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Photographing the night sky 101

Something I learned while I was on vacation and out in the dark reaches of the Oregon coast was how extremely beautiful the night sky can be. In the city you really don't get the full effect and vastness of the stars.

I wanted to capture what I saw, what I felt. Being a photographer in one of my many lives, I pulled out my camera and took a few shots. This would be the first time I've tried anything like this, since till recently we lived in Portland (Lots of lights). I did manage to catch a few awesome photos of the big dipper and the north star... I think.

Jason found out that the Perseids meteor shower was prime on Wednesday night while were were in Cannon Beach. It was the perfect opportunity to take some spectacular shots. We were supposed to be able to see 80-100 shooting stars per hour. I was bound to capture something.

Wednesday night I got my camera ready and my husband lit a nice fire to stave off the rolling mist from the ocean... but the mist stayed... and rose. Clouds that I hadn't seen in weeks covered the sky and I watched as slowly but surely my darkening night sky disappeared.

There would be no meteor shower for me. You could say I was disappointed. Finally I would get to shoot something worthwhile.

Even though my plans were foiled by the ever changing Oregon weather, I still learned some neat tricks about photographing at night and I thought I would share them and the photos I did catch with all of you.

1. Equipment - You are going to need some equipment for this. A camera that has a lens that can be switched into manual mode and a tripod. Although, it is possible to take a nice photo without one, but it could be difficult. 

2. The right location - The lights of the city make it difficult to take a good clear shot. The best places are in the middle of nowhere, away from all the commotion. We went to the Oregon coast where there aren't a lot of cities. Camping also works well. You could document all the night skies of all the places you've camped.

3. Set your lens focus - Make sure that your lens is on manual focus and that it is set to infinity. I admit that I didn't do this at first and trying to manual focus was not working. I finally found a tutorial that said this and everything turned out better. 

4. Shutter speed and ISO - Your shutter speed will need to be slow. I used 25 seconds for these with an ISO of 1200. This seemed to work for me but you might have to tweak it a little to get the shot that work for you. Just play around, that's what we photographers do.

5. Try and try again - Take lots of photos. Even if you don't think you caught something good on the tiny camera screen, when you get it home it could turn out really cool.

I'm not an expert at this, but from what I caught, I know these tips work and will get you on your way to capturing that elusive shooting star.

I would love to see any photos you have taken of the sky and would feature them here on the blog if you send them to me at ShendersonPhoto(at)


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