In this post I would like to share with you some of my favorite images and tips for photographing the night sky.
Opening image: Delicate Arch: Arches National Park, Utah, USA. Canon 1D Mark lll, 17-40mm lens @ 17mm for 30 seconds at f/4 and ISO 6400.
The image of “Delicate Arch” was my first truly successful star point image. It was taken in 2008 shortly after I got my Canon Mark lll. The high ISO capabilities allowed me to capture stars as sharp points, similar to what my eyes saw when I was out there in the field. The noise performance improved greatly over previous camera bodies at these high ISO settings as did the software to eliminate noise. I was 100 ft. or so away from Delicate Arch with no visible moon and all I had to do to paint it was use a LED headlamp! The high sensitivity really came through and you can imagine how thrilled I was when the image popped up on my LCD! At that moment, I knew there were no limits to my night photography adventures!
Above: Park Avenue Star Trails, Arches National Park, Utah, USA. Canon 1D Mark lll with the 17-40mm lens @ 17mm for 1 hour at f/4.5 and ISO 400
The biggest challenge for this image was illuminating the walls of “Park Avenue” because of its size. The furthest rock formation is a couple of hundred yards away and since there was no visible moon, painting it was going to be a challenge. I generally photograph star trails at ISO 100 but decided to up the ISO to 400 when all my test images turned out very dark. I used a powerful flashlight to paint the walls trying to make it look as even as possible without blowing out the nearest formations. The longer you can paint the subject, the less pooling of light you get giving you the best final result.
Above: Abandoned Adirondack Mountain Barn Keene, NY, USA. Canon 1D Mark lll and the 17-40mm lens at 17mm for 30 seconds at f/4 and ISO 3200. Full moon phase with and flashlight placed inside barn to illuminate windows.
The Adirondack barn image challenged all my technical abilities because it was taken during a full moon phase. To add insult to injury, there was a street lamp 50 feet away that was lighting up part of the field. There was no need to illuminate the barn because at that high ISO with a 30 second exposure, the foreground was entirely blown out! I had faced similar situations before, so I covered the bottom half of the lens for part of the exposure to keep the foreground in check. The glow from inside the barn was a flashlight I placed inside to give the windows their glow. I was also pretty fortunate that most of the clouds cleared enough to allow the stars to shine through.
I share all of my tips and tricks in my newest eBook: A Digital Guide to Photographing the Night Sky. You can get it here or see more of my night adventures further below or on my website at: www.roaminwithroman.com.
Here is also a recent review on it by photographer Bob Krist.