Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In which I learn how to photograph stars, and ponder the definition of ‘travel.’

First I have to establish one thing: How far do I have to be from home before I consider it travel?

Is it distance, time spent moving from place to place, is it an emotional state of being ‘far from home, or something else all together? How about one-hundred yards? Because that is the distance I was from my home when I took these pictures.

Well, this is my fist post on my own travels, so I suppose I could start with baby steps; really tiny baby steps, granted, but baby steps none-the-less.

Oh, and for those of you who are reading my blog (which according to my hit counter, is no one) I will tell you how to take these photos.

Take your camera, which must have ‘bulbus’ mode, outside (as there are many more stars out-of-doors); it better if you do this at night, but I won’t boss your around.

A tripod is absolutely necessary. Its best to use a 50mm lens if you have one, though a zoom will work just fine, just pull back a little. Turn off any autofocus features. Put the Camera in Manual mode (M.) Now, turn the speed of the camera to ISO 400, and then set the aperture to the lowest f-number (there is usually a little wheel on the camera that controls this, just spin it until the display says ‘bulb’.) Though it is not necessary, if your camera has long-exposure noise reduction, turn it on. With these settings, the camera will expose a shot for as long as you hold down the exposure.

From there, just point the camera at the stars, make sure they are focused, and snap; a five second exposure is about right for this.

I use a digital camera, I think film would work to, though I hear it is hard to get high-enough quality prints.

By the way, I find that the amount of stars that I can see with the naked eye has little to do with the quality of pictures I get; the best time to shot seems to be between 12:00am and 3:00am.

Well, this wasn’t the most groundbreaking of first posts, but hey, it was something. I’m sure Marco Polo, or Columbus, or Sir Francis Drake started slow to.

P.S. – With these same camera settings, a person can do some fun things. For instance, write their name in thin air. Just take a small light (LED works great) get in a dark or semi dark place, and start exposure, write whatever you want, and then stop exposing the picture; when it comes out, there should be a light show of wherever that light was during exposure.

These setting are also good for things like night traffic, and running water.

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