Shooting in the Dark
Jun 11, 2017
Night photography has intrigued me for a long time. I'll make a personal admission here, my night vision is just terrible. My eyes just don't adjust to the dark as well as almost anyone else, so for my entire life the night sky has mostly been a mystery to me. The continued evolution of digital cameras has allowed me to see things with my camera that I will never see on my own, and that's a beatuiful thing to me. After renting a Nikon D750 for my Moab trip back in February, my desire to have one for my own was confirmed. This is one of the best cameras out there in controlling noise at high ISO's, probably the best Nikon currently available in that regard. This makes shooting the night sky that much easier. At the end of April, I finally purchased one and had been itching to get out and try shooting in the dark again.
I should at this point also mention an application I recently discovered called The Photographer's Ephemeris. This application has been around for a few years, and available as a moblie app since 2010. What this program does is allow you to see where the sun, moon, and in the mobile apps the stars and Milky Way as well, will be in the sky, from any given viewpoint at any different time. This takes the typical generic advice of shooting the night sky close to the new moon, away from light pollution, and looking for the Milky Way in the southern sky, to a whole new level. Now you can use this app to plan a specific shot, like I did for this one, and know when the Milky Way will be in the exact position you want it to be on a particular day. Then all you have to do is hope for good weather, which finally broke our way on this night.
After using TPE to dial in the particular time for this shot, I watched the weather forecast with great anticipation. I was planning this shot for the Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend, but the forecast in the days leading up to that was less than encouraging. Even that morning, as rain was overspreading the Front Range, I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out. The forecast was for things to start clearing out after sunset though, so I planned to pick up a couple members from my local photography group late that evening and laid down for a nap, knowing if things broke our way it was going to be a very late night. My alarm went off at 10 PM, I grabbed my gear, and picked up my partners for a long night. Sure enough, the sky was clearing out, and as we made the 90 minute drive up to Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park we could see the stars twinkling overhead. Even more favorable and rare, there was absolutely no wind blowing at the lake, making the water's surface completely calm and perfect for reflections. As planned, when we reached the north side of the lake for the view towards Longs Peak, the Milky Way was sliding into position over the mountain. This was going to be our payback for all those others times the weather had failed us, the conditions could not have been more perfect.
This shot is my favorite shot from that night, with the core of the galaxy and many bright stars reflecting on the surface of Bear Lake. There's a fair amount of light creeping in from Denver to the southeast, but that's hard to avoid when you're shooting back that direction. The scene is lit completely by the stars, as the moon has yet to rise. I'm still working on dialing in my preferred night settings, so there's still some room for improvement, but this is the best I've gotten so far, and I'm happy with the results. I'll be continuing to get out and shoot the night sky this summer, and learning how to make the most of my new D750 in the process. If you are a local to the area and would like to join in, shoot me an email from my contact page and let me know! We'll be happy to expand our group of night shooters.
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