Tips for pho­tograph­ing the glow

The ethe­real light can cre­ate a unique im­age

Sky at Night Magazine - - AT A GLANCE -

The Zo­di­a­cal Light is an elu­sive quarry to track down vis­ually, but can also be a re­ward­ing target to cap­ture on cam­era, es­pe­cially when in­cor­po­rated into nightscape as­tropho­tog­ra­phy. You’ll need to plan care­fully to get the best shots, so I’ve bro­ken down the process with some tips on how to go about chasing this ethe­real glow with a DSLR.

5. STOP DOWN TO AVOID VI­GNETTING For the clear­est Zo­di­a­cal Light shot you’ll want an evenly il­lu­mi­nated field of view, with min­i­mal vi­gnetting (dark­en­ing of frame cor­ners). This may mean you have to re­duce the aper­ture of your lens. Mi­nor vi­gnetting can be pro­cessed out, but get­ting the best data in cam­era is prefer­able.

7. MO­SAIC IF NEC­ES­SARY If your DSLR and lens com­bi­na­tion doesn’t quite have a field of view wide enough to en­com­pass the whole Zo­di­a­cal Light cone, take sev­eral images to make a mo­saic later in im­age-edit­ing soft­ware. Re­mem­ber to leave plenty of over­lap so you don’t have any gaps in your fi­nal com­pos­ited pic­ture.

8. STRETCH IT OUT For the Zo­di­a­cal Light one of the sim­plest and most ef­fec­tive post-cap­ture en­hance­ments is a ‘curves’ ad­just­ment – avail­able in most im­age-edit­ing pro­grams. To do this, open the curves tool and tweak the di­ag­o­nal ad­just­ment line so it re­sem­bles a shal­low, di­ag­o­nal S.

3. TRACK THE SKIES With a fast, prime, wide-an­gle lens and a high ISO set­ting on a DSLR, it’s per­fectly pos­si­ble to get de­cent Zo­di­a­cal Light images us­ing just a static tri­pod. But in or­der to use lower ISO set­tings – and there­fore get a cleaner im­age – a mo­torised mount is the way to go.

4. CHOOSE YOUR LENS WISELY The Zo­di­a­cal Light ex­tends across a huge por­tion of the sky. This means you’ll want to think care­fully about how you might frame it. Ide­ally, you’ll need a lens–DSLR com­bi­na­tion that pro­vides a field of view of at least 50° on the long side to cap­ture the glow in con­text against the darker sky.

6. BRACKET YOUR EX­PO­SURES There’s a sweet spot for pho­tograph­ing the Zo­di­a­cal Light – where there is a nice bal­ance be­tween the back­ground sky dark­ness and the promi­nence of the base of the ‘cone’ – that only lasts a lit­tle while. Bracket your ex­po­sures, ei­ther man­u­ally or us­ing the pre-pro­grammed func­tion.

1. SCOUT A (SAFE) LO­CA­TION To get the best chance of cap­tur­ing the Zo­di­a­cal Light you’ll need a clear, low hori­zon to ei­ther the east or west – de­pend­ing on when you’re imag­ing. Open, or high, ground away from ob­jects like build­ings, tree­lines, hedges and tall hills can be a good place to start.

2. AVOID LIGHT POL­LU­TION DOMES Pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to where any domes of light pol­lu­tion – from dis­tant towns or cities – might be on your hori­zon. Try to avoid shoot­ing from lo­ca­tions where these would be aligned with where the ‘base’ of the Zo­di­a­cal Light sits, as they can mask its pres­ence.

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