Most travelers to the remote safari areas of southern Africa are dazzled by the brilliance of the unpolluted night sky, especially during the very dry May through October timeframe. With a little bit of planning and practice, it's not at all difficult to create your own "Starry Night" masterpieces to complement your wildlife shots, and add an element of uniqueness to your safari portfolio.
Complete camera stability is essential for the long exposure time required for astral photography, requiring two important pieces of equipment: a tripod and a remote shutter release. But neither needs to be big or expensive.
Attach your widest angle lens and set your camera to Bulb exposure (B). All other settings are essentially a question of trial and error, to determine what combination of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO setting give the best results based on circumstances and your preferences. Remember that, as the earth moves, the stars rotate through the sky - if you want stationary "star fields", keep the exposure relatively short; for "star trails", go with a longer exposure time.
As rule, you will shoot with a large aperture to capture as much light as possible; however, this has to be balanced with enough depth of field to keep your subject in focus (astral photos are far more interesting with a foreground subject); a typical range would be somewhere between f/2.8 and f/5.6. Raising the ISO facilities a faster shutter speed (minutes instead of hours), but increases digital noise. While pros will shoot at low ISO equivalents of 100 or 200, your requirement for sleep will necessitate that you use ISO settings over 1,000, and tolerate some "noise" in your photos.
Paint Your Palette
In most instances, your foreground subject will require additional lighting. The secret here is to briefly wash (or "paint") the subject with a lightsource at some point during the exposure. If an electric light is available, that can work very well, otherwise use a flashlight. Again, experimentation is necessary to achieve the right exposure relative to the starry sky, but more than 3 or 4 seconds of subject lighting is likely to be detrimental.
* If there are any subjects that you would like to see covered in future editions of photography forum, please feel free to email us with your request.Let us help you plan your dream safari. call toll-free: 888.227.8311 or today
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