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Tips for Shooting the Night Sky
by Theresa A. Husarik
Credit for this info goes to someone else out there. I read this years ago in a now-forgotten magazine, and wrote down some basics, then played with it. These notes include my adaptations of the original instructions. So, I appologize to the person who originally put these numbers together for forgetting who that person is.

  • All times listed below are based on ISO 50, and aperture of f2.8 or f3.5
    • For ISO 100, the exposure times are shorter but not 1/2 of the time for ISO 50 like you would expect, use about 1/3 less
    • An aperture of f2.8 or f3.5 is needed to get the most amount of stars to show on film, the weakest ones won't show up with a smaller aperture
    • Using Kodachrome 64, with a full moon, use f4 for 20 minutes
    Star Trails
    • no moon - 1 1/2 hrs minimum is needed for enough light to give a landscape silhouette with star trails
    • crescent moon - at least an hour to show color and detail in the foreground
    • 1/2 moon - 30 mins to 1 hr (30 mins if clear, 1 hr if there are clouds)
    • within a day or 2 after 1/2 moon - 20 to 45 mins
    • 3-4 days before and up to full moon
      • 10 to 20 mins for softness of night and deep, rich blue sky
      • With Kodachrome 64, use f4 for 20 minutes
    Points of Light
    • In order to get points of light instead of star trails, you will obviously need a much shorter shutter speed. So, you will also need to use a faster film to allow for a faster shutter speed.
    • And, if you want some of the landscape to show up as a silhouette, you will need the light of the full moon, and flash for lightable objects in the foreground.
    • To determine the longest shutter speed useable before star movement shows, use the formula :

    •      600 / focal length
    • With lighting by the full moon, using f2.8, ISO400 film:
    • 21mm lense  29 seconds
      35mm	    17 sec
      50mm	    12 sec
    Miscellaneous Tips
    • Set up the camera before dark to get the focus and composition right while you can still see.
    • If setting up after dark, use a flashlight or your car's headlights to focus on near objects.
    • Use a level on your camera to get straight horizons.
    • If you have the North Star in the composition, all other star trails will circle around it
    • On nights with no moon, leave the shutter open for several hours to get really long star trails
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