About After LightCrafter Photography

Muley Point

There are several names for this type of photography including Landscape Astrophotography, Wide Field Astrophotography, and Nightscapes. It's a type of astrophotography that combines night landscapes with wide field astrophotography. This has only become practical within the last 6-8 years as camera sensor technology advanced. I became interested in this field after seeing a few  early landscape astrophotography photos on the internet 5-6 years ago. The next year I had the chance to try capturing a few Milky Way images along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I was immediately hooked when the first image appeared on my camera LCD screen. For me, there was no looking back.

These photos require very dark skies, and were taken in some of the darkest places in this country, and in the world. The eastern half of the USA, most of Europe, and parts of Asia have too much light pollution to perform this kind of photography. The camera captures a lot of  subtle color in the night sky that we cannot see with our eyes. The green is primarily airglow, appearing somewhat like the aurora. The sun’s extreme ultraviolet light excites oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the upper atmosphere during the day. The resulting products then interact with other atmospheric components to later produce light emission by chemical luminescence at night. This is called airglow and is most often green or red. The camera captures these colors but we see only a faint grey illumination with our eyes. The yellow and orange tones are frequently are due to light pollution but can also be due to the setting or rising sun or moon. Light pollution from a city can be seen for hundreds of miles. The stars themselves have different colors and there is a lot of subtle color in the core of the Milky Way. In many of these photos the nearby landscape is illuminated to some degree using a technique called Low Level Lighting (http://www.lowlevellighting.org).

So why do I do this at all? Living in the Eastern USA I was not used to seeing the true spectacle of a dark night sky. The light pollution in the East obscures many of the stars as well as the Milky Way. Once I experienced a truly dark sky I knew I wanted more. 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, and this may 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 and Europe. When the sun sets we go indoors and turn on the lights, and spend little time outdoors. As we retreat from the dark we create more and more light pollution and in turn we obscure the night sky even more. I hope that this can change. If there is one primary goal I hope to accomplish, it is to help people remember (or learn) the beauty of the truly dark places. The sky is beautiful, the land is still and quiet, and the crowds of the day are gone. Occasionally a rabbit, fox, mouse, or coyote will appear and then scurry away. It is peaceful and quiet in a way that is rarely possible during the day. 

Mauna Kea Starscape
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, 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 contains a sensor that 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, recently retired. Photography and Radiology share many of the same principles as far as image capture and display. As photographs moved into digital age imaging so did radiology. I am a visual person. An early interest in photography may have later helped to stimulate an interest in radiology. I have had a longstanding interest in outdoor photography, but now my primary interest is Landscape Astrophotography. Over the years my interest in landscape photography has exposed me to a world that I may have not experienced otherwise. 

The photos were taken with a variety of cameras over the years, changing with the times. The 35mm film cameras were initially Canon with a few rare exceptions. Earlier Medium Format cameras were Bronica and Contax. Over the last few years the cameras have been Canon and Nikon DSLR's. Canon cameras include the 6D, 5D Mark III, and 1Dx.  More recently I have used the Nikon D810A, D750, and D850. Lenses include the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II and the Nikon 12-24 mm f/2.8 zoom. Other lens include the Rokinon 24mm f/1.4, Rokinon 12 mm f/2.8 fisheye, Rokinon 20 mm f/1.8, Rokinon 35 mm f/1.4, and the Sigma 14 mm f/1.8. I use a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod and an Acratech ballhead and leveling base. 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

Untitled photo

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.

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In