Here is a little about me before I begin. My name is Sean Parker and I am a 26 year old photographer in Tucson, Arizona. Ever since I could remember, I have always been intrigued by the night sky. If it was out in the middle of the desert camping with family, or in my friend’s backyard by the fire pit, or just relaxing in a Jacuzzi, I would always catch myself staring up into the sky. There is just something beautiful I find in the stars, and I’m not sure what it is.
It wasn’t until the year 2011 when I found my passion for the night sky. I didn’t really find that out until I took my first photo of the moon with my iPhone through an eyepiece of a telescope, weirdly enough. Everything changed from there.
I purchased my first camera in 2011 after borrowing my friend’s Canon 40D for a few months. I picked up a Canon Rebel t3i and started adventuring out into the desert to learn everything it could do and to test myself. After many months of trial and error, I finally learned how to use my camera.
Once I found out that taking photos of the sky was a way to express my creative side, I fell in love with it. I found my nitch.
Photographing the night sky is a very fun and exciting style of photography. You can create some memorable images if you have the patience. The 3 key things needed to photograph the night sky are:
1: Dark skies – You need to drive about 30-60 miles away from the city you live in towards dark skies. This will give you the best chance to see the milky way and photograph the skies better. You can find dark skies in your area by using this Dark Sky Map.
2: DSLR Camera with a Wide Angle Lens – For sky photography, I recommend shooting digital. You will need a camera body with high ISO capabilities to achieve the most detail with less grain (noise.) Your camera must also be able to shoot long exposures. For lenses, I recommend investing in a wide angle lens, something with an aperture equivalent of F/2.8 or lower. A great starting lens would be the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8. It’s fast and affordable and can get you some decent results!
3. Tripod – A sturdy and trustworthy tripod is well worth investing in. You will be taking 10-30 second exposures so you will need something that won’t move while exposing. I highly recommend starting off with a Manfrotto 190X series with a Ballhead for beginners. It will last you a lifetime.
Those are the essentials! While focusing can be tricky at night, I recommend finding a bright object in the distance, or even a bright star, and focus in live view for the best results. For optimal settings, I would suggest a 15 second exposure, ISO 1600 at F/2.8. Also be sure to wear a headlamp or bring a flashlight!
Sean Parker is a traveling photographer in Tucson, Arizona. He enjoys photographing the beautiful scenery this world has to offer. Aside from photography, Sean also specializes in time-lapse photography.