Every year, I make sure to take at least two self-development courses.  That list has included a variety of sources, including the Nikon Mentor Series, Scott Kelby, Randy Kerr and Doug Box, Steve Kozak, Canon Live Learning, Sony and more.  Most have been great, some not as good, and one of those that are most memorable are from Bryan Peterson. Some of you will recognize the name from his many books, or from his role with Picture Perfect School of Photography (PPSOP) or from his work with Adorama Camera. PPSOP's name has changed recently, to Bryan Peterson School of Photography (BBSOP).  Below is an excerpt from an e-mail from Bryan, with his ideas on shooting at night.  Give it a try!

"HAVE FUN WITH THE NIGHT SKY"

"A few weeks ago I was in Tucson conducting a weekend workshop and with the weather forecast calling for clear skies, shooting star trails would be part of the workshop-shooting menu."

"Back in the film days, it was normal to head out into the clear night air and with your camera on tripod, and loaded with ISO 100 slide film, and your lens of your moderate wide angle lens set to f/5.6, you pointed it up to the heavens and with the shutter speed set to B, (time exposure) and with your locking cable release, you would fire the shutter! And now with the shutter locked open, the camera starts to record what could be a 30 minute or up to a four or five hour exposure and during this time you might go play cards, read a book, tell jokes or stories with other like minded shooters who might be shooting with you or go in the house and watch television (if you were you shooting in your own backyard). And following the next day's trip to the camera store, after turning in your slide film for processing, the two hour wait was over and you find you are rewarded with a landscape of 'lights' arcing across the sky! Not a lot has changed since those days of shooting star trails except for the need to "keep shooting" another exposure every 30 seconds! Let me explain."

"Despite the amazing technology of today's digital camera's, (an expanded dynamic range being one example), they are not capable of shooting long exposures beyond several minutes without recording a great deal of noise a.k.a. a grainy picture. For that reason, most of us shooting star trails today end up shooting 30 seconds exposures with an ISO of 1600 and at lens openings of f/5.6 and depending on how much arcing we wish to convey in the final composition will determine how long we will be out there shooting the night sky."

"As a general rule, I feel one should shoot no less than 60, 30 second exposures, which means you will be out shooting for 30 minutes, but if you have the time, consider shooting 240 exposures to 480 exposures, (two to four hours of shooting time). Keep in mind that the longer you shoot the greater the length of your star trails. Also the star trails will be more 'rounded' when you point your camera towards the North Star. And clearly, you will have more success with this idea when you choose to be out on a moonless night!"

"On this particular night, I shot about 60 exposures, all at 30 seconds, with my Nikon D800E, Nikkor 16-35mm at 16mm at f/5.6 at 1600 ISO and of course on my tripod and with a cable release. After I was done shooting, I returned home to the studio and imported all images into Camera Raw, Selected All, and made some minor tweaking in the WB, choosing to use a WB between incandescent and fluorescent and than I hit OPEN and all 120 images were now in Photoshop and I then chose File>Scripts>Load Files Into Stacks. Then with my Layers palette opened, you will see all of your files and select all of these files EXCEPT FOR THE LAST IMAGE you loaded, and choose LIGHTEN from Layers Blending Mode and kaboom, all images are blended into a single image of star trails!"

"It was also on this same night, after shooting the image above, that I went to another location, right near the main highway that runs near the Saguaro National Park west of Tucson, knowing that even at this hour of 9pm, an occasional car or motorcycle would be on the road. I set up near the road and shot several lone cars entering the composition you see here, but it was the lone motorcycle that entered the frame that I liked more than any others during this single 30-second exposure."

"And in anticipation of your next question, YES, go into your camera menu and TURN OFF 'noise reduction'! If you don't you will be waiting upwards of 45 seconds to one minute in between shots as the camera attempts to clean up what little bit of noise is being recorded on these short 30 second exposures."

"Most of all have fun and of course "You keep shooting!"

All my best-
Bryan F Peterson

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