August is special for me when we talk about the night sky and stars, as you can observe Perseids Meteor Shower, and it's the best time to practice your astrophotography skills. I was dreaming to have beautiful pictures of the milky way, however shoot in London seemed impossible for me at first. The light pollution is to high to see more than the few starts, so I was wondering how can I get my camera to see what is hidden?
I done my research, as I thought nothing is impossible, and found this tips that were very helpful. I couldn't resist and went to test the technique straight away, as I was lucky enough to have a clear sky. First of all was checking the sky map, and installing an application to locate constellations. I packed my Nikon D800, with wide angle lens and tripod, and headed to the nearest park. I found the darkest spot in the middle, and waited 20 minutes for eyes to adjust to darkness. I was ready to shoot.
I set my camera on f/2.8, 16mm, ISO64 and took 15sec to take the shot where exposure was correct due to camera and histogram. Then took another picture, where I changed ISO to 800 and exposure time to 30sec. At 30 sec I ensured that camera won't catch significant World movement. You can see the effects below.
I know what you thinking both of the pictures are far from what we expected, but that's how it meant to be :) Over expose technique is called ETTR (exposure to the right) where you push your histogram, where your highlights are blown-out to white, and you're good to go. We do it to collect the maximum amount of light and get the optimum performance out of the digital image sensor. It is easy to go too much and work opposite, so be careful and try your camera setting first.
Having this 2 pictures as a base I could work out coloring, HDR toning, exposure, etc in Photoshop. I used 1st photo for the foreground layer and 2nd for the sky layer, and combining those 2, I have achieved this:
I am happy that I understood the technique and could apply it, however I believe there is still big room for improvement. Now I need to find more exciting location, hope for the clear sky and work with the focus better. At the end I should receive spectacular landscapes of London at night. I also encourage you to do the same! Stargazing may turn out into really relaxing time with your family or friends. And don't forget to get a coffee/tea with you, some snacks may do as well :) and a warm blanket so you can lay down on the ground and enjoy amazing views of the sky.