Night Photography – New Area of Interest

As of late, I have been researching and learning as much as I can about night sky photography.  There is something awe-inspiring about viewing amazing images taken at night where countless stars are visible along with amazing features of the landscape.  This area of photography has seen a marked increase in the number of folks interested in this form of photography.  Modern digital equipment has certainly made it easier to attempt night photography; however, it still takes time, patience, a good eye and proper knowledge to shoot at night.

Night Sky - Pagosa Springs, CO

Night Sky – Pagosa Springs, CO

I will be posting about my equipment and techniques to help others who might be interested in attempting some night photography.  If you want some eye-candy to get you motivated, check out this group on Flicker.  The ability to capture high quality night shots has been greatly enhanced by advances in digital camera bodies which allow you to capture great shots at high ISO’s (this is the equivalent of film speed for those who are new to photography.  The higher the ISO, the less light needed to expose an image.)

For those who wonder what basic equipment you might need to attempt some night sky shots, here is a simple list:

DSLR Camera Body – There are some camera bodies that are simply much better at capturing night images than others.  I shoot with Canon equipment, but I can tell you that you can have the same results with Nikon equipment.  I have been using the Canon 7d and Canon 1d Mark III but plan to upgrade to a Canon 6d soon.

Wide-Angle Lens – In general, the wider the lens the better as the night sky is BIG!!  My current go to lens for night photography is the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens.  I hope to add the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 to my bag for night panoramic shots.

Tripod – This is one piece of equipment that many new photographers eschew; yet, it is the one thing that will take your photography to another level.  Night photography requires long exposures and the camera and lens must remain perfectly still if you hope to capture some nice shots.

Tripod Head – The tripod legs may be great, but imagine trying to get your camera level with the horizon, in the dark, and sometimes wearing gloves!  You will want a sturdy, easy to adjust tripod head.  I am currently using the Giottos MH 1300-657 Ball Head.  It is a littler larger than you really need for typical night/landscape setups, but I prefer having larger knobs for turning with gloves and thick hands.

Remote Shutter Release – Many people assume that using a tripod for long exposures is all you need to ensure a sharp photo.  There is one other piece of equipment I highly recommend and that is a wired/wireless remote shutter release and preferably, one that is programmable.  I use the Phottix Aion which can be used wired or wirelessly and is programmable.

Of course, photographing at night also requires a few other items such as a flashlight for navigating and/or light painting part of your photo; a good headlamp (preferably with a red light so you don’t lose your night vision); good batteries for long exposures; and reliable memory cards.  In upcoming posts, I will review some of my equipment and cover night photography techniques.

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