Friday, 18 November 2011

Framing the Night Sky

Taking photos that include stars and other heavenly objects obviously involves a stable tripod, no wind and a clear night sky. It also doesn't hurt to gain permission (as I did) to enter property that gives you a unique vantage point from which to photograph.

There are a number of  'dark sky' locations available throughout North America that give you this access for free, but I wanted to include an obvious icon in my shots - an observatory. As luck would have it, a full moon was scheduled to come up that night. Just as it peeked over the horizon, I took a 4 minute exposure at f/8, using only the moon to illuminate the dome.

Over that time period, the stars left long streaks as the earth rotated. I decided that I wanted the stars to appear as short streaks in this shot to make the constellations more recognizable, so I 'cheated' by cloning out part of the trails in Photoshop® (yes - every one of them - and there were lots). That way, the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) is clearly visible, and points the way to Polaris (the North Star) in the upper right corner.

Using the same observatory, I've also made similar shots without the aid of Old Man Moon, but rather a flash with red filter fired off several times during a time exposure. These can be seen at

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