry sky or milky way. If you are looking for star trails you have to different methods to follow.Image stacking (You need image stacking software to get that trail effect, e.g. Photoshop), basically you are taking multiple shots with a time interval and put them all together.Bulb mode with really long exposure for long time (Very long exposure will add digital noise to your picture)

  • Focus Control (Object or Infinity)

Focus in the dark night is really not easy from the viewfinder, but there are ways to do it. Set your lens on infinite mode. Find object which is with some light to focus, such as snowy mountains, light in the tent, headlamp. Best to visit your location in advance and set your camera when there is enough light to avoid last minute focus struggle.

  • Aperture (F-Stop, Amount of light you allow to camera sensor)

It’s important to have a good lens which can open as much as you can, to start with 4F is good, but 2.8F and much more will be good. Set your lens/camera to the widest most aperture to allow the maximum amount of light.

  • Image Quality

Make sure you are shooting in RAW, that will help you for post-processing of your pictures well.

  • Camera Shutter release remote

Shutter release remote is good to handle vibration while pressing click button, otherwise, it adds blur in your final result. If you don’t have one on that the moment, please use a timer to avoid vibration, means set your camera to click shutter after 5 sec or so on.

  • And A Tripod

The good tripod is must, every shutter click has vibration and if your tripod is not good enough, likely chances to get the blurry image.

Preparations:

  • Preparation for stars shoot is basically right location and the right time, for an example one can’t shot milky in the metro city with full of artificial lights around.
  • If you are looking for stars, star trails and Milkyway, best places are desert, mountains and some old historical building, forts and water body (lake) where there are no chances of artificial light around or in the sky.
  • Avoid full moon nights on star trails and milky.
  • Some knowledge of astronomy would be great to find the direction of particular stars, milky way.
  • If you are looking for circular star trails, you must focus somewhere on north on a north star or south side.
  • If you are travelling during moon time,  you can use moonlight creatively, either with lake or snow-clad mountains.

Post Processing:

  • The camera can’t see the way human eyes can see, we must process images before putting them on public display.
  • You can use post-processing software such as Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements.
  • Such software helps you to correct your image, such tools gives you facilities to reduce digital noise, correct colours, sharpness and few other processing techniques to represent your images better.

We will talk about rule of 500 little later when I write about the detailed process of shooting. 

 

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