I really wish I could do night photography better. Mostly, I am constrained by life. In order to truly get the star photographs I want, I need to go out into the middle of nowhere and spend a few nights, sleeping during the day. But the other joys of life (i.e., family, work and responsibilities) keep me busy for the time being.
So for now, I settle into my backyard wearing pajamas and flip flops and freeze my little toes off trying new things. Could I have done it better? Probably. Would I have lost my toes to frostbite? Very likely!
Anyhow, here’s the photo. Can you tell which constellation it is?
Canon 60D | 18-135mm lens | 30″ | f/4.0 | ISO 100 | Manual Mode
It was a full moon out tonight, so that celestial object was enough light pollution to wipe out my vision of the stars through the view finder, meaning I had to guesstimate and take a few “alignment” shots. I initially set my camera ISO to 3200, but I didn’t like how washed out it made everything, though I will admit it picked up more stars – but the sky was gray rather than black.
I gradually decreased my ISO to 100 and made shutter speed and aperture changes until I got it generally how I wanted. But the tree looked gross. It was more of a bright orange yellow, which isn’t the actual color of the tree. So, to the chagrin of my neighbors (but they didn’t holler any obscenities over the fence), I grabbed my Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash and held it at many different angles, flashing probably 12-15 times in various spots, ranging from 10 feet to the left of the camera, and 10 feet to the right – all done in the 30-second exposure. During one exposure, I took the flash to the backside of the tree, but the tree turned a deep red (I’m guess that’s because it was in the shadow of the flash) and that is even farther from how I wanted it to look.
In the end, I used the photo with the flashes in the front, then made it black & white, added my signature, and uploaded it to my Flickr page.
I would love to try this again, even if it is from my backyard. But I will need to make sure it’s clear skies, no moon, and everyone in Davis County shuts off their lights so I can get my shot. That’s not too much to ask, right?
Oh, and if you didn’t catch it, the answer is Ursa Major (a.k.a. Big Dipper).