Shooting the Stars

Well this time I’ll show some shots of shooting the stars. I haven’t done this much, just 2 attempts so far but I have some different setting and show what you get from them.

This first shot is one of my first. I had the ISO at 6400 and the time was was over a minute. As you can see I got a lot in the shot. Even the clouds show up, but there is a lot of “noise”. The picture looks grainy. The big rocks in the foreground have color to them. Most the noise is from the length of the exposure, the blacks just washout.

shot of stars

Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine. f/3.5, 69 sec. ISO 6400, 10-22@10mm

This next shot I dropped the time to 27 seconds. I had the camera on “Bulb” and was just counting. I also used a remote shutter release to keep from shaking the camera. Notice how there is more color in the stars in the sky and less noise, the sky has more black in it and the rocks in the foreground are just black outlines.. The picture is not as grainy even at 6400 ISO.

Milky Way in the night sky

Milky Way in sky over Alabama Hills near Lone Pine. f/3.5, 27 sec., ISO 6400, 10-22@10mm

Notice how much different the scene looks with the rocks just a black outline, gives more emphasis on the night sky.

As with any photograph, composition is necessary, here I moved to line up the Milky Way with the rocks to see what I thought of that composition.

Rocks with Milky Way showing in the background

Towering rocks with Milky Way showing in background. f/3.5, 38 sec., ISO 6400, 10-22@10mm

In this next shot, car lights lit up the rocks in the foreground, light painting the rocks for me. I didn’t plan on the shot, it just happened. Kind of a nice effect. The bright spot in the lower right side I think is from the town a few miles away, not the car lights.

Milky Way with rocks in foreground. Car lights paint rocks.

Milky Way with rocks. Light painting on rocks. f/3.5, 28 sec, ISO 6400, 10-22@10mm

In this next shot I get some clouds in the lower right corner that are lit up with lightening. The town is the light on the left middle side.

Night time sky with Milky Way in sky

Lightening in clouds, Milky Way in sky. f/3.5, 30 sec., ISO 6400, 10-22@10mm

In these next shots, I set my ISO lower and got darker less noise shots. These are taken at Red Rock Canyon just about 100 or so miles north of Los Angeles. Far enough away from the city to not have a lot of light. Don’t try star shots in a city it won’t work, if you get too much light from the city lights to see stars, you’re not going to see any stars in your shots either. The first shots were taken in the Lone Pine area, over 300 miles northeast of Los Angeles, out in the high desert. All shots are taken on a tripod with a remote camera shutter control. I bought one on Amazon.com for my camera that is radio wireless and works very well. I can have it in my pocket and trip the shutter. I can be 20-30 feet away and trip the shutter too if I want to light paint in the frame. A remote shutter control is nice to have for long exposures and you can use it to shoot family group shots where you want ALL the family in the shot. I bought an IR one but found that I had to be in front of the camera for it to work, not very useful. Also saw some pictures of a young woman that would jump up in the air and fire the camera making “levitating” photos. It was interesting effects and use of the camera and remote shutter control.

I tried setting the ISO low as books I have on night photography say to try low ISO settings. However there isn’t much stars in the shot. The one book also suggested shooting several shots and merging them in Photoshop to create star trails. Also camera focus is on manual, on all the shots, if you try to use your auto focus, it will try to focus on nothing and move in and out of focus too much to take a good photo.

Night sky with some stars showing

Night sky in Red Rock. f/5.6, 30 sec., ISO 800, 18-55@18mm

This next shot I up the ISO to 1600 for the same 30 sec.

night sky with more stars showing

Night sky. f/5.6, 30 sec., ISO 1600, 18-55@18mm

This next shot isn’t very good, I shot at 4.5 minutes to get star trails which you can see are just starting to happen, however there was a lot on moisture in the sky and this caused moisture to build up on my lens and blur the picture. It had been raining slightly during the day and my camera was pointed straight up. The clouds had cleared but the moisture was still in the air.

night sky stars with trails

Star trails moisture blurred image of night sky. f/3.5, 279 sec., ISO 1000, 18-55@18mm

So this shot was about the best of the night at 77sec and ISO 1600. But you can see a slight blur from the moisture just the same. Taking photographs is also about luck and I didn’t have it that night. Clear night but cold and moisture in the air. I plan on going camping more in 2013 so expect more attempts at shooting the stars.

night sky with stars

Night sky f/3.5 , 77 sec., ISO 1600, 18-55@18mm

A couple of other shots worth mentioning and showing taken at the same time, a campfire.

campfire in desert mountains

Campfire at Red Rock. f/5.6, 30 sec., ISO 400, 18-55@18mm

closer view better composition. Moved the camera and tripod instead of zooming in.

Campfire light reflecting on rocks.

Campfire at Red Rock. f/5.6, 15 sec., ISO 800, 18-55@18mm

So as you can see, experiment around with different setting when you shoot night scenes, with your LCD screen on the back of the camera it is hard to tell if it is a good shot or not. Have your camera on Manual or Bulb so that you control the length of time the shutter is open for. Use a tripod. Use a remote shutter release, cable or wireless. And if you have interesting things in the foreground you can try light painting, putting light on an object for a short period of time during the open shutter. ie rocks, trees, campsite. I’ve seen several shots of landscapes with tents lit up from inside at night that look great.

4th of July Laser show

First off before I start this post let me say something about the shooting at Newtown, Conn. Yes it is a shame and I hurt very badly to think that our world has come this far and we still find ways to hurt each other so often. I do not believe we can protect ourselves from ever wacko, crazy person. They will always find ways to reach out and hurt people, look at China where guns are outlawed. The attacks are with knives and clubs/hammers, so the mentally challenged will always be looking for ways to hurts the unsuspecting. Maybe some day mental health care will be easier to get than getting a gun, for now it isn’t. With that said, my prayers go out to the families of the dead and injured. I’m a father and an uncle and I would hate to lose any one of them. My oldest niece Lianna has been diagnosed as having a low grade brain tumor. She is 5 and half, so this isn’t easy to deal with either. My Christmas holidays is not very bright this year. I hope everyone does much better and says a prayer for All the dead, injured, and others would have survived the pains of life this year.

This week’s photographs are from a 4th of July party where there was a laser show. People started to shoot pictures with their cell phones, yes with flash and of course the laser lights didn’t show up. So I went out an got my camera and set the ISO to 1000 and slowed the shutter way down. After shooting a few shots I set my ISO to 6400 and was able to speed up the shutter a little bit. Shooting with available light, trying to get the laser lights to show up and get the kids playing in the smoke and lights.

This first shot was kind of fun, my youngest niece Brietta stopped and looked at the camera long enough for her face to show clearly while every thing else is blurred.

little girl playing in laser lights

Brietta in the lights F/4.5, 1/3s, ISO 1000, 10-22@22mm

This next shot is Lianna, both of them were unafraid to be shot with the camera so I took a lot of shots of them.

5 year old girl playing in lights

Lianna in the lights. F/4.5, 1/3s, ISO 1000 10-22@22mm

Mostly these shots show the play of the lights on the smoke and ground or people.

5year old girl playing in lights and smoke.

Lianna posing with lights. F/4, 1/10s, ISO 6400, 10-22@15mm

So as you can see the lights played around in the smoke and reflected around a lot so faces and other details showed up. Here are some more shots of the kids playing in the lights.

Brietta playing in the lights

Brietta playing in the lights. F/ 4.5, 1/10s, ISO 6400, 10-22@22mm

little girl with beams of lights shining around

Brietta peeking out around light beam. F/4.5, 1/10s, ISO 6400, 10-22@22mm

More Kids playing.

people watching laser lights playing around them

Group of people watching the lights. F/4, 1/4s, ISO6400, 10-22@10mm

laser lights playingon the ground and around people

More light playing on the ground around the people. F/4.5, 1/4s, ISO 6400, 10-22@20mm

People in laser lights

Kids in the lights. F/4 1/10s, ISO 6400, 10-22@10mm

night shot with laser lights and nice colors

Look at all the colors. F/4.5, 1/13s, ISO 6400, 10-22@22mm

Well, there you have it. Laser lights in pictures, the smoke helped bring out the lights and created some nice effects. As you can see I set my ISO up high and was still shooting a slow shutter speed to get the colors and details.

Pershing Square Downtown Los Angeles-Autumn Lights Event

Pershing Square, downtown Los Angeles, was the site of the Autumn Lights Event. A nighttime venue of different light orientated displays. Most were moving lights so ISO speeds were raised to a faster setting, but I wanted to keep the nighttime theme so I didn’t raise it real high. I kept my pictures dark so you knew it was nighttime. Let the lights shine. It started as the sun set so some of my first photos were just to get a feel of the events going on and to see on my camera’s LED screen how it looked. When you shoot digital don’t be afraid to try different setting and just shoot the shots. You can always delete them later after you look at them on the computer. Try to avoid deleting by what you see on the camera LED screen. Always carry spare batteries and memory cards. I personally start out every shoot on a empty card so I know I have room for lots of photos. Since I started out shooting film I try to make every shot count but I am more relaxed now at shooting digital to where I just shoot the shots and review them later on the computer, unless I get a shot really wrong and know I can’t save it with Photoshop or Lightroom.

In this first shot, there were lots of people looking in a 3D viewer contraption. Shooting to get the light of the viewers and let the people be dark set the mood I wanted. The people still blurred and ghosted as they moved about but the viewers come out as a multi-headed beast in the center.

people surrounding device to view 3D pictures

People around and using a 3D viewer. F/4.5, 1/4s ISO 1000 18-55@18mm

In this next shot people were painting with black light paints on a common canvas. Again I wanted the paintings to show up and the people to be secondary. Some motion is visable in the shot. I had my White Balance set to daylight so the street light in the background has a yellow cast to it similar to what the human eye sees. Noticed that the colors in some of the clothing is blue from the black lights. But the canvases have a white look to them from the whiter spot lights on them.

People painting on common canvases in a group.

People painting on common canvases in a group. F/4.5, 1/4s, ISO 1000 18-55@34mm

This next shot I was walking past the sign when the little girl stepped up to it. I grabbed a quick shot and she left. People were moving all around so I didn’t have much room or time to compose the shot. Personally I like it as it is, the glow of the sign lights up the girl’s face, but the sign isn’t burned out.

Little girls in front of sign that says Be Me.

Little girl in front of sign saying Be Me. F/5.6, 1/8s, ISO 1000 18-55@55mm

I shot a lot of shots of this next scene, and this is the best. Solid images with sharp edges, a blurred image and different colors on the screen. It was shadow dancers and they were moving pretty fast. Again I wanted the dark of night to show though in the picture.

Screen with shadow dancer on it

Shadow Dancers on screen. F/5.6, 1/25s, ISO 1000 18-55@51mm

Here again is the play of black lights, black light paint only now the canvas is a human being. Getting the colors to glow like it does to the human eye was the challenge.

Human canvas with black light paint on them.

Human canvas F/5, 1/6s, ISO 1000, 18-55@43mm

These next 2 shots are a a wheel that was divided into four parts alternating mirror and clear. As it spun around you saw yourself and then someone on the other side. To photograph this I wanted to show the 2 images merged. These are two of the best of that. If you look closely you can see the image of the person standing behind as well as the person reflected in the mirror. The person behind shows up clearer in the images.

Little girl in front of wheel, father's image in mirror blending together.

Little girl with reflection of father in the mirror blended together. F/5.6 1/4s, ISO 1000 18-55@55mm

Image of woman and man blending together in mirrored disc.

Man And woman images blended together F/5.6, 1/4s, ISO 1000, 18-55@55mm

This next shot was of some fish mobiles. I shot several shots of these and at different times to get the right effect. Early on it was too light in the sky and the fish’s lights didn’t show up well. In the first shot I was coming back by and shot this at ISO 1000 and liked the way it turned out. In the second shot I came by and just happened to see a woman come up and grab one of the mobiles and kiss it. I missed the kiss itself but still got her in the motion of it. It is stop action as I had my ISO at 2000 that time. Notice the difference in the texture of the lighting the two shots.

Fish mobile with internal lights

Fish Mobile. F/4.5, 1/4s, ISO 1000, 18-55@36mm

woman kissing a fish mobile

Woman kissing a fish mobile. F/5, 1/4s, ISO 2000, 18-55@44mm

As if it isn’t already evident, I’m shooting without a tripod, trying not to blur the photos myself as I press the shutter. In working with such a crowded area I felt it was better to forgo the tripod and increase the ISO.

Here is a neat effect of lights inside the objects I shot.

red robed priest manikins

Red Robed Priests. F/4.5, 1/10s, ISO 2000, 18-55@32mm

Here I shot several walls of video displays, shooting faster to stop action to video. In this fist shot I think the video had stopped. Notice how light the scene is, the digital camera sees very well in low light. I wanted the cut out characters to show up and the people weren’t moving much so I slowed the shutter down.

wall with video displayed on it

Wall with video displayed on it. F/4.5, 0.8s, ISO 2000, 18-55@18mm

Here is a darker scene, of a different video.

wall with video display on it

Wall of video display. F/5, 1/8s ISO 2000 18-55@43mm

Here I shot it slower and the water is showing motion to it, if you look at the video there is motion in it as well.

wall with video displayed on it fountain with water falling and splashing.

Wall with video displayed on it, fountain going, water falling and splashing. F/4.5, 1/3s ISO 2000 18-55@33mm

Of course there was music there and here is a shot of one of the bands that played.

musicians on a stage performing

Musicians on stage. F/5 1/13s, ISO 2000 18-55@43mm

The last picture I have to post here is a black light painting. The artist had bright lights on it most of the night as he worked on the painting. Here he has shut them off and just the black lights and ambient light lights up the painting. The glow of the black light paint shows up some what nicely here.

Mexican art painting in black light paint

Mexican art, black light painting. F/4.5, 1/10s ISO 2000, 18-55@20mm

Well I hope this gives you some ideas as to how to set your camera so that different lighting scenes in the dark of night come out for you. I will do a short post on laser lights next. I was a t a party where the person had a laser show in his backyard. People were shooting pictures with their cell phone cameras with the flash of course and not getting the lights. So I brought out my camera and started shooting. The results were interesting.

If you enjoyed this post please tell you friends about it. I’m new at this and still learning about posting a blog and of course I’m always learning something new in photography.

Night Shots – Evening at Shoreline Village Long Beach CA

Here are some shots taken at night to show how to shoot night shots. This will be a 4 or 5 part post as I have several meetups to post photos from and they show different types of scenes. I think I have enough to make an e-book, maybe if I have the ambition I’ll write such a book.

This is taken around Shoreline Village in Long Beach Calif. We started at sunset and took pictures of the sun behind the lighthouse there. Here we were lucky enough to get there when the light was going though the windows on the bottom of the lighthouse, kind of a solstice look.

Light in window Lighthouse_0916

The meta data is as follows f/ 6.3 1/3200s ISO 800 lens 55-250@154mm

As you can see the windows are clearly defined almost as if it was a bright light there. So here is a later shot of the lighthouse with the sun peeking out from behind. Different meta data setting

Peeking behind lighthouse 0926

Meta data: F/6.3,  1/1600s,  ISO 400  Lens 55-250@123mm

Shots were taken on a tripod. We sat at the same spot for close to an hour I guess as the sun went down and the scene changed constantly.   And yes with a group of 25 photographers all shooting the same direction, people passing by asked what all the fuss was about.

Here is a shot I took while waiting for the sun to go down that I think is one of the best of the night.

Meta data: f/6.3, 1/100s,  ISO 2000  Lens 55-250@240

Birrds on water_0954

Notice that by raising the ISO to 2000 I was able to stop action the birds flying on the left while getting the colors of the bridge and sunset’s orange sky.

In this next shot I again used a fast ISO (not as high as the camera will go) to keep from blurring the lights on the boat.

Lighthouse with boat in foreground.

Lighthouse with boat in foreground.

I did not want the lights of the boat to blur or draw a streak, so I shot at 1/25 of a second and that let the light show up but most of the scene is dark like night time. Digital camera see much better that the eye does in the dark that it is easy to lose that night time feel.

In this next shot I let the car lights blur just a bit to show some motion but most of the scene is sharp. This shot got tried several times to get the right effect.

Street scene from bridge. Meta: f/16, 0.5s, ISO 2000, 18-55@44mm

Street scene from bridge. Meta: f/1.5S,  0.5s, ISO 2000, 18-55@44mm

This next shot is a nice repeating pattern shot.

Building facade Meta: f16, 1/5s, ISO 2000, Lens 18-55@30mm

Building facade Meta: f16, 1/5s, ISO 2000, Lens 18-55@30mm

With a high ISO and slow shutter speed I let the colors saturate the photo, reflections fill in. The f.16 f-stop keeps everything in focus.

In this next shot I wanted to show the water going up as it moved around the curved wall. Hence the closer water is lighter than the water in back that was up during more of the shot.

Curved fountain. Meta: F/13, 1.0S,  ISO 2000, Lens 18-55@18mm

Curved fountain. Meta: F/13, 1.0S, ISO 2000, Lens 18-55@18mm

And of course what trip to Long Beach wouldn’t include the Queen Mary. shot from across the channel, the dark side, I had to slow down the shutter and wait for a boat to cross out of the picture. But the result is a great back lit photo of the Queen Mary.

Queen Mary from across the channel. Meta: f/13, 2.5s, ISO 2000 18-55@41mm

Queen Mary from across the channel. Meta: f/13, 2.5s, ISO 2000 18-55@41mm

I should make note too that I shoot with a Canon 7D which is a 4/3 sensor so the lens are tighter than would be expected at the range noted. So a lens on a 4/3 sensor is about 30% magnified over the setting. So 41mm is closer to 55mm.

I also noticed that Canons tend to take pictures with more red in them than Nikon cameras seem to shoot, kind of like the difference in different films. Some are hotter and some are colder in color. I also shoot with a UV filter on so that makes a little difference in the colors shown by the camera. White balance was set auto for most of these shots. However I also use daylight white balance too, to keep the night lights colors.

On my next post I will show shots from Downtown Los Angeles where a light orientated program was going on at a park. It required me to change setting a lot as there were things to shoot that were bright and others that were dim. Places that had moving pictures to stop action and others to blur. A challenge to keep the night time theme evident in the pictures.

Peter