Landscape/Seascape photographer Ardi Webber shares a few tips to put you on the right track for capturing the perfect night sky. [Article courtesy of Fujifilm]
Find minimal light at the right place and the right time
Photography is a game of light and astrophotography is no exception. In astrophotography, the main source of lighting comes from the moon and the stars, so it’s best to pick somewhere that has as little light pollution as possible. Inland rural areas, quiet beaches and deserts are all perfect options.
One of my go-to places is a small town called Kenilworth, located about 50 kilometres west of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. I choose my times carefully, often on a clear day around the start and end of each season when you can more effectively capture the elusive Milky Way.
To get an accurate field of view of the night sky, you can use planetarium software, such as Stellarium, to help pre-plan your shoot and spot the best targets.
Maximise use of gear
When doing astrophotography, your gear is your weapon. The camera and lens need to be good enough to pick up the scattered, miniature lights that are light-years away from you.
Wide-angle lenses can help ensure that each element in a shot is in equal focus. They can offer a 180-degree view to create an imposing image.
An astro photograph is achieved through long exposure times, so another must-have in your kit is a tripod to set up the camera for an extended period with minimal shake.
Know your frame and objects
There are many approaches when it comes to framing and composition, so don’t be afraid to try creative angles and methods.
One effective way is to include some landscape in the bottom half or third of the shot to give the picture some scale. It could be a cityscape with night lights, a lake surface, some mountain tops, or the sandy ripples of a desert.
Another option is to have a single solid structure below the night sky, such as a lighthouse or a human, to give the shot a secondary focal point. If you feel like a bit of a challenge, take the opportunity to capture a moving vehicle, or try light-painting with a torch or steel wool.
If your shot includes a human, the exposure length is likely to be anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, during which the person may inadvertently move. To ensure they appear static in the final shot, you can take two images, each perfectly capturing the night sky and the human, then assemble them in post-production. That way, you get a more ‘put-together’ shot with equally distributed focus, without manipulating the colours.
A little post-production goes a long way
Photos taken at night usually have a lot of noise caused by the need to use a relatively high ISO. To combat the noise, I tend to take a series of shots with different ISO levels and blend them together in the post-production process. This way, the noise in the foreground is reduced, while the sky remains clear.
I recommend shooting all your night images in RAW format for two reasons. Firstly, the RAW image capture allows you to record more data from your sensor without compressing any details, giving you the highest quality files. Secondly, when needed, you can more easily correct the exposure level in post-production.
Finally, have patience and have fun
Astrophotography is an enticing challenge that tests both your technique and your will to create stunning work through trial-and-error, all while sacrificing rest at night.
Remember that it’s just as important to enjoy the photo-taking process as it is to create exceptional shots.
Now it’s time to grab your gear and embark on an exciting astro-shooting journey!
All images taken on the Fujifilm GFX 50S with GF23mm f/4.0 lens.
Article and images by Ardi Webber (@nibsclick), courtesy of Fujifilm Australia.