How to capture amazing nightscapes: Astro and Aurora Photography with DK Photography

 

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Nikon Ambassador and photographer Dale Sharpe of DK Photography presented at CameraPro’s Visual Storytelling Festival earlier this year.

 

Dale and his partner Karlie have travelled the world, telling stories through the places they visit for years – including stunning landscapes, night-scapes and beautiful astro scenes throughout Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand.

 

Here a glimpse at some of the top astro photography and aurora photography tips they shared on the day at the Visual Storytelling Festival, so you too can capture amazing nightscapes wherever you go!

 

ASTRO PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

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 1.     Try to avoid light pollution 

2.     It’s about more than just the milky way

“Find things in the foreground and mid-ground as well as the milky way itself.” See the milky way as the “icing on the cake”.

 3.     Try to frame it with the rule of thirds

“Place points of interest at the intersection of the lines if you can.”

 4.     Shoot raw

 5.     Avoid camera shake

“Shoot in Live View so you can get your mirror to lock up to avoid unwanted camera shake”. Also, if you don’t have a remote, use a two second timer.

6.     Avoid any stray light

“Close the viewfinder in the back – so you don’t have any light coming through on the sensor”.

 7.     Turn image stabilization / vibration reduction off

Why? Because that motor keeps working and we don’t want any shake.

 8.     Use infinity as a starting focal point

His approach? “Once I’ve done that, I like to zoom in on the brightest star in the sky. Once I’ve found that star, then I try to refine it to make it a perfect white dot. And then make sure that you turn on long exposure noise reduction if your camera has it.”

9.     Sturdy tripod 

And if it’s a windy night, actually weigh the tripod down.

 10.  Camera settings

ISO 3200 is a good starting point, but “try keep the ISO down as low as possible so not to introduce noise”.

“F2.8 also a really good starting point for aperture so try keep it as wide as possible”. Shutter speeds between 25-30 seconds. 

For white balance, Dale says he prefers white fluorescent. “It gives a bit more of a blue colour to the actual sky, which is a bit more realistic, and it also brings out the brown in the core of the milky way all those brown gases that you see around the core.”

 

 

AURORA PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

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 1.     ISO

A good ISO starting point is about ISO500 on a full moon, or ISO4000 on a new moon.

 2.     Exposure

The ideal exposure type would be about around one, two or three seconds so you can get good detail in the aurora. “The aurora moves really quickly,” he says.   

 3.     Aperture

Keep the aperture at 2.8 – lens wide open.

4.     Settings

Exactly same settings as you would with astro photography – and the lens set to infinity as well.

5.     Batteries

Keep batteries in your pocket or somewhere on you that’s warm in cold conditions.

6.     Patience

Dale says you could spend “eight to 10 hours sitting in the cold at night to get a shot”. And still, there’s never any guarantee!

 

Photography tips and images courtesy of DK Photography – check them out on Facebook @dk.photography.com.au and Instagram @dkphotographyau