Friday 29 April 2016

The 5 billion star hotel

I'd rather sleep under this 5 billion star sky than in any 5 star establishment in the world...

Many folks who see these images want to know how they are captured.
Here is a quick run-down of the process used to capture this photo.

  1. Get to a place where there is minimal light pollution. Nearby towns and settlements exude enough light to feasibly affect your shot and the amount of stars visible.
  2. Scout around for decent compositions during daylight, bearing in mind your main compass directions and suitable compositional elements.
  3. Use a sturdy tripod.
  4. Use a wide-angle lens with a large maximum aperture (think 1.4 or 2.8).
  5. Make sure what time the moon rises and sets, and what phase it is in - this will also affect star visibility.
  6. If you want more stars - wait for there to be no moon or new moon.
  7. If you want more landscape illumination, shoot with a subtle moon at a low position in the sky.
  8. Use your torch and camera "live view" to pre-focus on a clear object at least 10 meters in front of you, or manually set your lens to the hyperfocal distance.
  9. Set your ISO to something between 1600 and 6400, depending on your camera's low light capability and your expected ambient light.
  10. Set your exposure time to somewhere between 20 and 30 seconds (anything more will start to induce "star trails" as the earth rotates around its axis.
  11. Use a strong torch to "paint" the foreground during the exposure. I find it works best to bounce the light source off your hand and use your hand to direct the light (your hand also diffuses the light and adds some warmth to colder/blue light sources).
  12. Check the resulting shot and make adjustments to composition, focus point or settings as you deem necessary.
The settings for this image?

Nikon D800
Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 (focal length 14mm)
20 seconds shutter release

The Mountain Zebra National Park in the Karoo desert, South Africa.

Have fun experimenting!

Morkel Erasmus


  1. Thanks for sharing ---- have the gear [I am Nikon ] just need to get out there

    1. Cheers Derick - it's all about getting out there eh, the photography is a means to an end for the intrepid traveler :)