Night Photography Fun

My son and I got our cameras out on a starry night over Labor Day Weekend.  We were on the water right at the tip of Cattle Point on San Juan Island.  Fishing boats were gathering in the bay for refueling and some to spend the night right in front of the cabin.  About 12 boats rendezvoused with flood light on and diesels running–lighting up the water.

Troy and I had always talked about wanting to capture star trails–but neither of us know much about how to go about that.  On the first night we tried to set the exposure for f/16 and “bulb”.  The bulb setting we discovered doesn’t work well unless you have a “bulb” trigger or a remote trigger to open the shutter and close it again.  We wanted to leave it open longer than 30 seconds which is the longest setting on our cameras for shutter speed.  We got what looked like some leakage in the upper corners of the images when taking long exposures.  We have no idea what this is caused by–but know that it happens even when using a different more powerful lens.  The light in the corners shows up more when we lighten the exposure in editing–but we see more stars too.  This is another part of the puzzle we have no clue about–how do you edit star trails.  For the most part we tried the best we could to get the stars in focus.  This really helps the image–so we know we were on the right track at least about focusing.  While we really wanted to capture star trails –we got to playing around with light painting.  I think we were like kids in a candy shop playing with light.  At times we just pointed the lens to the lightest part of the sky at 10 o’clock at night and took a long exposure to see what would happen.  It is amazing that there is light in the sky at that time of night.  We are in the Pacific Northwest and the summer hours of light are really quite long.  Below are our experiments, while not the least bit professional in any way, they are what they are–just images captured by a couple of amateurs, wondering how it night photography is done. Our first try–ISO 400, f/16, 50mm, 2749 sec shutter speed (about 46 minutes). Troy taped a Skittle to the button on the camera to hold open the shutter for a longer length of time than 30 seconds.  I had a remote trigger and had read on the internet that we had to use a bulb trigger or the remote to trip the shutter open and closed for longer lengths of time. We did that for the rest of the timed shots.

Next night–we enjoyed a glorious sunset.  The wispy clouds were amazing.  The fishing boat are beginning to gather. ISO 400, 18mm, F/7 , 1/20 sec exposure.

ISO 400, f/6.3,  0.8 secs exposure.  An example of how hard it is to focus at night–auto focus does not work–have to rely on what your eyes see and it is hard to see details at any distance.

Our second attempt at star trails.  The tree is light by a fire in a fire pit we have going to keep us warm –the focus is more on the tree than the stars.  ISO 400, f/4.5, 58 secs, 62mm.

It is probably about 9 pm.  We were using a flashlight to read the LED for our settings so in this image I shined the flashlight on the trees farther away.  The red tinted tree limbs are catching the light from the fire.  The more green limbs have been “painted” by the light of the flash light.  ISO 400, 48  secs, f/4.5, 18mm

Got enamored with light painting and did another tree– the streaks of light are from a fishing boat moving slowing through the water.

My son decided to make some light designs using the flashlight and by walking around the yard while we did a longer exposure.  Fun!! ISO 400, 18mm, 37 sec, f/4.5.

More light designs with a small tree light painted.  Same settings as before–just playing around with light. The bright white line in the sky is an airplane taking off from Friday Harbor.

The Big Dipper. 40mm, ISO 40mm, 90 sec, f/4.5

ISO 400, 13.0 secs, 70mm, f/4.5 .  A quick shot of the stars.  The tree is being lite by the floods from the boats. The stars appear to be many different colors.  Since this was a shorter exposure we didn’t get the light in the corners.

Here were got star trails–not long ones but still we got trails.  Notice the different colors and the light in the upper corners.  Such at mystery to us at this point.

I have no idea why the trees showed up as red.  I did not change the temp or any part of the exposure that would affect the color.  ISO 400, 18mm, 108 sec, f/4.5.

Another just a star shot through the trees.  We were trying to capture a bit of the Milky Way.  The trees are catching the light from the boats.  Again the light in the corners.  ISO 400, 119sec, 18mm, f/4.5.

A light painted tree–fun to light paint and if you think it through there are some very creative images to be made.

By now it is 10 PM.  We just pointed the lens to the lightest part of the sky and did a timed exposure. I did do a little light painting on the trees.  ISO 400,  86 sec, f/4.5, 70mm

W changed lenses to my 70-200 f/2.8.  It was much easier to focus on the boats.  ISO 400, 200mm, f/4.5, .5 sec.  The boats were so lit up, the shutter speed had to be fast so the lights wouldn’t glare and obscure the boats.

Star trails–with the light in the corners.  Have to research to see why that happens.

ISO 400, F/4.5, 70mm, 194 sec.

Longer exposure, longer trails and larger lights in the corners.

To get completely circular star trails, the lens has to be pointed at one of the polar stars. Notice the colors and the red dots (star?).  502 secs (8.36 mins)  I cropped out most of the corner light.

ISO 400, 70mm, 28 minute exposure, f/4.5

Obviously we have a ways to go to know what we are doing.  I have no idea why we kept the ISO at 400 and didn’t change the aperture much either. I think we got caught up in the light and how it appeared in the image.  We will try it again and again because we had so much fun trying to get the images we wanted.  Thanks for stopping by.

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About ~ ~ joanne.thomas.photographer~~

I am retired, starting a new career. I love shooting portraits. People are so fun and interesting--I try to bring out there personalities and capture them in images. Children are especially interesting little people, who love to tell you all they know and are so uninhibited. I enjoy shooting weddings to capture all the details and emotions of the day. Between photo sessions I keep shooting --to learn, to experiment--to create art. The industry is ever evolving and I want to give my clients the most exciting and lasting images, full of their love of life expressing their personality.
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2 Responses to Night Photography Fun

  1. Sherrie says:

    Wow, Joanne…these are so cool! I love the fact that you shared this with your son as much as I love what you achieved! Very cool!

  2. Lovely. I tried my first set last night. I found this post when looking for the cause of the lights in the upper left and right corners of some of my images. I had read about the cause yesterday but can’t find that article now.

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