night sky photography capture

night sky photography capture

Photographing the Night Sky – Capture Techniques

Night sky photography has its own little set of things to think about and prepare. I’ll try to share a few sources I came across in my research in trying to get night sky photos. (some issues covered here)

stars and moon over sedonaLandscape with stars over the Village of Oak Creek, Sedona Lumix GX85 with Leica DG Summilux15mm f1.7 lens

Lens choice is crucial. Faster glass means better images as they will allow more light to reach the sensor. Wider angle lenses can give you more time to let some of that light through. Look into the rule of 500. It will help you keep your stars as pinpoints as opposed to starting to streak.

According to the rule, the longest shutter speed you can use before your photo gets blurry is equal to 500 divided by your lens’ focal length. This formula has variables, but it is a good starting point. In my searches, I found this calculator on the Lonely Spec web site. There’s excellent info contained in the calendar that has been a great help to me! The calculator takes all variables into account. Sensor size, focal length, ISO, and aperture. If you are looking for more in-depth info, Ian Norman is rocking it over on his site.

lonely spec web site bannerGreat resource for night sky photography

Another important site is You can look up the sun or moon cycles, rise and set times along with the direction of appearance on the horizon on the charts. This is handy if you want to find out where the moon will be rising if you are trying to catch rock formations or building with the full moon. (next full moon should be a good one in October AKA Harvest moon)

moon info chartAbove is a moon chart for Sedona, AZ. Go to the site and plug in your town/city name. Use the compass in your phone to see where the moon will come up. Note that if there are mountains and hills between you and the horizon the moon will be moving across the sky a bit and you’ll need to make adjustments.

Stardate is a great site. The more you know about your subject, the better your results will be. For example, if you are trying to photograph stars the darkest skies will be of help and know where, and when, the moon will be in the sky is important. Stardate can also keep you up-to-date with happenings in the heavens. moon chart septemberMoon chart with dates. Days around the New Moon are the best for dark skies and better rendition of your stars

The new moon is not the only time for photographing the night skies. A little bit of moon can help render the landscape visible for a different night photography look. Full moon and waxing and waning gibbous moons I tend to shoot for the landscape itself as the extra light tends to make the stars less visible.

Next post, I’ll look at processing the files once you are back at the computer.

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob

night sky photography

night sky photography

Photographing the Night Skies

I was always a little hesitant about photographing the sky after dark. Never could quite make it work out. Either the focus was off, or exposures were wrong, or both!

Then it came time for me to start working on those captures as I was jealous of those who were killing it in the night sky photography showing incredible renditions of the Milky Way.

If you have had the same problems let me share some of the things that have made a difference for me.

milky way sedona arizona photoMilky Way photographed at Bell Rock, Sedona, AZ Lumix G 8MM Fisheye f 3.5 lens

The focus was often a problem for me. Couldn’t quite get the hang of not being able to see my subject in the dark. Either the foreground was out of focus, or the stars were less than stellar until I put in the time and did some serious testing. Using Panasonic’s Lumix cameras has given me a perfect way to set focus and know I am going to get solid detail throughout the image. It’s quite simple and no need to be on scene before dark to get focus. Yay! See the capture of the back of the camera below.

focus screen photo lumix cameraCamera back of the GH5 showing the Manual – Mode focus screen

To get this view set your camera or lens to manual focus mode and touch the focus ring. The assist will give a small 10X magnified view. You won’t need this. Bring your attention to the bar across the bottom. There is a white line that goes from macro to mountain. Just before it gets to the mountain you’ll see a red bar. That’s the sweet spot. Set your focus right in the notch between the red and white portions of the stripe. Done! Test this for yourself.

milky way photo sedona arizonaMilky Way with Juniper, Sedona, AZ Lumix G 8MM Fisheye f 3.5 lens

The other important piece of the puzzle is to use the fastest lens available. Having a very wide aperture allows the sensor to be exposed to the most light allowing for lower ISO settings.

milky way bell rock sedona photoBell Rock in silhouette to the left with the Milky Way, Sedona, AZ with 12mm Leica DG Summilux f1.4 lens

Images were captured with the Lumix GH5 camera. Lenses listed above.

In another post I’ll share some ideas on post, processing using Adobe’s Photoshop to get the most out of your captures.

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob