I discovered my passion, and my Sony RX100’s potential, for astrophotography – taking pictures of stars and other sights of the night sky – through pure good luck.
The night out in the Shennong Valley area of Hunan, China, was just so dark, and thus so full of stars, that it tempted me to play around with the manual settings required for sensible astrophotography. And the results impressed.
By now, I have a bit more experience with astrophotography, though it still tends to take a lot of experimentation.
Situations sometimes (in fact, oftentimes) just aren’t ideal, and then it’s difficult to get good results.
The night of the Perseid meteor shower’s maximum, mid-August 2015, was no exception.
Clouds came up just as the night got dark, even though we had been having extreme heat and a highly stable high-pressure system overhead; the skies were ‘polluted’ with the light from the small towns in the area I ended up in…
Still, I used that night, plus the weather situation, to my advantage: It was the perfect excuse, all of it together, to go out for a combination of night (running) training and astrophotography.
The temperatures certainly were the best, at night, for moving about. High enough, still, to be comfortable moving or lying down to look up, but not as high as during daytime.
The skies also cleared up, by and large, and a few clouds beneath the stars added to the interest in the photos.
Astrophotography, be it more experience or more experimentation, is an interesting skill in the toolbox of practices to make oneself more at home in this world.
Going out into the night has its peculiar perks, even if it can’t be recommended as too-regular a practice, anyways. In pointing out how threatening a night can feel, how cozy it can be, and just how necessary sleep is, it’s a lesson of value already.
Engaging in a practice that requires not just an automatic setting on one’s camera but a bit more knowledge and skill is yet another learning experience for using a piece of technology to more of its potential, as well as in seeing the world anew again.
(What settings do you need?
Manual mode, widest aperture, highest-necessary and lowest-possible ISO, long exposure, self-timer to avoid shaking the camera when pushing the shutter… and all of that with the camera in a stable position on a tripod to reduce shaking still further.
In a mood for post-processing in Lightroom or Photoshop or the like?
Then record the photo in RAW, not just in JPEG.)
The combination of the two, especially under dark and starry skies, is one of the most direct ways of realizing just how small and insignificant and alone in the vastness of the universe – and also, how important to our own lives and possibly relevant in our potential, at the very least for such realizations – we are.
I did also manage to catch some shooting stars (in image)… Funnily, judging by their trajectories, two of those three I caught in the one 30-second exposure below were not Perseids. Not sure what the chances for that are, in any random 30-second time span, looking towards that part of the sky where the Perseids should have been visible the most – but so it went.