Dipping into capturing the stars

I’ve always been fascinated by the night sky. I must have learned all the constellations as a kid. Now I can only remember a handful, but I do remember my first night in the High Sierras, looking at the clearest sky I’ve ever seen. It would be years later before I had my own camera that would be capable of capturing the light sent out from the stars, and then a few more years before I bought a tripod actually point my camera at the sky.

Before Jess and I embarked on our Winter four corners road trip, I read up as much as I could on astrophotography camera settings. I was figuratively chomping at the bit to take star photos. Our first stop where I got to give it a try was City of Rocks State Park, NM. I spent hours after dark in the cold cold wind taking exposure after exposure, testing settings, hiking to different locations. Oliver, our boston terrier, wanted to be with me, but was not stoked on standing around in the cold, dark night. I brought him back to the tent and got an idea.

Jess was still awake, so I hung my lantern in our tent, and went back outside. I framed the shot and let the camera work. It took a few exposures before I realized that the lantern in the tent was too bright. I turned it down and stepped back out.


I had fun walking around amungst the rocks taking different shots. Our campsite neighbors had a very cool little camper that I illuminated for a one second of a long exposure.


Pointing my camera at polaris was fun too. I just took a guess and sat in the dark and cold while I let a ten minute esposure


I was able to do some light editing of the photos on my phone and post them to my instagram account while we traveled through the desert, but I really wouldn’t know how they turned out until I got home.

_DEC4292Reflections on camera settings

There are a few things I would change now that I’ve gone through the photos. On my camera’s LCD it appeared that I was capturing lots of detail. This is alright, but I could have grabbed more.

Up the ISO

I thought I was capturing lots of detail even with ISO 1600. I was getting okay, detail. The benefit is that the images are less noisy, but required me to up the exposure during post-processing. This brought up the noise considerably. If I had gone with a higher ISO such as 3200 or even maxing my camera at 6400, yes there would be more noise, but I can always reduce that in post.

I did a little better when I was in Bend, Oregon in January. Still a lot of noise in the photos. I think I could up the ISO a bit more and do more reduction in post. I can’t wait to get back out away from noise pollution to shoot more stars.

Milky Way over Bend, OR
Milky Way over Bend, OR

Thanks for reading. Please leave any tips about astrophotography in the comments.