Joe Klein's Photo Tips for Sky and Night Photography:


A miner's head light that straps on the head, frees up both hands to light my path and for setting up gear.

Carry an 8" x 10" or 11" x 14" piece of black mat-board to block unwanted stray light such as cars headlights or hikers carrying flashlights. If you see an airplane you don't want to influence your nature shot, block it out with the mat-board.

Anchor your tripods with sandbags. I use several cheap ankle weights for tripod weights. A pair of socks with rocks in them with the ends tied will work. This helps keep the tripod from swaying in the wind. Keep the center column flush with the top of the tripod as opposed to extended up to eye level for long exposures.

Use a flashlight that allows the beam to be focused or spread out and have a spare electronic flash for lighting selected areas of the foliage or landscapes. Have on hand colored gels sample book that the suppliers give out to still photographers and filmmakers. Stage and lighting supply houses should have these. The gels can be used over the flashlight or flash. Other devices that I have found that can provide some interesting (light painting) results include: Safety flasher, multiple color battery operated light wand, small flashlights that emit various colors, flash unit with remote slave attached and a laser pointer.

Bargain hunt for your dedicated night camera gear. Consider an older manual camera with a broken meter at a bargain price. Older fast prime non-auto focus lenses are available at used departments of your local camera at rock bottom prices, but make sure the older lenses will operate properly on the gear you wish to use it with. Some older lenses can damage the new auto-focus cameras.

Use a mini tape recorder to log camera settings and exposure times. Label film before loading cameras then log camera and settings on the tape. Transcribe notes later from the tape.

I often have 3 cameras operating at once. The exposures for night photography are often long enough to allow time to switch back and forth between cameras. Dedicate you older manual cameras that can operate without batteries for long exposures and use the newer cameras for shorter exposures.

Inform other people in the area of your photo sessions that you have active, open cameras in the area. This should help prevent accidents from others shinning a light into the lens or bumping the tripod.

When shooting with multiple cameras in the dark it's very easy to misplace the location of one or more of the set-ups. To make it easier to locate your gear, place a glow stick or safety flasher near the tripod to aid in find your gear. This also alerts others in the area that you have gear set up. 

Scout the area you are planning on shooting at before nightfall. Bring a map and compass and canvas the area looking for interesting landscape or plants and trees that can be used to frame your night photos. Use two-way radios to communicate to your associates about your findings while they start setting up the tripods and gear.

When shooting star trails and you decide on your longest exposure, usually the last shot of the night, give your film a one shot blank frame on either side of it. Shoot a blank, do your long exposure, like 2-5 hours, then a blank after your shot. Make sure you have a good alarm clock and awake to close the lens before dawn ruins your time consuming shot. Blowing out the frame with daylight can also ruin previous and succeeding shot. Have fun and experiment with new approaches to accenting the night sky.


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Have questions or comments - e-mail Joe at: jkphotog@hotmail.com

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