I always wanted this blog, and other outlets, to show personal work as well as professional. I think it's important to show what other interests and work you have. For a long time I've wanted to try astrophotography - capturing the night sky - and last night was my chance. There are a few variables involved to give yourself the best chance of getting a shot, mostly weather related. First things first, you need a clear night, which isn't always easy in winter, but more importantly you need to be out around the time of a new moon. The moon is a large light source and will wash out the light of the stars if too bright. This means there is a five day window, realistically, to go out and get a shot, with clear skies, not always easy!
The great thing about astrophotography is that you need a small amount of equipment to make it happen, just one DSLR, one lens and a tripod. Plenty of clothes and hot drink is required however. Setting everything manually and allowing the shutter to remain open for 20-30 seconds allows what little light there is to accumulate on the camera sensor and build a photo with visible stars.
There are a few options available in how and what to capture. You can take 2 hours to get one image, in which you capture the movement of the stars, often referred to as star trails. I wanted to try one 'still' shot, which is similar to when seen through the eye. Staying away from the light pollution of the city I also wanted to provide some context with the surrounding environment. However, even at a 30 second exposure, trees and hillsides will remain a silhouette.
To add another layer to the image, in an attempt to make it more engaging, you can try and illuminate the surrounding environment. With the below shot of the trees, I waited for a car to drive by the unseen road to allow the headlights to light the trees for 5 seconds, enough to brighten up the photo. The image of the building is illuminated by the moon and reflected window light. This is I think an improvement from just focusing on the stars.
I will definitely be trying this again in the near future. The Milky Way is more apparent during the summer months in the northern hemisphere, which would be a great focus point. And also attempt a time-lapse sequence, a series of images run together in a film which shows the movement of the stars.