Monday night I went with a friend to the summit of Haleakala to try my hand at photographing the night sky. At just over 10,000 feet in elevation, the summit gives you spectacular views of the stars on any given night. Monday was the new moon, so it was ideal for photographing stars without the light from the moon interfering.
Having attempted to shoot the stars and moon on several occasions, I had never taken any picture that I could show off with any real pride. I’ve included some pictures in this blog which I thought were good rough drafts. Next time I go, I hope to produce some real winners.
The air was crisp and clear, without a cloud in the sky above us. As my friend Brain and I adjusted to the temperature change and removed our gear, we began running into a handful of local photographers. Professionals Randy Jay Braun and Mike Neal were wandering between bundled up people sharing their knowledge and passion between setting up their own shots.
We experimented with our camera’s settings and braved the unknown armed only with a tripod, a camera and some quick parameters to start with and within ten minutes we were both taking pictures.
For those who want the technical aspects of how to take night sky pictures, here are the settings to start with. First, you definitely need a tripod. Without that, you have no chance at keeping things steady enough. If you have a cable release or a remote for your camera, that will help reduce touching or moving your camera (you can always use the internal delay timer as a last resort). I used a wide lens to try and get as much sky as possible, but lens selection is open to interpretation. I set my aperture to f4 and my shutter speed to 30 seconds. Set your lens to manual focus and set the focal length to infinity. Pump up your ISO to 1600 or higher, you can remove some noise during the editing process. I shoot in RAW, not JPEG, as RAW files give you so much more to work with when editing.
I felt the results from Monday’s experiment were good enough to merit this blog. I cannot wait to try again in a month, during the next new moon…possibly sooner.
Maybe next time I will head down to Makena and set up somewhere by La Perouse Bay. That way I can keep my winter clothes packed away and keep my shorts on while exploring the starry, starry night. If you are interested in joining me, please let me know.