Saturday, March 7, 2009

Night Sky Photographs

Last evening, the sunset was just another one of those big-orange things. I kept checking the sky throughout the day, and there was not a cloud to be seen - just blue sky. OK, and some pollution in the air, which is what helps the orange look so great. So, I decided to not go out to shoot photos. Today, we had too many clouds. Instead of having a sunset, we just had increasing (decreasing?) grayness. So I didn't go out to shoot any pictures tonight, either.

Instead, I thought I'd post a picture from a couple of nights ago. Awhile back I had the desire to try and take some pictures of the stars in the sky with a cactus silhouetted in the foreground. My very first attempts yielded better results than I was expecting. But, one thing that makes these kind of pictures difficult, is that they happen so late at night. You know, after the sun has gone down!!!

This particular shot was taken at about 7:25 pm. I used ISO 400, f3.5, and an exposure time of 30 seconds. Several of my other 'star' shots, I took at ISO 200 and f6.3. But, I used the higher ISO for this shot so that I wouldn't have to take such a long exposure. I took some similar photos about 6 weeks ago where I wanted to show the rotation of the stars around the North Star. Some of those exposures were 15 minutes long. This means that I sat on the desert floor in the middle of January, for about an hour and a half, and went home with only about 6 shots.

Also, the White Balance setting makes a big difference. On the Canon camera, I like to use the Shade setting when shooting the sunset to bring out the red and orange colors. When shooting the night sky with the stars, the Shade setting makes the sky look quite red also. This is not an unpleasing effect. However, setting the white balance for Day or Cloudy makes the sky look more blue. Both ways look nice. It's just a matter of personal preference.

When these exposures are complete, and the Canon camera shows them on its LCD display, they look nice and bright. But, when I get back home and look at them on the computer, they are still very dark. So, to make them look nice, I have to increase the brightness of the highlights. I guess that is somewhat artificial, but it makes for nice looking pictures.

The picture above looks kind of dark on this page, but if you go to my Desert Night Sky PicasaWeb album and look at those shots in slideshow mode (which makes them fill more of the screen), they look quite nice.

In this shot, can you identify the North Star and the Big Dipper?

See the link to my Desert Night Sky web album.

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