Ok my friends, you should be getting this Newsletter on January 2nd, 2024. I trust ya’ll had a safe New Years Celebration! Now for some goodies!
Prior to now I’ve never taught the example of degree measurements before. The examples are below, read on. But first some foundation work…
It’s my goal, one last time, to entice you to sign up for this years classes I’ll be doing online. I’ve taught night sky Photography many times. Most of the time my students in attendance were out there shooting the night skies for the first time.
No matter how many times I’ve stated to learn your camera settings at home prior to going out, most people do not do this. You should be able to start at the beginning point I give everyone… ISO 6400 – f/2.8 – 15 seconds, and then season to taste without needing to turn on lights.
Any camera will work… the success of your image will depend somewhat on your sensor, your glass, your tripod, and your editing techniques. Very few of you will get a truly outstanding image your first time out.
THIS IS NORMAL! Also realize “a truly outstanding Image” is a matter of perceptions. In your opinion, just to be able to capture the Milky Way, might be awesome! I agree…
In Your Entire Life Have You Ever Been Perfect Without Practice?
So in your head I’m pretty sure you are agreeing with the above statement… Yes, you’ve always needed to practice. The best night sky Photography will require several key elements. The biggest element being knowledge.
If you don’t have the best camera or lens, how will you compensate? If you have a good sensor, and a decent lens, but a tripod that is less than rock steady? You’re still hurting.
What about if you have a good sensor, good glass, and steady tripod, but you’re not good at editing? How do you compensate for that? I will tell you, any camera or lens is capable of shooting night skies. Your results will vary… But without knowledge it could take you many, many years of practice to make all the mistakes necessary to learn.
This Is Where The Journey Comes In
Everyone with a camera is on a different level in their journey. This is also very cool! For me personally when I teach? To see the “light go off in someones eyes accompanied by that big smile?” That’s golden!
Ok, so no matter where you are in the journey, one of the biggest preparations you can make, is planning. Also understanding where you actually are in the journey, and being ok with that.
You can not “buy yourself” into outstanding imagery with gear alone. Actually instead of investing hard earned cash on that next piece of kit… put those funds towards education!
The best gear will give you nothing, if you do not know how to use it. And the best image that camera can capture, will be worthless without some editing knowledge. So should you give up? NO!! These things are exactly what motivates us to continue on… we ALL wish to be better!
Ok The Planning Part
Yes the image above took some planning. Also? Look at where the Milky Way is in the sky. The image was composed in Early April. It was still pretty chilly out there at 3:00 am, so my ballerina needed to be really committed! Also? The image above multiplies other techniques in order to create it. So you must have the foundation set properly.
January is actually the month I start planning out my night sky Photography. It’s also a great time to get out in the dark and become comfortable with your camera. The environment as well. For a lot of people being in the middle of nowhere when it’s pitch black out, is a very scary event.
It’s cold you say? Yes maybe. Dress warmer! Do not EVER let weather stop you from your Photography! As a matter of fact? The funkier the weather is, the the more I wish to go. Dramatic images that set themselves apart, do not occur with sunny blue skies.
So… Milky Way Photography is best accomplished during the New Moon. For those that do not know the “New Moon” is actually no Moon… pitch black! Star Trails can be accomplished at any time.
PhotoPills Is THE Photographic App To Have On Your Phone!
At $10.99 this app it worth its weight in gold no matter what Photography you do, especially night skies. Milky Way season starts when the Core of the Milky Way is visible. In the Northern Hemisphere that is February this year, but honestly? I usually never venture out to shoot the Milky Way until April. This is simply my preferences, yours might be different.
Checking PhotoPills today I noticed the New Moon will be occurring near the first week of the Month all summer. So? You are now aware that If you have something on your calendar already, plan around that. If not? Block out those dates in your calendar now, like I just did!
Ok… if you want the full arch of the Milky Way, you will need to capture this in April, or May. After that the Milky Way will not be in position for an “easy capture”… After May the Milky Way will start to be higher in the sky.
So You Look In PhotoPills And See This Data…
With the image at left, this gives you detailed information for what’s going on with the Moon. Also Sunrise and Sunset for Monday, April 8th, 2024. The picture on the right shows you exactly where and how the Milky Way will be at 3:23am on April 8th, 2024. The two images above are screen captures of the app on my iPhone.
Pretty cool huh? You’re getting this information on January 2nd, 2024! Months in advance! Guess what? With this app and others you can plan many years in advance! Also? You can plan and save information in this app even without a cell phone signal.
For those of you that do not know, Stewarts Point is a spot off the North Shore Road (Lake Mead) where you can drive on a dirt road right down to the shoreline, if ya know which road to take. When do you find that out? On that day? Only if you’re incredibly comfortable doing so. I’d highly advise going out there far in advance, and during the day.
Also keep in mind that the lake rises and lowers quite a bit. What is under water could be out of the water and visa versa.
Ok So What Does 24.3 Degrees Mean?
That tells you how high in the sky the Core will be, The information is found top right in the example image under “elevation rise.” So just what the hell does that mean if you are not into Astronomy that much? Well, a circle is 360 degrees. For the sky, 90 degrees is straight overhead… or the Zenith.
Let’s say 0 degrees is the horizon in the east, 90 degrees is straight overhead, 180 degrees is the horizon in the west, and 270 degrees would be on the other side of the world directly under your feet. Both the Sun and the Moon rise in the East and set in the West.
The top of the map is North. The larger dots on the semi circle represent the core of the Milky Way. Where is that rising? In the South East part of the sky. So if there are any lights at all to the East or the South those will mess up your capture. And 24.3 degrees? Means how high in the sky the Core will be. So? What if there are mountains to the South East? Will they interfere?
These are questions you might wish to answer on that test drive I spoke about above. Pack a lunch! Maybe some dinner. Get off the couch and go check it out! Stay past dark so you can see if lights will be an issue. Also you’ll have to drive back out in the dark. This would be good practice. Here’s a way you can use your hands to measure degrees… with your hands at arms length…
You can use two hands as well. So a fist and the pinky/thumb will measure 35 degrees. So, place your pinky on the horizon and your thump pointing up. The top of your thumb will be 25 degrees. But wait! Maybe you have small hands? Is the distance between digits above correct?
Well,… look for the Big Dipper. Use the image below to approximate your hand size vs degree measurements, and then compensate accordingly. Do this on a practice day. Or maybe on a day you venture out to capture some star trails. That’s a subject for a future lesson.
Now I’m Hoping All Kinds Of Lights are Going Off In Your Eyes!
This stuff isn’t that hard… but it does require preparation and commitment. Contrary to popular belief, Photographers do not just go click and shoot awesome images! This takes some inside information, a sense of adventure in your soul, and a willingness to apply yourself. That’s the fun! That’s part of the journey!
Go out with another Photographer or two or three and maybe that drive back to the road in the dark is a bit less intimidating. Take a chair or two and maybe sit around the fire a bit, having supper while you’re waiting for it to get dark. By the way… full dark is two hours after sunset. Be patient as well.
I just happen to know this really cool Photographer that organizes Milky Way Shoots all the time. He also teaches the editing process too! Did you know he has read an entire Encyclopedia Britannica Set series of books on the subject? In addition to reams and reams of self study? You could go with him on some Milky Way Shoots and pick his brain!
The Image Above Took The Most Planning Of Any I’ve Ever Done
The image encompassed three years in the making, and involved several planning applications to accomplish. It was composed at 9-19-19 pm on 9-19-19. This was when the Milky Way would line up correctly for my son and I to be in this sea cave at the very lowest tide. At high tide? The roof of this cave is six feet under water!
When we exited the cave to walk back the considerable distance to my truck we were chest deep in raging seas with our camera gear carried over our heads! The rest of the walk was in deep sand with wet clothes also full of sand! Yuck! However! Do you think my son and I will ever forget that night? Nope! He’ll definitely remember it long after I’m dead and gone. Another facet of Photography we should remember! It lives on after you do!
So I’ve never been able to teach the degree secret illustrated above till now. There are more secrets in my pea brain I’d love to teach you. Like how to get pin point stars, instead of light blobs or dashes. However the foundation is key. If you can not add, I can not teach you how to multiply.
The Next Facet Of Night Sky Imagery Is Post Processing
Can you get an image of the Milky Way and process it just in LightRoom? Yes. But not one like any of the images you see in this post. There are skills you need to learn in PhotoShop first. Then we will multiply those skills!
So as you can see from this lengthly post, there are many facets of Night Sky Photography you might not have considered. There are also many types of Photography to do.
Night Skies, Portraiture, Landscapes, Sports, Macro, Still Life, Boudoir, Wildlife, Product Photography, Food Photography… And many more! I know them all, and I am award winning and published in all of them as well. (again no brag, jess fact)
I wish to motivate you to come along for the ride. I wish to inspire you to follow me on the journey,… be part of the adventures!
The One Constant…
The one thing that has been constant in all the genre’s of Photography is knowledge. Education I received early on has proven far more important than any gear I’ve ever purchased.
The foundation was set over five decades ago by my father, who was also a very accomplished Professional Photographer. I can teach you the shortcuts in far less time!
That foundation has been moulded with years and years of experimentation and practice! Yes, also lots and lots of mistakes! Every single mistake a lesson. I totally grew up with a camera in my hand every single day, and it’s still there!
I wish to pass on this knowledge! I’m not going to live forever my friends… jump in and learn these lessons while you still can! Set your foundation for your Photographic future!
Another Thing To Consider
Many lessons in one genre carry over to others. One example is portrait lighting. Learning how to use off camera lighting in the field for an on location portrait, can also cary over to Landscape Photography. Many of the editing techniques as well.
So do not pass over any class because you think you’re not interested in doing that “particular class work!” Also we should place ourselves out of our comfort zones as many times as possible. This creates exponential growth! It also assists you in becoming more comfortable with your Photography no matter what is thrown at you!.
Another little tid bit… because you have that awesome camera… many people assume that since you take beautiful landscape images, you can do some family portraits. Sorry no, not without some other lessons such as lens selection, lighting locations, posing, getting everyone to look at the camera at the same time… and much more.