What’s up, guys? I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Monday! Today’s post is going to be a bit different from my usual posts – I’m going to be talking about my various trials and successes over the past few weeks as I’ve been attempting to photograph the stars. I’ll be showing the good and the bad pictures, and I’m going to do my best to explain everything that I learned in the hopes that it will help you. 🙂
Let me start off this post by saying that I love stars. They are, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring parts of God’s creation. I’m fortunate to live far away enough from the city to get a clear view of the night sky, and I’ve always loved it. For a long time, I never even considered trying to photograph the stars – it seemed like something that could only be done by professionals with tons of expensive gear, not a teenager with a “beginner level” dSLR camera. After stumbling across a few YouTube videos that changed my mind, I started to research star photography and became very determined to capture the stars.
Some of you may remember the star photos I included in my recent photography post. Those were some of the first “good” star pictures I had ever taken. The night I took them, the stars were very bright and clear, and I stood out in the dark for about half an hour, occasionally running back inside to do more research and change some settings. I finally captured something that actually resembled what I was seeing:
I was really excited to get these photos! The hardest part was the focus. The thing about focusing on the stars with a dSLR camera is that the autofocus doesn’t work in the dark, so you have to use manual focus. It’s very tricky and you have to get it just right. If it isn’t in the exact right spot, your pictures will turn out like this:
Not quite as impressive, right? XD I had two different problems here: the first was that my focus wasn’t quite sharp enough, and the second was that my shutter speed was too long. When you photograph the stars, you have to keep the shutter open for at least 10-15 seconds to capture the light from the stars. However, if you lower your shutter speed too much, then the camera will capture some of the stars’ movement and the stars will appear to be blurred.
Here’s a photo I took right after the one above. I adjusted the focus and raised my shutter speed, and the result was much better.
After I took the photos above, I didn’t think about star photography again for a while. I had captured the stars, and I was satisfied. However, last week, I walked outside and saw how breathtaking the stars were, and I got excited about them all over again. I quickly got my camera and stood out in the dark with a flashlight, slowly adjusting the focus. While I was doing that, a bat flew right next to my face and I got several lovely mosquito bites. XD After I got the focus right, I remembered that my hair was in space buns and decided to try a silhouette against the stars:
…yeah, that didn’t turn out so well. XD There were two main problems here: I was using too long of a shutter speed (again) and I was way too close to the camera, hence why the silhouette is so out of focus. My original plan was to use my wireless camera remote to get the picture, but the remote doesn’t work if it’s too far from the camera. I needed someone else to be behind the camera so I could move much further away to capture the silhouette picture I wanted. I decided to experiment to see how far away I could use the camera remote.
In doing so, I discovered two new problems: the light from my house was blocking out the stars, and all the trees were making my silhouette impossible to see. (I’m in this picture, about 10 feet away from the camera – but you can’t see me at all because of the trees.) I had to find somewhere without any artificial light and where there were less trees.
I experimented in several different places. The front yard would have been dark enough if it weren’t for the passing cars that kept turning the sky green. And there were still too many trees:
Discouraged, I went inside for the night and decided to look for a place in the daytime. I wandered around for a while the following afternoon until I found a place I was confident would work: the biggest hill in the hayfield. The failure from the night before had made me more even determined to capture the picture that I had in mind. My amazing mom agreed to help me out, and at 11 PM that night, we headed out into the darkness.
When we reached the hayfield, there was a big group of deer sleeping on the hill where I needed to stand. After I adjusted the settings and focus on the camera, I walked cautiously up the hill and all the deer moved to the side of the hayfield, where they stood giving me suspicious glares until I left. XD
My mom stayed by the camera and used the remote to take the picture so we’d have as little camera shake as possible. I positioned the tripod as low as I could in an attempt to cut out most of the trees. Despite my best efforts, the first picture was a bit of a failure. My silhouette still wasn’t visible.
*bursts out laughing* I’m only calling this picture a partial failure because it’s so funny. XD My mom shined a flashlight on me while the camera’s shutter was open in an attempt to brighten up the photo, but the result looks like I’m being abducted by aliens. Not quite what I was going for… 😛
Take 3 was slightly better, but the ground still looks like it’s glowing, and it’s not really a silhouette. We did capture a small shooting star in this one, though! I saw quite a few shooting stars that night.
Take 4 was pretty much the same. At this point, I decided to try standing on a tall wooden stool in an attempt to be higher than the trees. It was a crazy and probably dangerous idea, but it worked! XD I walked all the way back to the house to get the stool, and thankfully no one questioned its disappearance. When I finally dragged the thing all the way up the hill and managed to climb onto it, the results were well worth it:
It sort of looks like I’m part of the trees… but I was getting so much closer by this point that I wasn’t too discouraged!
This one looks like I’m levitating. XD We decided to try to get the camera even lower to cut out more trees. To do this, we found a little hollow spot in the ground and put the tripod in it.
At last, we captured the picture that I’d been dreaming about for a week:
I’m really proud of this photo. Every time I look at it, I think about running down the hill in the dark, seeing the picture that we had finally captured, and quietly squealing while deer glared at us. It makes me smile. XD
I hope this post wasn’t horribly confusing or boring and that it helped any of you who are interested in star photography! If you have any questions, you can ask me in the comments and I’ll do my best to help you. 😀
Here are a few articles that helped me greatly when I was learning how to photograph the stars:
Milky Way & Star Photography Tutorial: Camera Settings, Equipment, Photo Editing and Planning Tools || Dave Morrow Photography
How to Photograph Stars & Night Skies || Backpacker
How To Photograph The Stars: A Beginner’s Guide || Shaw Academy
Thanks so much for reading! ❤
Do you love the stars? Which photo in this post was your favorite and why?
P.S: My younger sister is hosting an amazing giveaway on her blog! Click here to check it out. 🙂