New Zealand is known to have some of the best starry sky visuals in the world. It’s probably due to the fact that this little country is known as having some of the cleanest air in the world. I’ve enjoyed getting out and shooting the night sky a time or two while we’ve lived here, and after sharing a couple of those posts (found here and here) I thought it was high time to write a tutorial on how I take my night sky pictures.
Astrophotography is a tricky thing. Not only do you have to get the light settings just right, but the proper infinite focal placement is insanely important. If you happen to stumble upon a quiet, clear night, head out and try your luck!
What you need:
-A camera with manual settings and manual focus
-Patience and time
There are multiple factors that effect the way your star shots come out. The darker the location the better, so you don’t have to worry about artificial light polluting the sky.
Here is what I do initially to get my camera ready for shooting the night sky (I adjust my settings as needed due to the environment I’m shooting in).
-Set focus to infinite during the day. The reason being, it’s actually impossible to focus your camera on ANYTHING at night. Trust me on this.
-Set white balance to Tungsten (located in your settings screen under white balance). This helps get rid of light pollution and allows colors to show how they should within a shot.
ISO: 1000+. I try not to go much above 1000, but will if the picture needs more light. The reason is, the higher the ISO, the more grain and noise you will get in your pictures.
Shutter Speed:15-25 seconds. Here’s the tricky part! The longer you set your shutter speed, the more apt to having light trails in your photos (instead of perfectly round little dots for stars). If you’re wanting the light trail look, you could use the arty approach and set your shutter speed to 5 minutes…maybe even more (using an external forced shutter remote)to get those crazy star light trails! Of course then you’ll also have to change your ISO speed to around 100 to compensate.
Aperature: f/2.8+. If it’s dark outside, a lower f-stop number will help increase the lighting around you. If you’re in a lighter area, feel free to set your f-stop to around 6-9.
Now that you’ve got your camera all primed and ready to go, head outside! Although shots straight up of the sky are awesome, I’m finding that if you add a little bit of perspective with landforms, it can lead to even more amazing photographs! Because it’s (hopefully) pitch black outside, looking through your viewfinder won’t do you much good. This is where patience comes in. You may have to move your camera around on your tripod multiple times, with a few dud pictures to get your frame just right.
Have fun! Let me know if you have any questions!