How To Focus Your Lens at Infinity for Night Photography

Photography workshop out at night. Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Photography workshop at night. Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park.

The most important and difficult step in night photography is to focus your lens at infinity. If you have tried to focus on the stars at night you have already learned that it is an impossible task for the autofocus system and just about impossible for you to do manually. You just can’t see clearly enough through the viewfinder in the dark of night to manually focus on the stars. Fortunately, there are some ways to get the job done.

Originally posted Jan. 8, 2017. Revised and expanded Feb. 10, 2017.

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How To Work With A Model When The Windchill is 4°

Selina

Selina, Downtown Columbus Ohio

You would think a windchill of 4° Fahrenheit (-16°C) would be too cold for a photo shoot, but not with some models. We booked this January shoot weeks in advance so we knew it would be cold, but we had no idea how cold until the day arrived. Here’s the story behind this image and how to work with a model when it is so cold.

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Metering Wildlife in the Snow, Part One

Elk in the Snow, Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk in the Snow, Horseshoe Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Metering dark toned wildlife in the snow is a major exposure challenge. It is usually best to avoid large “burned out” areas (washed out, featureless white) in a nature or landscape photograph, but with properly exposed snow, the wildlife can be so dark as to lose all texture. On other hand, metering for the wildlife can burn out the snow. So what do you do?

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“How To” Series: Winter Photography

Last Light on El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

Last Light on El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

In addition to all of the usual photographic challenges, winter provides some extra complications, especially in terms of metering. So I began my series of articles on winter photography. I am in the process of revising and updating this series. I am also revising some related articles and adding new ones. Check out the links below. The articles will help you meet the unique challenges of winter photography. So get out there, have fun, and create some great winter images!

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Using the Histogram to Check Studio Flash Exposures

Sarah, Professional Fitness Trainer

Sarah, Professional Fitness Trainer

When using studio flash units, usually the best way to check your exposures is to use an incident light meter which is capable of metering flash exposures. But what if you don’t have an incident flash meter? Or what if you have a subject that absorbs a lot of light? Or a subject that reflects a lot more light than your typical photographic subject? You can double check your exposure settings by using the histogram on your camera. FYI: Do not trust the LCD image on the back of your camera to judge your exposures.

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How To Get Critical Focus in “Live View” Mode with a Magnified Image

Tripod mpounted camera in live view mode.

Tripod mounted camera in live view mode. The image is visible on the LCD along with the RGB histogram.

“Live View” mode is a huge boon to digital photographers and magnified focus is one of the reasons why. Focusing this way is more accurate than the camera’s autofocus modes, at least with non-moving subjects, and you will have sharper images. Landscape photography is the usual time to use this technique but sometimes it works for wildlife.

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First Night: Testing an iOptron Sky Tracker, Part Two

Orion Nebula and Nebula NGC 1977

Orion Nebula and Nebula NGC 1977. Three minute exposure with a 300mm lens and camera mounted on an iOptron Sky Tracker. This is cropped from a larger image.

After a one minute exposure using the iOptron Sky Tracker (see the photo in part one), I tried a 3 minute exposure with the same 300mm lens to create the image above (which is cropped from a larger image which you can see below). The Orion Nebula (M42 and M43) shows up quite well and you can even see some of the nebulosity of NGC 1977 just above the Orion Nebula around the 5th magnitude stars Orionis 42 and 45. The iOptron Star Tracker is an impressive piece of equipment.

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Snowy Owl Photography: Control the Background for Better Images

Snowy Owl, Photo Location 1

Snowy Owl, Photo Location 1

A simple change of background can turn a disappointing wildlife photo into a great one. Professional wildlife photographers think about backgrounds all the time and do everything they can to improve the background. Less experienced wildlife photographers are so excited to find an interesting creature that they give the background precious little thought.

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How To Work With A Model When The Windchill is 4°

Selina

Selina, Downtown Columbus Ohio

You would think a windchill of 4° Fahrenheit (-16°C) would be too cold for a photo shoot, but not with some models. We booked this January shoot weeks in advance so we knew it would be cold, but we had no idea how cold until the day arrived. Here’s the story behind this image and how to work with a model when it is so cold.

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Art Wolfe – Don’t Miss Your Chance To Download This Free Photography Video

Chamonix Needles & Lac Blanc, France. Photo © Art Wolfe.

Chamonix Needles & Lac Blanc, France. Photo © Art Wolfe.

Art Wolfe is a world class photographer. If I could pick only 5 photographers to go out and shoot with, Art would be on that list. His work is stunning. I own several of his books, some for inspiration and some for “how to” information. So I jumped at the chance to get his 30 minute video, “Ten Deadly Sins of Composition”.

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“How To” Series: Winter Photography

Last Light on El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

Last Light on El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

In addition to all of the usual photographic challenges, winter provides some extra complications, especially in terms of metering. So I began my series of articles on winter photography. I just finished revising and updating the series. I also revised some related articles and added new ones. They are all linked below. They will help you meet the unique challenges of winter photography. So read the articles, get out there, have fun, and create some stunning images!

This series is updated every year in January. The January 2017 update is here.

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Metering Wildlife in the Snow, Part One

Elk in the Snow, Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk in the Snow, Horseshoe Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Metering dark toned wildlife in the snow is a major exposure challenge. It is usually best to avoid large “burned out” areas (washed out, featureless white) in a nature or landscape photograph, but with properly exposed snow, the wildlife can be so dark as to lose all texture. On other hand, metering for the wildlife can burn out the snow. So what do you do?

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How to Create a Stacked Image of the Night Sky

Night sky with airplane lights, Fremont, California

Venus, Jupiter, stars, and airplane lights. Fremont, California. 27 separate images stacked together. Click to see a larger version.

It is a handy thing to know how to stack multiple night sky images into one photo. It allows you to create one stacked image covering a long period of time (using multiple photos) when it is not possible to make one long exposure of the night sky. What is a stacked image? Several images taken over a period of time which are combined to create one image fro the whole time period. This tutorial will show you how to create one.

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How to Photograph Stars from a Plane

The Big Dipper from a Jet plane

The Big Dipper from a Jet Airplane. Click to see a larger version.

Theoretically, it is difficult if not impossible to photograph stars from a moving plane. And for most flights that is true. Star photography usually means a steady tripod (on the ground, of course), exposures that are around 15-30 seconds in length, and an ISO around 400-1600 depending on the amount of sky fog at your shooting location. That just won’t work on a plane. Plus most plane rides are just too bumpy or unsteady, not to mention engine vibrations that are transmitted through the airframe. But it can be done with just the right conditions.

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Create Great Yard and Garden Photos With A Camera Phone

Balloon Flower Closeup, iPhone 4S with Olloclip closeup lens

Balloon Flower Closeup, iPhone 4S with Olloclip closeup lens

Fall is in the air and it isn’t too late to grab your camera phone and take some pictures in your garden. Here are some tips for creating some memorable photos. All of the images in this article were created with an iPhone 4S, which means more recent iPhones and Android phones should be capable of doing everything you see in this article (plus one simple accessory for a few of these photos). Continue reading

October 7-8: Photograph the Northern Lights Tonight!

Planetary Kp Index Map for the U.S. and Canada

Planetary Kp Index Map for the U.S. and Canada. Click for a larger version.

The planetary Kp index tonight (October 7 into the early hours of October 8) is projected to be 7. That is one of the highest readings in months. If you live north of the yellow line on the map above, your odds of seeing the Northern Lights are good. Of course you need clear, dark skies. That means little or no clouds, no moon, and you need to be far away from big city lights.

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POTD: The Maroon Bells by Moonlight

The Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake by Moonlight with the Milky Way. Colorado.

The Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake by Moonlight with the Milky Way. Colorado. Click to see a larger version.

The Maroon Bells deserve their reputation as one of the best photo locations in the state of Colorado, especially in the fall. They look just as spectacular by moonlight. It is an added bonus if you get a hint of the Milky Way in the frame (left side of the image). It won’t be as sharp and defined as on a dark night without the moon, but it will be there.

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