Shooting a Starscape
Getting the shot
Now that you have your equipment and location it's time to start shooting.
- Wait until it's nice and dark and go to the darkest place with open sky you can find. I went to a nearby recreation area that is surrounded by rocky outcroppings which help block any light coming from town (a couple of miles away).
- Set your lens wide open or pretty close to it (lowest f-stop number).
- Use manual focus and set focus to infinity.
- Set your camera up on a good tripod.
- Set ISO as high as you can tolerate the noise (varies by camera). On my K-x, 3200 works pretty well.
- Set your shutter speed somewhere from 10-20 seconds
- If you can, compose your shot with some foreground visible. I find this makes a more engaging photo.
- Try a shot and see how it looks. Adjust your exposure time accordingly (longer to make it brighter, shorter to make it darker). Don't go over ~25 seconds if you aren't after star trails.
And that's the basics. It's really pretty amazing how many stars are visible to the camera that aren't visible to the naked eye. Play with it a little to apply your own style and most of all, have fun!
Protip: bring a headlamp or flashlight, but turn it off when you shoot if you aren't light painting. If it's dim or you can color the light red, it helps keep your eyes adjusted to the darkness - that's a good thing IMO.
With these long exposures, you can get in the shot too if you want. Play with strobes or light painting to highlight foreground elements for a unique look.
Here are a couple more from a recent night sky shoot during a Leonid meteor shower:
For this one I put a headlamp behind the rocks to illuminate them and got into the shot myself.
K-x & Rokinon 8mm Fisheye 20s f/3.5 ISO3200
I shot this one as the moon was rising and light painted the rocks with my headlamp. I went with a longer lens to feature the rocks more. The bright spot in the sky is probably lens flare from my light. I'd clone that out in the final product. With the moonlight I had to go for a shorter exposure.
K-x & Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 6s f/3.5 ISO 3200
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