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.

All comments in artistic, opened minded opinions are welcome.

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