Night Photography and Calculating Time Exposures


Long exposure can be a lot of fun. And it is easier than you think. If you simply point your camera at a night scene, usually your camera will render a dark scene...especially if you leave your flash on. But if you turn your flash off, put your camera on a tripod, and force your camera to take a long exposure, like 30 seconds, you are going to be surprised with the results.


Here is a trick to hold your shutter open...on "B" for longer than 30 seconds for cool shots like the star picture below. Many cameras have a setting on their camera called "B" for Bulb, but don't have an option for a manual camera release.

Take a solid object, like a nut (), and wrap it with electrical tape. Then, tape it over your shutter. You can also make a solid object by wrapping tape over itself a few times, then taping that down.


Photo by Drew Loker. 10 minute exposure. Taken along the side of a quite road after a short drive to Silsbee to find a dark sky.



Night Sky West of West Brook, 1/10/08:



In this next picture, look for the 4 small bright lines just above the houses. Those are airplanes that are taking off in Houston. I didn't get this shot at the best time of evening. The shot I want is about 10 minutes earlier when the sky is more golden down at the bottom...and the under bellies of the airplane are light up from the sun. The blue line going all the way across is an airplane that took off at the Jefferson County Airport (so much closer) than Houston airplanes, satellites, and starts seen in the picture above and below.



These are just snap shots. If you want to see a real wide field astronomy photographer...check out Todd Hargis' recent night sky shot: (Todd is a friend of mine who lives in Austin and has access to the wonderful dark skies of the hill country).


Here are a few train shots taken 12/22/07:

This 3rd in the series of shots is a really long exposure. The exact length of exposure is unknown because the camera battery died during the exposure. I was off shooting with another camera. When I came back to this camera, I realized I had left it in the middle of an exposure...and that the battery was dead. I popped in another battery...the camera completed it's exposure...and it turned out. The exif reports an 8 minute exposure. It has been post processed.

The next couple are special effects done by zoom out the lens during the exposure. This can take a little practice...but the results can be pretty neat.


The next few are long exposures with stars and traffic.



Now here is a neat one that I have been wanting to try for a while. It is a 10 minute exposure of the North Star. It was taken around 9:00 pm on a very dark road near Evadale. The camera was tripod mounted...and the shutter remained open the entire 10 minutes. I would have gone longer and/or done additional pictures (to be stacked to create long star trails)...but there were some clouds moving in decreasing the visibility...and increasing the light bouncing around in the air.


These are just a few Night Photos I have taken. You too can have a lot of fun with the camera at night.


Noteworthy astronomical event (12/1/2008). Venus, Jupiter and the Moon will form a triangle right around sunset. You can capture this with less than 200mm and a tripod. Try to put something in the foreground.

The "Venus & Jupiter" Show


Over the next few days (11/2008), anyone looking southwest after the Sun sets and evening twilight deepens will witness a close pairing of the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter. On November 30th and December 1st they’ll be separated by only 2° — about the width of your finger held at arm’s length.


Photo by Todd Hargis, from Austin last night. (above) Nikon D3, 28-70 AF-S lens at F/13, 4 second exposure , ISO 200


Photo by Drew Loker, from Beaumont. D700 150-500mm (approx 300mm). 1/4 sec @ f/6.3. ISO 4000.