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08-18-2022, 10:51 AM   #1
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basic night sky photography hints

Please key-in on basic. I, almost exclusively, shoot sunrise and daytime landscapes. We are heading for the higher altitude (@8000 feet) and will camp in an area that promises little if any artificial light So I thought I would try some post-sunset shots. On rare occasions I have shot city street scenes with the DA 50 1.8 with some success. This will be something new. Alternative lenses are my workhorse Sigma 17-50 and the classic plastic 35mm. Also have the 55-300 PLM if that is not to slow to be considered and Rokinon 16mm f2. Cameras are K70 and KP. I am not interested in astronomy, just low light early night.

What I would like as a hint(s) is a beginning point (exposure triangle settings) and "tweaks" that might save me from just firing away and trusting to luck. Please don't go into deep photo science here just some simple recipes. Thanks.

08-18-2022, 11:07 AM   #2
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For night sky, I use 2 minutes exposure time with the lens at f/4 and ISO800, as a baseline. Then is the tradeoff between having blow highlights for the stars and less noise in the dark areas, or recording color variations of more stars and having more noise in dark / shadow areas. ISO and exposure times to be adjusted depending on lens aperture changes from f/4.
08-18-2022, 12:04 PM - 2 Likes   #3
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Depending, it may be a while after sunset and later than you may normally be up and active so your conditions might benefit from a afternoon nap. Find a flashlight(s) with red filters or get some gels to attach to you present ones as night vision can take well over 20 minutes to achieve. Do the same for the others in your party as well if they will be proximate to you when shooting. Learn to switch on/off the night settings/modes on your cameras and other gear like phones and vehicles if car camping. If you have a fully manual lens available consider using it if possible. If it is a possible figure its hyperfocal distance in advance if not already known and use a piece of tape to mark it needed. I put shiny metal foil tape strips on the bottom of my tripod to assist my feet; inexpensive 'cat eyes' can be used too.
08-18-2022, 01:20 PM - 2 Likes   #4
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If not astronomy, then maybe light-painting with camera mode B and some regular LED flashlights and colored gels. Exposures of several minutes. Or maybe include some part of the sky that contains the Polaris star, for circular star trails by using the multiple exposure mode, an in-camera blended stack of multiple 20-second images, with the Pentax KP camera on a tripod. Disable the noise reduction for long exposures in this case.

Use manual focus, disable AF at night. Don't go for high ISO, stay at 100. Depending on your scene and subject, the choice of aperture may be either wide open with focus at infinity (with proper technique to manually keep it at infinity) or you may want to use an aperture setting like f/8, f/11, same as for daytime landscapes - but in this case maybe set (and keep with sticky tape) a hyperfocal distance, manually, as well.

If it is the Rokinon 16mm, then choose something catchy at close distance, as a foreground subject, then set the focus ring to twice that distance. Aperture f/8. Choose the tripod position during daylight and use Live-View mode to set the focus distance, maybe someone can help you, holding something suitable as a focus target, before it gets dark. Once the distance is set, take precautions to keep it there. Sticky tape. Disable AF. Use artificial light to "paint" your foreground subject when it gets dark.

08-18-2022, 01:57 PM   #5
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Look up the Nighttaxians and follow them on Youtube and here.
08-18-2022, 03:22 PM - 4 Likes   #6
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You have nearly 30 minutes of twilight before sunrise and after sunset, all of the light at that time is from the sun reflecting off of the atmosphere, clouds, stars, or planets. The best colors of the day in my opinion, even though some days can be a little colorless. Tripod is a must, shoot in manual. I prefer live view for this, so I can dial in the exposure and compose much easier. I would start at ISO 100, but you may have to boost it as it gets darker. I'll often bracket at these times and try putting them together as HDR later, but often single shots seem to have as much dynamic range. You will notice that you get a lot of light reflection off of water, and any lighter surface compared to darker ones. The colors will usually start appearing a few minutes after sunset, and will eventually fade away. I would recommend [/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/2nDkEHY]Twilight Photographer[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/ohiobuckeye/]Tom Ramsey[/url], on Flickr" target="_blank">The Photographers Ephemeris ( $10 download) for your phone if you don't have it, it gives you all of the important times for each day, and also help you exactly line up for the sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and moonset. That makes it a little easier to scout the features you may want in your foreground. Of course you can always turn around and shoot things in low light. I always go to a spot early and scout what I want to shoot, you have to move fast if you are shooting different things, because the light doesn't last long, and the colors even less. Of course you know most of this but maybe someone else reading may not so I want to be helpful to them.

Twilight at altitude could have some variance to where I usually shoot as sea level and low altitudes. I hope you have some great views.

Here's an example of a twilight on water and how much light can be reflected, and the boat and people are silhouettes. That twilight color is in the sky, and occasionally those great Crepuscular rays will appear.


This one is morning twilight, I picked it to show the different reflective surfaces. The sand here is not a real light sand, so not much reflection except where it is wet and smooth. The sea is wavy so there is not as much reflection as a smooth water would give. This second example would actually have a little light coming from behind where I took it, but not enough to really change much here, even the girl in the center is still a silhouette.
08-18-2022, 05:36 PM - 2 Likes   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by ramseybuckeye Quote
You have nearly 30 minutes of twilight before sunrise and after sunset, all of the light at that time is from the sun reflecting off of the atmosphere, clouds, stars, or planets. The best colors of the day in my opinion, even though some days can be a little colorless. Tripod is a must, shoot in manual. I prefer live view for this, so I can dial in the exposure and compose much easier. I would start at ISO 100, but you may have to boost it as it gets darker. I'll often bracket at these times and try putting them together as HDR later, but often single shots seem to have as much dynamic range. You will notice that you get a lot of light reflection off of water, and any lighter surface compared to darker ones. The colors will usually start appearing a few minutes after sunset, and will eventually fade away. I would recommend The Photographers Ephemeris ( $10 download) for your phone if you don't have it, it gives you all of the important times for each day, and also help you exactly line up for the sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and moonset. That makes it a little easier to scout the features you may want in your foreground. Of course you can always turn around and shoot things in low light. I always go to a spot early and scout what I want to shoot, you have to move fast if you are shooting different things, because the light doesn't last long, and the colors even less. Of course you know most of this but maybe someone else reading may not so I want to be helpful to them.

Twilight at altitude could have some variance to where I usually shoot as sea level and low altitudes. I hope you have some great views.

Here's an example of a twilight on water and how much light can be reflected, and the boat and people are silhouettes. That twilight color is in the sky, and occasionally those great Crepuscular rays will appear.


This one is morning twilight, I picked it to show the different reflective surfaces. The sand here is not a real light sand, so not much reflection except where it is wet and smooth. The sea is wavy so there is not as much reflection as a smooth water would give. This second example would actually have a little light coming from behind where I took it, but not enough to really change much here, even the girl in the center is still a silhouette.
Sage advice from a master with great examples.

08-18-2022, 06:00 PM - 1 Like   #8
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See if you can find out what the moon will be doing. It can give off a lot of light if full or nearly full...
08-18-2022, 10:02 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by gump Quote
I am not interested in astronomy, just low light early night
QuoteOriginally posted by gump Quote
basic night sky photography hints
QuoteOriginally posted by gump Quote
I, almost exclusively, shoot sunrise and daytime landscapes.
QuoteOriginally posted by gump Quote
will camp in an area that promises little if any artificial light
QuoteOriginally posted by gump Quote
So I thought I would try some post-sunset shots
If you photograph night sky at twilight, you aren't going to see much, it'll be blue with no stars, and light pollution won't matter.
Post sunset shots aren't night sky shots per say, unless you wait many hours after sunset, then you can do astro shots.

So my question would be: Do you want to photograph the night sky or do you want to photograph landscape scenery during twilight?
08-19-2022, 04:55 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
So my question would be: Do you want to photograph the night sky or do you want to photograph landscape scenery during twilight?
Thanks for narrowing the "question." What I am focused on is the, for lack of a better description, is "blue hour +." I have had some success with sunset stuff, I am intrigued with the images that included landscape (built and/or natural) often in silhouette with a background of night sky (in general). What is of no interest to me is astro as usually defined by exclusively stars and such. I have no experience with long exposures beyond a couple of seconds.
08-19-2022, 05:21 AM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by gump Quote
What I am focused on is the, for lack of a better description, is "blue hour +."
For blue hour photography, what I have in mind is exposure times between 5 seconds and 15 seconds. The problem I faced with the blue hours + (late twilight) is the stretch of white balance (very blue) and also in case street light dynamic range becomes an issue it won't be a problem in your case. You may however add some light painting of non sky elements.
08-19-2022, 07:42 AM - 1 Like   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by gump Quote
Thanks for narrowing the "question." What I am focused on is the, for lack of a better description, is "blue hour +." I have had some success with sunset stuff, I am intrigued with the images that included landscape (built and/or natural) often in silhouette with a background of night sky (in general). What is of no interest to me is astro as usually defined by exclusively stars and such. I have no experience with long exposures beyond a couple of seconds.
Just go out and try it! You've got some good starting suggestions above, and it doesn't cost you anything to take a few shots. Practice at home before you leave, so you are comfortable with your gear in relative darkness.

A couple of thigs to remember: most of your subjects will likely be rather far away, so at (more-or-less) "infinity" - but many modern lenses focus "beyond" infinity. You can't just count on going to the infinity end to be in focus. Get used to (magnified) live view for focussing.

Just set WB to daylight

Shoot RAW if you are likely to post-process; you can bring up darker areas if you wish (and play with color balance to your heart's content!)

Where are you headed for 8000 feet? You will probably have mostly pine trees and rocks for your potential backgrounds.
08-19-2022, 10:07 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by AstroDave Quote
Where are you headed for 8000 feet? You will probably have mostly pine trees and rocks for your potential backgrounds.
It is northern Colorado (North Park). You are correct, of course, about the scenery You are also right about go out and try it. My intention, but I hoped to mitigate the frustration by asking those that have been there. I appreciate all the suggestions..
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