In the words of Ernst Haas, “There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.” Well said and deeply motivating. In fact, whatever be the motivation for photography, the consternating night skies always tickle a photographer’s fancy. For the photographers, looking at the night sky is not just staring into an abyss but a scenery rife with depth. As a matter of fact, capturing this depth through a lens is not as easy as it would seem to be. Here are some tips you can build on.
- Choosing the right place
Needless to say, noise is inimical to quality photography. Photographing night skies in urban areas can easily lead to what has been termed as light pollution which is brought about by artificial lights. Such disturbances cannot be subverted as they can cause a substantial amount of light infiltration into your photographs, making them appear with a grayish backdrop, which in turn ruins the highlights, and this can be minimized by choosing to capture at rural locations with completely dark skies. Dwelling places of your forbears can be handy here.
- Avoid any unsteadiness
Shaky setup can spoil hours of labor in one go. It would be essential to hold the camera steady when capturing the night sky. A tripod can help when coping with long exposures and shutter speeds. Moreover, for further assurances, cable releases or remote controls can be deployed to eliminate indispensable human transgressions.
- Use long shutter speeds
Capturing dark skies can be a laborious task for your cameras. Long shutter speeds in the range of 15 to 30 seconds can veritably produce great shots. Speeds beyond that can be exploited to capture exotic phenomena which would be discussed later.
- Ascertain widest possible aperture
Aperture decides the amount of light that enters the camera through the lens. Since the amount of light available in this case is already low, it would be conducive to capture most of it (the reason why telescopes are fitted with huge lenses). This can be achieved by choosing the lowest f-numbers or f-stops (lower f-stop indicates wider aperture). Capturing most of the light can significantly enhance the depth in your shots. f/2.8 would be fair enough.
- Choosing optimal ISO
Simply put, ISO is a measure of sensitivity to available light. Though ISO can be increased when not enough light is available, it must be kept in mind that it can appallingly reduce capture times. Whereas, when photographing night skies, the camera is programmed to high shutter speeds. Thus, the ISO has to be maintained in the range of 100 to 400 for the best shots, so that it doesn’t interfere with the other settings.
- Focus on Infinity
Do bear in mind that sky is endless and stars are far away. Focusing on infinity is pertinent to producing sharp images of distant objects. Blur is a spoiler. So, avoid using finite focus levels.
- Avoid substantial moonlight
High moonlight serves almost the same purpose as the artificial urban lights. It can even lead the camera into perceiving a night shot as a daylight shot. Therefore, it would be recommended to avoid much of the moonlight. New moon and half moon are better backdrops for night sky photography.
- Use metering when shooting cloudy skies
Cloudy skies offer uneven light and darkness levels. Spot metering can be a savior here to get crisp shots. If the night happens to be even, center-weighted metering will produce good results.
- When to shoot?
Sky unfolds with distinct features every season. Photographers learn this over time. Astronomers know it by heart. What happens to be the right time of the year to shoot the night sky depends on what you want to capture. For instance, summer is a great season to picture the Milky Way in the northern hemisphere. Also, weather plays a crucial role – clouds can sometimes scupper your chances of a good shot.
- Capturing the rotation of the Earth
Extremely long shutter speeds can be applied to capture what is known as star trails. Arising from the rotation of the Earth, this phenomenon can be used to produce scintillating images that underscore the rotation of the Earth. For example, the star trails depict beautiful circular formations. Here, the shutter speed can be adjusted beyond 30 seconds to achieve great results.
- Astrophotography and Auroras
These tips can be applied to shoot stars and auroras. Besides, capturing auroras is a challenging task that can test a photographer’s abilities – auroras are sporadic. Nebulas can also be photographed using simple techniques above.
These techniques are officially endorsed by successful photographers and can do wonders for avid and rookies photographers. So, what makes you lazy? Grab that camera of yours and step out to shoot the skies before you miss the shot!