Monday, March 5, 2012

How to Photograph the Night Sky

Many photographers pack up their gear right after sunset. However, the most magical time to make pictures can be twilight or night! Shooting at twilight and beyond allows the photographer to create beautiful story-telling imagery. Night transforms an ordinary scene into something extraordinary, providing a wonderful opportunity to expand your creative and artistic options. From cityscapes to landscapes, and from twilight to a starry sky, beautiful nightscape opportunities are limitless.

How to shoot Nightscapes

    Scout out locations first.  It's easier to determine and set up compositions before the sun goes down. You may want to shoot a golden sunset first, then wait for blue hour of twilight or night.
    Exposures will be long, you'll need a sturdy tripod. I use a Feisol CT-3442 carbon fiber tripod, which is perfect for travel and everyday use.  
    Keep it level. Use Live View or place a bubble level on the hot shoe of your camera,
    Cable release or self timer feature. Using a cable release helps prevent vibration being transferred to the camera by pressing the shutter. You can also use Mirror Lock-up if available on your camera.
    White balance.  Try starting with 4000K, or Daylight (5000K) to see how it looks with your scene. The “correct” measured white balance may look a little lackluster, experiment, and see what works best for your composition.
    ISO Use the lowest ISO needed for the scene. The Nikon D3s is a stellar low light performing camera.
    Manual exposure. Set the aperture for the desired depth of field, and determine the shutter speed for the exposure.
    There's an app for that. Light Tracker, Helios, Velaclock, Sunrise & Set, and for tracking stars on the iPad try Sky Walk. 
    Lost the light, no worries. Go for a classic black and white image.
    Be inventive. Think about creative lens choices, angles and perspective. Make your shot unique and different.

Need some inspiration? Check out the Nightscapes portfolio on my website, Have fun shooting!