Tech & Science Cold weather is the best time to look at—and photograph—the night sky

12:20  13 january  2018
12:20  13 january  2018 Source:   Popular Science

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Winter is a fantastic time to capture night sky photos . This is another reason the cold weather is good for night sky photography . “As your camera sensor heats up, the quality tends to be impacted as well ,” says Fusco.

2 When is the best time for shooting? Any time of the year, better at summer time at clear cloudless nights . On the moonless nights , the sky is darker and the Milky Way looks better with more depth and contrast.

a bridge over a body of water: <span style=Jack Fusco shot this image with a Sony A7R Mark II camera and a wide-angle 20mm Sigma Art lens." src="/upload/images/real/2018/01/13/a-bridge-over-a-body-of-water-span-style-font-size-13px-jack-fusco-shot-this-image-with-a-sony-a7r-m_642070_.jpg" />© Jack FuscoJack Fusco shot this image with a Sony A7R Mark II camera and a wide-angle 20mm Sigma Art lens. When the temperatures drop, it’s tempting to bundle up inside and live the hermit life until the sun comes back out. But cold weather provides an awesome opportunity to observe the night sky, and even capture it with your camera if you don’t mind a little prep work. Here’s why the stars are so clear in the cold, and some tips for shooting photos of the stars from professional photographer, Jack Fusco.

What’s with all the stars?

The air above us is colder, which means it can’t support as much moisture and results in fewer obstacles between your eyes or camera and the heavens. According to Fusco, this is a boon for photographers during the day as well. “These conditions can provide a great looking image at sunrise or sunset.”

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The best place to view and photograph the night sky is in the rural countryside because cities have artificial lights which cause a phenomenon known as light pollution. You need to get away from artificial lights in order to see the stars well . A truly dark sky is preferred, but artificial lights keep the night

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It also has to do with what part of the galaxy we’re actually trying to observe. The stars we see in the northern hemisphere winter are in our local spiral arm of the Milky Way. That translates into brighter stars and less light pollution to make things appear hazy.

Find a really dark spot

Even though the universe isn’t throwing much light pollution at you, other pesky humans are with their cities and civilizations. You’ll want to use an app or a map like Dark Sky Finder to get far enough away from light pollution so it won’t taint your view or your photos. It should be darker than the end of a Black Mirror.

“When picking a location somewhere within this time frame, I’ll research historical weather data to see what month has the highest number of clear skies and stable weather conditions,” says Fusco. Clear sky.com provides a handy map of astronomical observing weather forecasts.

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Point the camera at the sky for thirty seconds and the picture shows the millions of stars and galaxies in that bit of space. When the weather permits I’m going to get outside and learn how to get some really good pictures of the Antarctic Sky , not always the case as some nights you may as well be

Taking pictures of the night sky is made all the more special when you can snap the Milky Way while you're at it. The sky varies in its levels of darkness throughout the year. With this in mind, the best times to shoot for each month are as follows

The cycle of the moon also comes into play when it comes to finding dark skies. “The brightness of a Full Moon can wash most stars out of the sky,” says Fusco. “For most stargazing, you’ll want to plan to be out on or near the New Moon.”

Bring the right gear

Heading out to shoot in the cold is different than a casual stroll through the park with a camera or binoculars. “If you’re going to be set up in the same location for a while, the same clothing that keeps you warm on a cold hike may not be sufficient,” says Fusco. He recommends dressing in layers. Some charcoal hand warmers don’t hurt, either.

In terms of camera gear, you’ll want a wide angle lens with the widest possible aperture for letting in light—the sky is dark after all. You’ll also want a sturdy tripod to hold your camera still because you’re going to be using a long exposure time, which invites unwanted blur from camera shake. Your hands can’t hold a camera steady for 30 seconds, even if they’re not shivering.

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Capturing compelling images of stars used to be expensive and time consuming. As digital cameras have become more and more capable, photographing the night sky has become easily accessible.

There are some basic terms that should be defined to help you know which time of night is best to photograph different subjects, such as the Milky Way. Generally speaking, night is between sunset and sunrise, but of course it does not get suddenly darker like a light switch!

Bring a lot of camera batteries because they drain very quickly in the cold, too. If you think you have enough, bring more.

Get the right settings

Your settings are going to change from place to place, but Fusco recommends starting with a wider aperture (f/2.8 or below is ideal), an exposure time of 15-30 seconds, and an ISO setting (which determines how sensitive the camera is to light) of 1600 to 3200.

If you’re familiar with camera settings, you probably know that ISO 1600 or 3200 start to introduce a fair bit of digital “noise” into the image as the camera tries to amplify the light hitting the sensor. This is another reason the cold weather is good for night sky photography. “As your camera sensor heats up, the quality tends to be impacted as well,” says Fusco. Shooting in the cold helps combat heat build up and can result in less noise.

You should also set your camera to capture raw photos instead of compressing them into JPEGs. Raw photos require some extra editing later on in software like Lightroom or Photoshop, but they don’t discard precious image data for the sake of compression like JPEGs. It will give you a lot more freedom later on during the editing process.

Expect your camera to do weird stuff

“Last winter I found myself shooting the Northern lights in Yellowknife, Canada with temperatures dipping below -30,” says Fusco. “After 3 hours or so both cameras had pretty cryptic system error messages and just stopped working. It took about an hour of warming both cameras up before I was able to head back out to continue shooting.”

He also recommends you don’t forget the coffee. Lots of it.

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