Part 7 - But It’s Not About the Planning
Photography is like sex; planning is fun but it’s not the goal. It’s time to put all this math to work in the field. Rudy and I will shoot this in August – but for today, another friend and I will shoot it. We’ll call him JB because that’s what he likes to be called.
After a two-hour drive JB and I arrive on Mt. Rainier at about 7:30 PM July 13, 2013. This is good because it lets us review possible shooting locations and choose one before it gets dark. But it takes a long time to get dark; sunset at 9:00; the end of astronomical twilight at 11:30. So I shoot some ‘golden hour’ shots of Rainier.
About 11:30 I get serious about shooting and run into all kinds of practical problems. None defeat me, but all pose an obstacle to my objective.
The first proves the most difficult to solve. My camera has a great auto focus system but it works poorly in the dark. So it’s up to me to set manual focus on my camera. This is surprisingly tricky. I want the stars pin sharp and it’s tempting to spin the focus ring all the way to the infinity end of its travel. Turns out that too far and the stars fuzz out. Back off too much and I go past perfect to where they fuzz out again. It’s 42 degrees and I’m shivering cold so precise adjustment isn’t as easy as it sounds. I’m wearing a headlamp with a red light to preserve my night vision but it’s just barely bright enough to see the dial. Eventually I get it.
The next is balancing my camera’s ISO, aperture and shutter speed, which I am setting manually. If ISO is too low, it won’t record the starlight I came to capture; too high and the noise that high ISO generates will spoil the image. Aperture is wide open, f/2.8 with the lens I’m using. No decision there. If shutter speed is too fast for the ISO, the camera won’t record the starlight I’m after. Too slow and long exposure noise will spoil the image. Much of the shooting tonight is trying different ISO settings between 1,600 (mostly too low) and 5,000 (somewhat noisy but not a disaster). Then for each of these settings, trying different shutter speeds between 13 seconds (too fast to be much use) and 30 seconds (to long to avoid star trails.) 4,000 – 5,000 and 20 – 30 seconds seems about right depending on how much sky is in the scene.
Mt RainierWashingtonMilky Way