A Quick Star Photography Q&A

Hey everyone. I’m heading off to Branson, MO with my wife for a friends wedding this weekend. So if you know of any cool things that I need to see or do, let me know. Next, I wanted to say thanks for all of the nice comments on yesterday’s post about night sky star photography. I did see a few questions between the blog and some social media sites I posted the photos on, so I thought I’d do a quick Q&A.

Q. Does it matter what room you have in the Monument Valley View hotel?
A. If you didn’t read the post, I wrote about how I stayed at the Monument Valley View hotel and they have great views right from the balcony of your room. If you stay there, you need one of their “premium view” rooms. What’s funny is that some wrote a comment that my view looked like the view they had while staying there and was it room 226. It actually was 226. Too funny. Anyway, there’s 3 floors in the hotel and I thought you’d need a 3rd floor room to get an unobstructed view, but it turned out that any floor would do. There was plenty of room overhead that I could shoot at 16mm all night and never worry about the overhang above me getting in the way. I believe there’s also a patio area that has a great view. So even if you can’t snag a premium view room you could try that. Or heck, even the parking lot has a spectacular viewing area.

Q. I heard that you can put your ISO up really high to test out composition while shooting the night sky. Is that true?
A. That’s actually a great question and is something I actually did do (but forgot to mention yesterday). While you’re setting up and testing composition (remember, it’s so dark that you won’t see anything through your viewfinder), try putting your ISO up really high so shorten the shutter speed to a few seconds. That way, you can test out composition without waiting 15-30 seconds for each exposure to see if it was good or not. When you dial in the right composition, then you start adjusting your settings for the “official” shoot.

Q. Matt, don’t you have a 50mm f/1.4 or 85mm f/14 lens? Wouldn’t that let you get your ISO down because of the really wide aperture?
A. I do have both a 50mm and 85mm lens. But when it comes to star photography they’re not wide enough. I briefly put the 50mm on to try it. But I took it off after taking just one photo. It’s just not wide enough.

Q. This wasn’t as much of a question but a cool tip from Myer Bornstein that I’ll try next time. He wrote:
TIP: Here is a trick ab out focusing. Prior to going out, focus the lens with auto-focus at an object at least 30 feet away, look at the distance scale and see where the infinity mark is, note it and use that mark to set your lens for thee night shooting. I take the focusing ring in place with gaffers tape. I then set every to manual and go from there.

Q. Nice work. Have you seen what Royce Bair has done with light painting? Look him up on Flickr, or Into the Night Photography on Blogspot.
A. No I hadn’t seen his work but he’s got some great stuff. Here’s a link.

Q. You didn’t mention white balance. What white balance where you using? (especially in the first photo with the purple color in the sky)
A. I set my camera to Daylight white balance. It’s a great start but I found I adjusted the Temperature slider in Lightroom to make it more blue, as well as the Tint slider for some more magenta.

That’s it for today. Have a great weekend! :)

  • http://gravatar.com/jhaverstock Jim Haverstock

    I’ve given the question on things to do in Branson a lot of thought. Knowing a little bit about how you like to shoot, your interest in the martial arts, how you like to rent orange Chargers and the fact that you recently received your very own D800 … you definitely have to take in a perfromance of The Lawrence Welk All-Stars. They will bring you slowly down from a week with Bill, Jim, Snake and Chuck.

  • http://www.georgehendrix.com George Hendrix

    Until recently, work used to bring me to Branson fairly often. The shows there weren’t my sort of thing, but I can recommend Silver Dollar City. It’s as much a very deftly staged celebration of traditional Ozark crafts and food as it is an amusement park. There’s some pretty good portraits to be taken there. Wonderful ice cream shop, too. Try the black walnut. For a great meal, you might try the Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks at the south edge of town. It’s a huge, striking ridge top log structure. The restaurant is staffed entirely by students and is—or at least was the last time I passed through—overseen by the former chef at nearby Big Cedar Lodge, which is a nationally acclaimed resort on Table Rock Lake (cool metal signage). And the Ozark countryside is beautiful along Table Rock and Lake Taneycomo.

  • http://toddphotos.wordpress.com Todd Sadowski Photography

    I’d second the Silver Dollar City suggestion especially if you’ll have kids with you. My 6 year old loves it! The wife enjoys the Branson Landing for shopping… ugh. The Hard Luck Diner is a pretty interesting place to eat. They have people who sing in between serving meals and they have some pretty good talent including a couple of people who went fairly far with American Idol. We found a gem for breakfast in Billy Gail’s. Just be warned, they fill up fast!

    Table Rock lake is indeed beautiful. I bet the fall colors are already done up there though. Swing down to Arkansas later and shoot with me!

  • Sally

    If you want a good show, see Six. Very, very good.

  • Ernie Decker

    At this time of year you HAVE to go to Silver Dollar City at night for the Christmas lights. It is truly awe inspiring.