About Nightscapes - After Midnight Landscapes

About After Midnight Landscapes

Muley Point

Well, all of the photos are not taken after midnight, but you get the idea. People have called this type of photography Landscape Astrophotography or more commonly "Nightscapes". I became interested after seeing photos on the web. I was immediately hooked, and the rest is history.

These photos require a very dark sky, and were taken in some of the darkest places in this country.  There is a lot of subtle color in the night sky that the camera captures. The green is primarily “Airglow”, somewhat like the aurora. The sun’s extreme ultraviolet light excites oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the upper atmosphere during the day. The products then interact with other atmospheric components to later produce light emission by chemical luminescence at night. The camera can detect this but our eyes cannot. The yellow, orange, and red can be due to the setting sun or moon, and in large part due to light pollution. Light pollution can be seen for hundreds of miles. There is also a lot of subtle color in the core of the Milky Way that is simply beautiful. In many of these photos the nearby landscape is illuminated to some degree (light painting).

So why do this at all? Living in the Eastern USA I was not used to actually seeing the real beauty of the night sky. The light pollution in the East obscures many of the stars as well as the Milky Way. You have to actively seek the darkest skies in the country to  see the sky as our ancestors did.  It is exhilarating to be in these places at night and see the Milky Way arching overhead. There is a feeling that is almost primal to see the sky just as our ancestors did thousands of years ago, maybe one of the few experiences we can still share with them. 

We have largely forgotten the beauty of the night, especially in the eastern US. When the sun sets we go indoors and turn on the lights, and spend little time outdoors.  People have learned to fear the night. Seeking out the night sky has been an exciting experience. The sky is beautiful. The land is still and quiet. The crowds of the day are gone. Occasionally a rabbit, or fox, or mouse will appear and then scurry away. It is peaceful and quiet in a way that we have forgotten.

King of Wings Hoodoo 1

For those that have not tried this kind of photography, here is a little background. Those photos are taken in the darkest places possible, to allow you to see the Milky Way and stars.   There are "Dark Sky" apps that can help show you the darkest places in the world. Moonlight is usually too bright and this means that you take those photos around the time of the new moon, or well after the moon has set. Most of these photography trips are planned around a new moon to minimize moonlight. All of the exposures are long exposures, usually 15-30 seconds. All are taken with a tripod. Since the stars are moving in the sky, you will get "star trails" if you use exposures longer than 15-30 seconds. This means the stars turn from dots into curved lines that look like small commas.  Twilight (the time after sunset) lasts much longer than most people realize. There is some residual light from the sun for up to two hours or so after sunset, and most of the photography is obtained after that time.    You also need a camera that is very sensitive and functions well in low light. As for the landscape you can provide lighting or leave it natural. There are times each may be best.

About Me

Wayne Pinkston

By profession I am a Radiologist. Photography and Radiology share many of the same principles as far as image capture and display, both in the eras of film and digital imaging. As photographs moved into digital imaging so did x-ray. I suspect an interest in photography while in college later helped to stimulate an interest in Radiology. My primary interest is astrophotography. I have had a longstanding interest in the outdoor photography.  Over the years my interest in landscape photography has opened up a world that I may have otherwise never experienced. 

The photos were taken with a variety of cameras over the years, changing with the times. The 35mm and digital cameras were Canon with a few rare exceptions. Earlier Medium Format cameras were Bronica and Contax. Over the last few years the cameras have been Canon Digital SLR's (most recently the 6D, 5D Mark III, and 1Ds Mk III). and the Nikon D810A and D750. Canon lens included the 16-35mm 2.8L II, 28mm f1.8, 100mm 2.8 Macro, 70-200mm f4 L IS, and the 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS L. Non Canon lens include the Sigma 15 mm f 2.8 fisheye. Nikon lens include the Nikon 12-24 mm f 2.8 zoom, and the Rokinon 24mm f 1.4, Rokinon 12 mm 2.8 fisheye, Rokinon 200 f 1.8, Rokinon 35 mm f 1.4, and the Sigma 14 mm f 1.8. I use a Gitzo G 1128 MK2 tripod and an Acratech Ballhead and leveling base. I find that as time goes by I use less filters, with the exception of polarizing and neutral density filters. Image processing is done on a Mac Computer with Adobe LightRoom CC and Photoshop CC. I am currently use a commercial lab for printing (Bay Photo). Virtually all of the daytime images were taken with available light. Low Level Lighting is used in many of the night photos. If there are any questions please contact me by email.


Wayne Pinkston

Other Portals for LightCrafter Photography:







 Here are some excellent sources:

1) Royce Bair has written an excellent ebook on photographing the Milky Way called "Milky Way Nightscapes". It is highly recommended and an excellent way to get started in night sky photography. Here is the link:

Milky Way Nightscapes

2) David Kingham has written an excellent and thorough ebook on night photography. I also recommend this book. It is called "Nightscape, A Complete Guide". Here is the link:

Nightscape, a Complete Guide

3) Read the blog by Royce Bair. Go back through the old posts on this blog and see recommendations about technique and equipment, etc. Here is the link:

Into the Night Photo Blog

4) Both Royce Bair and David Kingham have workshops. I would recommend both. There are other good ones but I do not have direct experience with others.

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