el­e­ment The Hunter in his

Orion’s po­si­tion near the ce­les­tial equa­tor makes it easy to in­cor­po­rate some land­scape into your shots

Sky at Night Magazine - - ORION -

There’s some­thing tremen­dously evoca­tive about glimps­ing the bright stars of Orion over a win­tery land­scape – or to­wards the end of the au­tumn months just as the nights start to get longer and colder – so in this project we’re go­ing to look at how to shoot a ‘nightscape’ that at­tempts to cap­ture some of that magic.

STEP 1 Make a con­cep­tual plan

Think­ing about the emo­tions you want to con­vey or elicit with your shot can help you to plan a pow­er­ful pic­ture, and it’ll in­form ev­ery stage of the pho­to­graphic process. For ex­am­ple, if you wanted to evoke the harsh ici­ness of win­ter ob­serv­ing you might shoot Orion over an iso­lated, leaf­less tree in a bar­ren land­scape, and­pro­cess in such as way as to cre­ate a hard con­trast be­tween land and sky.

STEP 2 Select your fo­cal length or a prime lens

Once you’ve thought about what at­mos­phere you want to cap­ture with your im­age, you can select the fo­cal length you’ll be shoot­ing at. A typ­i­cal kit lens set to around 24mm, or an equiv­a­lent prime lens, pro­vides a wide field of view for Orion on a cam­era’s sen­sor, al­low­ing you to fit in the brighter cen­tral stars and the Hunter’s fainter out­ly­ing ‘arms’.

STEP 3 Fo­cus the view

Next fo­cus the view. Some cam­eras have a live pre­view func­tion that can be zoomed onto a suit­able star, giv­ing you in­stant feed­back as you make slight fo­cus­ing ad­just­ments. With Orion there’s no short­age of bright stars that can be used for this. Re­peat the process a few times – check­ing that the star is a small as pos­si­ble – so you’re cer­tain the im­age is as sharp as it can be.

STEP 4 Com­pose with the land­scape and sky con­di­tions

To com­pose your nightscape you can take short, very-high ISO test ex­po­sures to show you the bal­ance and po­si­tion­ing of fore­ground and sky, and any struc­tures or land­scape fea­tures in frame. Try to use the fore­ground – trees, build­ings, etc – to lead the viewer’s eye to­ward Orion. Some­times clouds can be used as a fram­ing de­vice too, and thin cloud can even ‘bloat’ and en­hance the colours of bright stars.

STEP 5 Set the ex­po­sure length, aper­ture and ISO

When shoot­ing, keep the lens aper­ture wide open (low­est f-stop), though some lenses will per­form bet­ter when re­duced a few stops. Ex­per­i­ment with the ISO and ex­po­sure length un­til you’re happy with the look. You may need to use an ex­po­sure that very slightly trails the stars in or­der to de­fine the fore­ground.

STEP 6 Process your im­age

When pro­cess­ing nightscape­s, re­duc­ing the noise in the im­age and bring­ing out fore­ground de­tail are the main chal­lenges; as long as you shoot in RAW for­mat, mod­ern im­age-pro­cess­ing soft­ware is well-equipped to han­dle these tasks. In Photoshop or GIMP you can cor­rect the colour bal­ance, and use the ‘Curves’ tool to bring out star fields and im­prove over­all con­trast and def­i­ni­tion.>

Sil­hou­et­ted tree­tops, city sky­lines or moun­tain peaks help con­tex­tu­alise Orion’s po­si­tion

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