Tuesday, July 21, 2020

When Sky sets alive in the night - First experience with Night Photography

Explorer Lens
During the current pandemic times when we are not making travel plans, planning for adventure activities, or waiting for our favorite sports event to start, we are trying our hands on things that we had interest but couldn’t find time for it.

One of such thing which I wanted to do from a long time is Astrophotography.
I am always mesmerized by the stunning pics of the Milky Way, stars, meteoroids, comets and the Moon, clicked by expert Photographers, Stargazers or Astronomers.
The beauty of the sky in the night has always attracted me and there had been moments when I wanted to stay up the whole night just to experience its charisma.

During recent times, Comet Neowise has been into limelight and become the dream of every Astrophotographer. It inspired me to try my hands on astrophotography, especially night sky photography.

In this post I will share some of the pics that I could capture of the comet and the night sky, and my learning during this process.
There are 4 important pillars of Astrophotography and they are very important for a novice like me or you to understand.

First important point to discuss here before we get into the 4 pillars is the camera should be set in manual, so that we can change the camera settings accordingly.

1. Aperture:
Let’s start with Aperture of the lens. We know that we can control how much light will get into our lens by adjusting the aperture. For Astrophotography or Night Photography, we want maximum light to enter the camera as we are shooting in dark, so we will keep the aperture the highest that we have.
On Prime Lens like 50 mm the highest is around f/1.8 or even f/1.4. On Zoom Lens it is a little lower around F/4. While on Kit Lens like 18-55mm it is around f/2.6 – f/3.

2. Shutter Speed
Shutter Speed is basically how long the shutter of the camera needs to be open. Again as we are shooting in the night, we want maximum light to enter our camera and for that shutter needs to be open for a longer time. Normally the ideal Shutter Speed for Astrophotography ranges from 1 – 20 depending on what kind of lens we are using.
For Prime lens which are faster, 2-5 shutter speed will be quite good, while for zoom lens its needs to be set a little higher around 10-20 depending on how much you are zooming in.

3. ISO
The third crucial thing while doing Astrophotography is setting the ISO correctly.
Normally a higher ISO of 1600 and above is better for taking pics in the night, but for Prime lens I have observed that even ISO of 200 or 400 was good enough for my pics.

4. Focus
Finally the most important aspect of Astrophotography is setting the focus. Auto focus won’t work while taking pictures of the Milky Way and terrestrial heavenly bodies in the sky as they are very far apart. Normally it is advised to put the focus to manual and set it to infinity. Normally lens come with infinity markings, in case your lens doesn’t have that try to set focus on a bright object that is more than 20 feet away and then use the same focus to photograph the sky.

These are the 4 main pillars/factors important in Astrophotography.
Along with them, other factors like weather, light pollution and timing of the pic also decide how good the picture will be. Weather is not in our control, but always check various weather apps to identify clear skies with no clouds and rains. To avoid light pollution alteast be 30 miles away from the city lights.
And for the timing use apps like Sky Walk, Night Safari etc which will help you predict the exact location of the planets, stars, comets, Milky way and other bodies in the sky and also tell you exactly where to locate them in sky.

So those are my recent learnings that I gathered while doing Night Photography.
And here is a glimpse of some of the results:

Crescent Moon before the dusk 

Lunar Eclipse 

Playing with the light

And finally Comet Neowise
It was an adventurous, exciting, amazing and emotional journey while we were trying to see, capture and experience the charisma of the comet.
We live in Parsippany and for the first couple of days we tried to see and capture the comet from local places, but we weren't lucky. Either the weather was not good and there were lot of clouds, or there was lot of city light pollution.

Finally we saw it for the first time from a scenic overlook and we were just mesmerized by the beauty. Still we were not in pitch dark and hence it was not easily visible from binoculars too.

So next day we decided to go to a place which is away from the city lights and we can get pitch dark sky. I read somewhere about Round Valley Reservoir and that it is also open in night, so decided to give it a try. When we reached there it was closed due to some reason, but fortunately at that very same moment a cop stopped by and asked us what were we doing there. We explained him that we were here to watch the comet and surprisingly he was really kind enough to allow us in for an hour.
We became quite excited like small kids and were so happy to see it in pitch black sky.
The view and experience was phenomenal, though it didn't last much as clouds came in and shadowed the comet.

Lastly, I wanted a to shoot it with a foreground and also pics showing us watching it together, so I decided to go a municipal beach in Mount Arlington.
Again it was a great experience watching and shooting it.

Really, this mass of ice and rock has brought bundle of joy and excitement in our redundant life and I feel so fortunate to experience it magic. Goodbye for now until 6800 years, will surely miss you !!

Explorer Lens / Author & Editor

Traveler | Blogger | Photographer | Author | Co-founder http://r4review.com | Social Influencer | For PR or business enqueries contact:ankitdavv@gmail.com


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