Starry night

NPhoto - - Special Feature -

What’s the ef­fect? In the past few years, high-ISO tech­nol­ogy has moved on in leaps and bounds, and now you get min­i­mal noise us­ing ISOs that I could once never have imag­ined us­ing. I of­ten use my D810 at ISO3200 with good re­sults, and the new D4s is prob­a­bly the best on the mar­ket, go­ing well be­yond ISO3200 with in­cred­i­ble re­sults. When once I would have packed up af­ter sunset, now I’m plan­ning where I can shoot the night sky.

What’s the time? The first thing to do to cre­ate your star-filled sky is to get as far away from city light pol­lu­tion as pos­si­ble. It’s best to shoot dur­ing a new moon phase when there’s no moon to light the sky. This is when the stars and the Milky Way will ap­pear the bright­est. When it comes to de­cid­ing where to shoot, I try to in­clude some­thing in­ter­est­ing in the fore­ground rather than shoot the sky alone. If you’re plan­ning to in­clude the Milky Way, there are all sorts of star apps and web­sites, such as www.stel­lar­ium.org, that will help you find ex­actly when and where it will ap­pear in the sky.

I was do­ing a work­shop in the Dolomites when I made this im­age of St Jo­hann’s church with the Milky Way above. I used my widest lens, a Nikon 14-24mm, set at 14mm to take in as much sky as pos­si­ble. To cal­cu­late the ex­po­sure, I used the 500 rule I men­tioned ear­lier (see Cur­tains of Light, left). Us­ing an ISO of 3200, I ex­posed for 20 sec­onds at f/2.8. Dur­ing the first 10 sec­onds, I lit the church with a torch, mov­ing the light over the church to il­lu­mi­nate it. This is com­monly re­ferred to as ‘paint­ing with light’.

When you’re do­ing night pho­tog­ra­phy, you will of­ten find your­self stand­ing around in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures. Wear sev­eral lay­ers of clothes, even on your hands. I wear a thin pair of gloves in­side a thicker pair so I can still ad­just my cam­era set­tings with the thin pair.

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