Getting those amazing star-filled night shots is easier than you think. No, it’s not as easy as shooting on Auto but [quiet you, in the back there] I reckon the extra little effort is worth it. If you’ve been looking for an easy ‘how to’ on this subject, you’ve come to the right corner of the interweb.
In the time-honoured tradition of one of my photographic heroes, Scott Kelby – here’s the recipe.
- 1 camera – (no Schmidt, Sherlock)
- 1 wide angle lens – as wide as you can get it with an aperture of f2.8 or better. If your lens will open to f4.5 or f5.6 don’t stress – still try. You’ll still get a neat shot, and a strong motivation to save up for that nice lens.
- 1 Sturdy tripod
- 1 Torch
- Some gels (that’s a posh photographic term for coloured cellophane)
- 1 Starry, starry night (Paint your palette……Ok, ok. You get the picture.)
- No Moon. Also try to avoid light pollution from nearby towns/houses etc.
- Find something nice to photograph. Obviously it needs to be something stationary, like a fence, gate, ou windpomp etc.
- NB Because you’re shooting at f2.8 (shallow depth of focus – DOF), your subject mustn’t be too close
- Compose your pic and set camera up on tripod.
- Switch auto-focus off and pre-focus on infinity. (On some Canon lenses, that is infinity minus a smidgeon) *.
- Switch to manual.
- Set ISO to 8000 (more than that, and the image becomes grainy. Less than that and you might not pick up as many stars).
- Set aperture to its widest – f2.8 or or wider if your lens can do it.
- If your lens is a zoom lens, ensure it is zoomed out to its widest angle.
- Set your shutter speed to max 30 seconds. Longer than that and you start getting star trails.
- For pin-sharp pics. Lock your shutter up. (Some cameras can’t do this. If not, no worries, you’ll still get a great pic).
- During the 30 second exposure, paint your subject with a very dim light from your torch…. No, dimmer than that… Even dimmer.
- Use the cellophane to create interesting effects.
- After the shoot. In Photoshop, Lightroom or Picasa (or your editing software of choice)…
- Adjust exposure and contrast to suit.
- Push up your shadows and/or play with ‘fill-light’ until a satisfactory result appears.
- Serve and enjoy.
* For the purposes of this article and scientific pragmatics: One Smidgeon = 2.935 iotas
NOTE: Shooting these kind of images means the chances are pretty good that you’ll be lying on the ground in order to get that special shot. If you’re shooting in rural areas where where there might be nocturnally active creepy crawlies with a propensity to inflict pain and misery, do take along an ultra-violet torch with you. Scorpions will fluoresce most attractively under this light and you can take the appropriate avoiding action.
I have been tagged by a scorpion and it’s not the kind of experience most normal people want to repeat. If you don’t have an ultra violet light, just use your torch to locate their holes. BUT WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T KILL/MAIM THEM…I’m sorry for shouting in Caps lock. Scorpions only maliciously attack humans in the drug/alcohol addled minds of Hollywood film makers.
But it’s worth remembering, a scorpion is one part of this infinitely wonderful system we call Creation or Nature and you’re in his/her territory and it is only doing what comes naturally when it feels under threat.
Happy shooting folks.
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