Clear skies in the Far North

During a recent visit to the far north of New Zealand, i was blessed with clear sky's during both the day and the night. 
This provided me with a great opportunity to have a crack at some starlight photography. 
The area I stayed in had no street lights which was fantastic, and being the middle of winter the population was down to just a handful of local residents so it was extremely quite and peaceful.

However mother nature did provide good natural moonlight, which may be what you want for star photography, but i wasn't phased really otherwise I would  not have been able to see where I was walking :)

Taupo Bay has a wonderful cliff face which wraps itself around the bay and provided me with the perfect backdrop to complement the night sky. 

My equipment

Canon 7D
Benro Tripod, with centre 2kg weight bag (just in case the ocean winds picked up)
Lens 17-50mm Sigma DC  f2.8 
-2 and -4 ND Filter
Remote trigger
Head torch
glasses (i'm getting old :)

Shot 1 - Moon Light on the Bay (time 7:00pm NZT)

An important thing to do is always review and understand your surroundings before you start. As i had 4 nights at this location, I could afford to do a reconnaissance on my first evening. This provided me with the knowledge on where to position myself, the direction of the moon movement and the tide line.

My first shot I focused on the effects of the moon reflecting across the bay.
This final shot is actually 2 images joined together. My first shot was under by -1 exposure, the second over by +1. Exposure time variation was minimal and i used manual focusing and Live View for accurate control of my composition.

f2.8, ISO100, 24mm, 3.2secs, +1/-1 ev ( digital cropped)
In terms of post processing I kept it to a minimum. The only adjustments made where to the wave caps where the moonlight reflects off. The exposure time was enough to smooth the water flow to a point where it still had detail, so using the sharpness brush, and focusing on the highlights only i brushed a little more detail in.

Shot 2 - Stars (time 1:30am NZT)

With the temperature dropping just after midnight it was time for a stiff brandy and after warming up it was  star time. I popped on my -2 ND to assist with reducing the amount of light the moon was projecting just behind me. 

Again using the rock formations as my backdrop, and holding my current position as the tide was retreating, I refereed to my pocket exposure reference table to make sure i was using the right settings.

As my 7D is a crop sensor, a focal length of 17mm is equivalent to approx 27mm on a full frame camera. I also had to take in account the amount of natural light generated from the moon, and factor the reduction of light infiltration to my lens from my ND filter to gauge what settings i will need to use to avoid star streaks (natural earth rotation)

After a series of test shots I opted to use the following;

Focal:  17mm   AV: 2.8.     Exposure Optimum ranges Min18 secs - Max 28 secs
ISO between 400 - 800ISO  Focus: Manual

f2.8, ISO800, 17mm, 25secs,

I'm happy with my results and liked the fact i had a good backdrop to work with. I realize that I might not be show casing any amazing galaxy or nebula images but this was not my approach, for me it was about the landscape at night and Taupo Bay certainly provided a wonderful backdrop.

A fantastic few days and having been blessed with excellent conditions I certainly learned a lot around how I will approach this photography subject in the future. thank you for stopping by my blog.

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