Monday, August 31, 2015

"The Shoot & The Gear" Part 2 - Milky Way Over Nelson

Welcome back! Moving along with part 2 of this series is "The Shoot & The Gear." I was back in Las Vegas in early August for Photoshop World, my second year attending, and it was awesome...again!

One of the pre-conference workshops I attended was lightpainting with Dave Black. Basically, lightpainting is done in the evening when it's dark, where you hold a long exposure for the ambient light, then move off-camera and use an LED flashlight to "paint with light" on your subject. Check out Dave Black's site to learn more and get inspired to try it yourself.

I mention the lightpainting as it's germaine to how I got the image above. To lightpaint you use a long exposure with the following starting point of f8, 30 sec, ISO 500, and then you adjust as needed to get a decent overall exposure. This is all done on a tripod, obviously. While doing this for over an hour you get pretty comfortable with managing long exposures, and you can get pretty good at predicting how varying exposures will look.

As the workshop was winding down I headed back to the bus, and that's where I looked up and saw the Milky Way (everyone with me had already seen it and were shooting so I was kinda late to the party; I was shooting in the other direction for most of the night). So I set-up and began shooting away. As I mentioned in my original post I shot in both landscape and portrait orientation. Always good to do both just in case you don't make it back to that spot. That way you can decide later on which one you like best.

Here we go with the gear and settings:
- Nikon D810
- 24-70 f2.8 (version 1 since a new version with VR has just been released)
- 24mm, f2.8, 30sec @ ISO 2500
- This was all done in "Manual" mode

I also used the timer setting with a 5 second delay (I was already using that for lightpainting as I needed the 5 seconds to get off camera with my flashlight). However, you can use a cable release or a wireless remote just as well.

I set my focus mode to manual and then to infinity by turning my focus ring all the way to the infinity mark, and then back just slightly. There are a few different focus techniques for shooting stars and such that you can Google, but for this I chose set it to infinity.

Aperture - you always want to shoot with the widest f-stop as possible so you can capture as much light, and as many stars as you can. For me this was f2.8; however, if your widest f-stop is f4.5 then go with that.

Shutter Speed - a good starting point is always relative to your focal length. Basically whatever your focal length is that will be your shutter speed in seconds. In my case I was at 24mm so the closest shutter speed was 25 seconds, which is where I started. I ended up bumping it to 30 seconds as I got a bit more light, and the overall exposure looked better to me. Again, take a few different exposures so you have some options later on.

ISO - I set mine to 2500. Again you want to capture as much light as possible and this is a good starting point. However, if your widest f-stop is f4.5 you may want to push the ISO a stop or 2 higher than 2500. If you need to go higher after your first exposure then you bump bit by bit until you get something that looks good.

Remember, this is all about your exposure triangle of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. With your f-stop at its widest you only have shutter speed and ISO to play with to adjust your exposure. So start with some base settings and make adjustments along the way to see what works for you.

One last thing about trying to capture the Milky Way is that you really need to have a dark sky. I live near Toronto where there is a lot light pollution so I don't get to see the Milky Way a lot around home, if ever. However, Nelson is about 50 minutes south east of Las Vegas, basically out in the middle of cell service, and no light pollution. You could see the Milky Way with the naked eye, which was really cool! So basically get as far away from a major city as possible and you'll be in a good shape for some serious star gazing.

So that's it for "The Shoot & The Gear" in this series. Stay tuned for the final installment, "The Post," where I'll show how I post processed the final image.



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