Photographers who specialize in night photography and stair trails are somewhat of a special breed. But don’t let the fancy equipment or the prospect of staying up all night discourage you from pursuing night photography. Grant started to seriously pursue night photography when he was working fulltime as a volcano specialist – meaning the only time he had to photograph was after work when the sun had already gone down.
Four years ago, Grant gave up his work with volcanoes and started to pursue photography fulltime. Grant rarely photographs just the night sky alone – he almost always seeks out unique elements in the landscape to combine with his night shots. The elements that Grant chooses to include in his composition come in all shapes and sizes. Grant encourages aspiring night photographers to play around with their surroundings, and not to give up when they don’t see their ideal composition right away. We can’t harp on this one enough – good, let alone great night photographers have a solid understanding of what the moon and stars are up to at any given time during the year.
To get those stellar star trail shots, night photographers know that it’s all about the rotation of the earth. Because stars appear the brightest when there is a new moon or the moon has yet to rise, photographers must make a tradeoff: no moonlight might mean better star trails, but you won’t get much illumination on the landscape. Photographers frequently ask Grant if they need to spend boatloads of money on gear to produce images like his. While the above gear isn’t technically necessary, serious professionals should look into investing in a few of these to further improve their night photography. Still, the general rule for night photography is to use the lowest ISO possible and the widest aperture available.
Since star trail images are made with either long exposures or stacking multiple short exposures, noise can be a big issue. The truth is that no matter how high the ISO or how wide your fancy lens can go, it’s pretty difficult to get a totally clean night shot. Focusing and composing – they’re some of the most basic photographic techniques; but things get tricky when there’s no light to guide you. From there, you can make small adjustments to your focus until you get it right, and then switch back to usable ISOs.
With regards to the ‘dark frame’, could you shoot it the next day by copying the exposure details, and therefore save valuable time during the night shoot ? If the lens cap is placed back on, as the article states, why not save your time and make a black layer in photoshop? I’ll be back, often to read the comments so that I can make a great how to get started in night photography piece for my photo coaching web site. Sometimes a great deal of persistence and luck may result to a star trail – lightning photo. Place the camera on the desired spot, ensure that it is firmly locked on the tripod and the tripod is stable (remember it must be stay completely still for hours). Set the camera to Manual mode, adjust the ISO, aperture and speed, set it to Bulb and program the intervalometer and you are ready to go. If you want to remove unwanted elements like airplane trails you have to do separately it in every image. The final touch can be done in Photoshop or any other image processing software you prefer. A very interesting and useful how-to article…Chris, thank you very much for sharing this knowledge! I just received my intervalometer today, so depending on the weather, tonight might just be my first startrail photography night. The beauty and the magic of the night sky is taken to a new level when properly combined with a beautiful landscape. In the past few years I was fortunate enough to capture some photos that have something to say. The first photo tells us the story of a new astrophotographer trying to catch Earth’s celestial companion aligned with one of the most important monuments of the ancient world, the temple of Poseidon.
The second photo is a story of a cataclysmic storm that took place a few hours during the total lunar eclipse at June 15 2011. I you think that it would be helpful to include something more, I’m open to suggestions. 1) I have seen in one of your startrails shots that there is a little star effect at the end of the startail which I presume, the last shot was taken using a much smaller aperture. 2) I am trying to stack images of the milky way using Deep sky stacker (I do not mount the camera to track the earth?s movement) but all my attempts are unsuccessful. Hello Chris, I just saw your Halloween picture on APOD congratulations A great composition.
Love your FormatNov 13, 2015 by Julie Mbusiness Still Light StudiosYou photograph the kids beautifully, and I love your format! The world has watched as Kim Kardashian and Kanye West rolled out a wedding week like no other, with as many events (across as many countries) as possible. In exciting news, two Australian designers on display at the pre-wedding party, bringing a little Aussie talent to the world stage. The same dress has previously been seen popular instagrammer Sydney Fashion Blogger, who has been a great advocate of the glamorous label which has been donned by the likes of Delta Goodrem. Little sister Kendall Jenner donned fellow Australian designer Johanna Johnson’s Vaudeville gown – a navy silk slip dress that hugged the young models slender figure. The fashion stakes were upped for the wedding day itself, which took place in Florence, Italy.
You may have seen one of our teaser photos on our Facebook page a while back, but here are a few more photos from our photo shoot with the Davis High School Cheerleaders. This isn’t so surprising when you realize how much in-depth understanding and science know-how they must possess in order to get the job done – not to mention the specialty gear required to get a quality shot at night.
After speaking with Lake Tahoe-based time-lapse and night photographer Grant Kaye, who was featured in our Selling Nature Photography guide, we compiled the top 6 night photography tips to help you master the craft. The result is images that are based on reality, but contain his artistic interpretation of a scene.
It’s often the rugged or funky-looking trees native to the American Southwestern deserts, or a group of jagged rocks alongside a placid lake.
Grant suggests photographers pre-visualize how they want the image to come out, and marry that with their understanding of the lunar and planetary motions.


It’s a departure from the “normal” routine, but then again, so is much of night photography. Be sure to check out our guide Building Your Outdoor and Adventure Photography Business with more tips from pros to market your work, master storytelling, develop a solid workflow and attract the clients you want. Check out PhotoShelter?—?we make killer photography websites and offer over 100+ professional grade tools to help you showcase, store, share, and sell your images. As Grant suggests you need to set your camera at its highest ISO and take a quick shot check composition and focus and then fine tune the composition as needed. If you want crips images of the stars there is a max exposure time before the rotation of the earth kicks in and causes the stars to appear blurred in your final image. One question: you said do a dark frame with another 15mons of exposure with cap on to remove noise in photoshop.
In terms of marketability, though, I sell art prints and there is not much of a market for night photos. Back on the old days of film photography, the most common way to shoot star trails was to leave the shutter open and take one really long exposure.
It is not recommended to interrupt a star trail shooting to change a battery or for any other reason because even the slightest re-position of the camera will result to a blurry image after the photo stacking. In case you use a wired shutter release, set your camera exposure to the maximum available (typically 30 seconds).
Set it wide open if you want prominent and vivid stars or one stop closed for sharper results. If you rely only on the star light as a light source for your foreground you will need to take really long -several minute- exposures. You can even use the ambient light from buildings, street lights, cars and everything else included on a populated area to illuminate your foreground.
This is perhaps the most important factor that determines the difference between an OK photo and a breathtaking photo. If you turn your camera to the North (assuming that you live in the northern hemisphere), your star trails will look like spinning wheel with Polaris, the Northern Star near the center.
Keep in mind that most of the action takes place on the sky but do not overlook the foreground as well.
Astrophotography is just another kind of photography, so all rules and suggestions that apply to daylight photography apply to star trail photos as well.
Well,  probably my best star trail so far was taken with the full Moon light bathing the landscape.
Use the software that comes with your camera or a better software that supports batch processing like Lightroom or Photoshop.
I like to do only minor changes, so I usually adjust just a little bit the contrast, saturation and sharpness of the image. About the twinkle effect: I create a new layer in photoshop with the last photo of the star trail sequence and I blow up the stars. I use 3 seconds because it allows time for the sensor to cool down, as well as time not as much battery is being used.
My name is Chris and my idea of having fun is to be out in the cold, in the middle of the night taking photos of the stars!
My equipment was humble, a cheap 70 euro telescope coupled with a mid range DSLR tied with a rope(!) to a small tripod.
Typically you will be shooting in nice sceneries away from the city lights that cover the most of the star light (if not all!). They don’t have the flexibility of a zoom lens but they are generally sharper and faster than zoom lenses. Set it wide open to capture as much photons as you can in the short period of time before trailing start to show. If you plan to shoot startrails have in mind that your camera should operate continuously for hours. I know it helps to start with a dark sky, and I suppose you are possibly stacking images, but what are you specific camera settings for that shot? The problem is that you only have 30 – 40 seconds before the star trails start to show in your photo. I started experimenting with photography about 1 year ago and i have tried LOTS of different styles. I am curious to know where that spooky house is and whether you will be publishing any more shots of it.
Thank you so much for taking pictures of my little nuggets and helping me find their pictures. Whilst there have been rumours surrounding the venues, performances, cake and more, nothing has excited on-lookers as much as the fashions. Khloe Kardashian attended the event (which took place incredibly at the Palais de Versailles) wearing the Lira gown by Australian label Constantina & Louise.
The Lira gown is part of a Constantina & Louise collection inspired by the european coastline – a perfect choice for the european nuptials. The bride-to-be donned a cleavage bearing Maison Martin Margiela white tuxedo jacket and split side skirt.
The Kim Kardashian Kanye West wedding hosted around 200 guests, and while much of the style was concealed by the vast walls of Fort Belvedere, we do know that the Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, and baby North West all wore custom-made Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci. Whether you are looking for fashion, beauty, finance, health and love advice you will find a wealth of information from our resident experts.
The elements don’t take away from the starry skies, but actually add a focal point that draws the viewer into the entire image. If anyone has any further, specific questions, please feel free to shoot me an email at grant AT grantkaye DOT com, and I will do my best to answer them. In case of a single long exposure, there will be a significant amount of digital noise in your picture. So the camera takes a shot, then at least one second is required to be stored in the memory card and the camera continues with the next shot.
When I shoot in a really dark place and I want to capture vivid star trails and colors I may use ISO 1600.
Closing the aperture will give you more depth of field which is good if you have an Earthy subject like a tree or a building in your frame. If you shoot in jpg use Daylight as it gives in my opinion the most realistic results in most cases of night photography.
If none of the above is available leave a flash light open far from your spot and focus on that.


The Moon, the planets, the constellations and the Milky Way are not only favorite photographic targets but also source of pure inspiration! The photographers are story tellers and the story of the twinkling stars is perhaps the most exciting!
I use a crop 1,6 camera (canon 550D) and most of the time I take photos with a 15mm fisheye lens. Where I live, Washington,DC, if I travel 3 hours to a dark site I can barely make out the galaxy naked eye and can’t pick it up in a photo. Leave a bright flash light or your car light a few hundred meters away and try to focus on that or if this is not possible maybe a Bahtinov Mask would help.
The dazzling sequined dress featured a plunging neckline and was teamed with bohemian curls. Brown makes a cool action that will stack a bunch of shirt (4 minute) exposures on top of themselves and create much longer star trails!
Instead of one long exposure, we shoot many consequent exposures and then stack them at post processing in order to produce the equivalent of a single long exposure. Some photographers suggest that you should leave longer intervals between the shots in order to give more time to the camera sensor to cool down, producing images with lower noise. If you are on the top of a mountain, most probably you will not have a plug to connect your adapter. The Bulb setting allows you to set the exposure time to whatever you want at your intervalometer. In practice, if you use a wide field lens even with the aperture wide open stars and objects only a few feet away will all be nice and focused.
So If you program for infinite shots (go until camera dies or memory card is full) on your intervalometer with 23 second exposures (works better for me because of light pollution from San Francisco 12 miles away) and 1 second gaps, I get about 600-800 frames (depends on temperature outside).
You have a point with the 3 second interval for the sensor to cool down although if you stack many photos, noise is greatly reduced or completely eliminated anyway.
Have in mind that at night sky photography most of the action takes place at the sky, therefore you should have a wide field of view to include the foreground and a large part of the sky. Usually at this kind of photography we only shoot the celestial objects without an earthy foreground as it will blur from the mount’s motion). I’ve clicked on the link for the tutorial and it just takes me back to the gallery page. Anyway, i am looking forword to get myself a fisheye adaptor (x0.45) , since fisheye and ultra wide lenses are REAAALY pricey. This means that in order to capture the photo we have to leave the camera shutter open for an extended period of time.
Some cameras have this function built in and for some others you have to purchase a separate device. If you stack even a small number of shots, noise is greatly reduced and you can virtually eliminate the remaining noise at post processing.
A RAW image requires more storage space; therefore you need a high capacity fast memory card for your camera and more storage space in your computer. Strangely, on digital SLRs the focus to infinity is not at the end of your lens focus ring; it is just a little bit before the end.
In a light polluted area or in a moonlit scene you will probably use a lower ISO like 200 or 400. If you move the camera even slightly to review a photo or to change a battery your photos will be misaligned and the final result blurry and inaccurate. This has to do with my personal shooting style and with the fact that in night photography you have to consider the fact that your main subject is the sky, so if you want to include both the landscape and plenty of sky, then you need wide field lens. I’d like to get some pointers on how you created the shot so I can incorporate some of them into my own images.
Just so you know, fisheye adaptors cost about 30€ and you can attach them in front an existing lens.
Each one of those things requires a different strategy.” Proper planning means a better chance of getting the image that you want. The stars appear like curved lines instead of light dots due to the Earth’s rotation. Alternatively you may use a simple (and cheaper) wired shutter release or even a rubber band to lock the shutter and allow your camera to take continuous shots, but using an intervalometer will give you much more flexibility. Unless your main goal is to produce a timelapse -so in this case you really need low noise at your individual shots- in the case of the star trail photo go for the 1 second intervals. Additionally, the process time is increased as you will need to convert your images to jpg or tiff format before you stack them. Take 5 to 10 dark frames with the exact settings as your normal shots before or after the shooting. If it doesn’t, set the focus manually close to infinity (strangely at DSLR cameras stars do not focus perfectly at infinity…) and then do some try and error attempts adjusting the focus and inspecting the photo until the stars are sharp dots. If you leave longer interval time, let’s say 4 or 5 seconds you will notice these annoying gaps on your star trails. If you are lucky enough to find a cloudless night in the middle of the winter your star trails will look like the following photo.
If you shoot to a light polluted area or with the Moon on the sky you probably will not exceed the 30 second exposures. If you want to go further and shoot for hours consider an AC Power Adapter or a big external 12V battery coupled with an adapter cable.
The gap is there even at 1 second intervals but the lower the interval time the less visible it is.
And with that, also, reducing your exposure time (if possible with ISO noise restrictions) can increase your battery’s life over the course of the night. Star trail photography really is a mind game, especially if you consider the fact that our distance from the stars is measured in light years. So, every time you take a photo of these bright dots, or bright star trails you actually take a photo of the past!
This practically means that Orion, or the Big Dipper or any other constellation will look the same to us, our children and grandchildren. In the course of thousands of years though, they visually change, forming new cosmic patterns on our night sky.



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