It’s possible that I’m not as bad at landscape photography as I think I am. Over the last year, on the occasions when I have managed to be in a location worth photographing at the right time of day, the weather has not co-operated. It certainly didn’t this weekend. I was there but dawn failed to show up to our assignation. She has been unreliable recently and I’m getting pissed off with her infidelity.
Nikon D5200 Tamron 17-50mm f8 35mm 30s ISO 100
On 30th August 2014 I took a photo and instantly a thought came into my mind: this shot, but with stars. It took me nearly six months to get the shot and I’m not happy with the result, but I’ve learned along the way and although the output is not up to par, I want to document the journey.
As we drove towards the location the skies cleared and the bank of low clouds obscuring the horizon dissipated. No moon, hardly any wind – this had to be the night. When I took the original shot my thought was that this location should have dark skies. How wrong can you be. I expected some glow from Plymouth but that could be dealt with by angling the camera. What I hadn’t anticipated was the security light on the church, and the whole point of this shot was to get the church and the stars in. Clearly we’re talking about multiple exposure layer masks to get the shot I really wanted, but in truth I’m not sure how far down that post processing road I want to go, as opposed to the idea of capturing a moment in time rather than constructing an image. The light on the horizon to the left is the Eddystone. I think the bright light to the right is Falmouth lighthouse, Penlee being hidden off shot to the right. What I hadn’t anticipated was the amount of light pollution from Looe and Falmouth on the right side of the image.
Taking photographs of stars isn’t easy. I never expected it to be, but in honesty I underestimated the difficulty. Standing in a steeply sloping muddy field in the dark focusing and leveling the camera become guesswork. The spirit level in your iPhone doesn’t help but because there’s no good reference surface to level it on. Most of the good starry sky shots you see come from full frame sensors which are much more suitable for this than crop sensors. The D5200 sensor tends to be noisier than I’d like when you push the sensitivity, but I made a fundamental mistake. The D5200 is rarely as sharp as I’d like either so I tend to keep in camera noise reduction off or minimized. But now I understand about long exposure noise reduction (clever stuff), so I need to try again with that on.
So this isn’t about the shot (for which I apologise). It’s about the journey and it’s about learning. I need to try again. And probably again after that. Or just stick to macros.
Nikon D5200 Nikkor 18-55mm 18mm f8 20s ISO 1000