NightScapes: Chasing the Light across the night sky. Exploring the techniques of capturing one of Natures most exciting photographic opportunities. We'll look at still photography, deepsky photography, and time lapse photography. We'll talk about navigating across the Constellations to identify what we discover. We will keep it as simple as possible and try to have some fun along the way as we explore techniques and contraptions, capturing and processing, posting and sharing, and maybe throw in a workshop or two. Join me as I set sail across the ocean of the's gonna be fun!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Orions Belt

One of the more distinctive groups of stars in the winter night sky is Orions Belt. It is made up of three rather bright stars; Alnitak, a super giant star about 10,000 time brighter and 20 times the mass of our sun, Alnilam, another super giant blue white star about 18,000 brighter than our sun and 20 times the mass, and Mintaka, yet another giant about 7,000 times brighterand 20 times the mass of our sun. All three probably formed from the molecular clouds found in the constellation. All three are about 800 to 1000 light years from earth. Angling below them is Orions nebula, a star factory where new young stars are being formed.

Photographing Orion is rather easy as the stars stand out brightly on a clear winter night. As the summer approaches its end and fall filters into place, anticipation for the arrival of Orion grow quickly for those who find its form a fascinating image across the night sky.

Heres one from last April a few weeks before Orion disappeared for the summer. 50mm - f/6.3 - ISO 3200 - tracked for 40 seconds.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Night Portraits

A few months ago I ran across an article by Mark Gee, an astrophotographer from New Zealand, about how he made a series of night portraits using the Milky Way as a background ( The images he shared were stunning examples of the creative use of light. I decided to give it a try myself just to see if I could pull off something reasonably close to what he accomplished.
The hard part was finding a model who was willing to be up late in the evening. The most logical model was my wife Kris, but she tends to be a bit reluctant to do such things, so instead I was able to talk my son into helping.
Our original destination was the old barn located about three miles down the road. The location offers a good view of the southern and eastern sky and even with a sliver of the moon being visible at our appointed hour, it presence hovering above the horizon in the west had little impact on what I was trying to accomplish, but, we settled on the backyard out of convenience.
I set the camera on a small tripod I had built from spare parts that allowed the camera to sit about ten or twelve inches off the ground. Using an 18mm lens, I angled the camera just enough to gather in the sky and still capture him as he stood a few yards away. I manually focused on him using a light from his cell phone.
The technique was simple; he had to stand perfectly still for about 20 seconds while the camera made its exposure, then at the very end of the exposure process, I fired off my speedlight to illuminate him with a quick blast of light against the Milky Way backdrop. I purposely underexposed the image knowing that I would eventually boost it in Photoshop to bring out the dynamic light of the Milky Way, and I did not want to overcook the exposure on him.
The results were encouraging but the technique still requires some practice and a darker, brighter night to enhance the milky way. Regardless, it was a fun attempt at doing something different against the incredible diverse light of the night sky.