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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Starry Starry Night

One of the things I think I love most about photography is figuring out why I enjoy a particular photograph or style of photography. I guess I've always been a bit analytical, and I will not make an exception for this current pursuit. But unlike the analytical nature of art historians, which also involves styles and artistic attributes (think brush strokes, composition, subject matter) in order to speak knowledgeably about art and group artists and work, my analysis of photographs allows me to recreate the things I love within my own style. Most recently, I have started to keep a journal of photographs I love with a quick ingredient list to remind me what I can incorporate into my own photography.

One of the best reasons to study other people's photographs, including composition, EXIF data (for digital photos online), and post processing, is because good photography is hard. For me, night photography poses the most difficult challenges. Not only does it require special tools like a tripod, shutter release cable, and a camera with mirror lockup and long exposure noise reduction, but it seems to me an imperfect science. Moreover, it can take a long time just to get a shot. Last night, for example, I was hoping to get a shot of the stars from the deepest part of the back yard (where it's dark) because we're just about to a new moon so the sky is its darkest. I was alone by the pool for nearly 45 minutes and captured just four photographs. Patience pays off here...

Starry Starry Night

I love this photo because of the star trails, the silhouette of the back yard trees, and the deep blue hue one gets from long exposures of the night sky. For the ingredients, make sure you have your tripod and shutter release handy to help eliminate any camera shake that would blur your photos. At night for a project like this, I use long exposure noise reduction (to help cut out some noise at night) and mirror lockup (to help reduce camera shake), both found in the Custom menu of my Canon 30D. This photo took almost 6 minutes to exposure at f/2.8 and ISO 100. My camera was in manual mode (a necessity for nighttime photography) and the lens was set to infinity for focus.

The tough thing about these types of shots is that they're trial and error. Here, I would have liked to have exposed for longer, say 10 minutes, but was worried about any city lights dulling the sky. Nevertheless, I think the trails are long enough, and with a distinct curve, to not be human caused. You'll notice the trails curve down and to the right. The stars "rotate" around the north star, which was to my right as I faced northwest. If you want to capture the center of that "rotation" simply look north!

1 comment:

  1. Very nice shot. Check out the Orionids meteor shower on Oct.21 in the Southeast near Orion, after midnight. Best viewing time will probably be one to two hours before dawn. Let's try more lunar eclipses.