It was so cold and clear tonight, I finally talked myself into heading out into the field behind my house with a camera and tripod.  I haven’t tried much night sky photography, so a quick survey of the internet gave me the pointers I needed.


How I shot this photo:

1.  I used:  Nikon D600 with a 50 mm 1.8 lens, a flimsy tripod, a remote shutter controller, an iPhone to use as a flashlight and timer.  If you don’t have a remote, you could use the timer function.

2. Settings:  Manual exposure, set at 1.8 aperture and Bulb shutter speed.  Manual focus set at infinity.  ISO 200

3.  Exposure time.  I found out on the internet about the “rule of 600.”  My understanding is that to avoid capturing star trails, you should divide the lens’s focal length into 600.  So in my case, 600/50 is 12.  So I used a twelve second exposure, roughly.  I timed it on my phone, so it was not super exact.  The article where I learned about the rule of 600 also suggested shooting at least five identical shots and layering or stacking them in Photoshop or another astrophotography program, but I didn’t do that.

4. Post Processing:  I used Lightroom.  I cropped for a pleasing composition with the water tower.  There was a weird green reflection on the underside of the tower, so I desaturated that area and otherwise did my best to deal with that.  Then I played around with a lot of other settings.  The whole thing had an orangey cast from some houses in the area, so I took down the orange, and ramped up the blues and other colors to bring out some color in the stars.  I just generally did some extreme processing (blacks, whites, clarity, sharpness, contrast) until I liked the look.

When I was out in the field, I did not even see the water tower until I saw one of my shots on the back of the camera.  Then I decided that including the tower in my star picture would really show a sense of place.