This morning's lessons

First, let me summarize my goals for this week:

  • Fine-tune my metering & exposure skills and techniques.
  • Night photography, night shots, and more night shooting. Practice long exposures.

Last night, after perusing various forums and sites on astrophotography, I decided to try it myself. Result: I learned something. I won't say I failed even though I didn't get a single decent image, but I found several ways how not to shoot constellations. Observe how not to shoot:

I suppose I need a slightly faster ISO. My aperture was wide open. Also, I don't think the sunlight had the effect I was looking for...too wide of a tonal range to capture.

Camera metering has always been a nebulous subject for me. I know the basics, like overexposing for brighter objects and underexposing for darker objects since a camera meter "sees" 18% gray. Understood. I have a habit of going too far though, I think. This image is one of many that came out completely underexposed:

Now, the sky is exposed just as I wanted it to be, but the ground is far too dark. Boosting the levels will get it close, but not without sacrificing image quality:

The problem is that I'm trying to shoot a tonal range too wide for my digital camera's sensor. Maybe showing up earlier when the light was still faint would have been the optimal choice. I could have opted for a longer exposure, but I liked the sky how it is in the first image.

Even after the sun came up I ran into problems.

So what's the nugget of knowledge I take from this, you ask?

Neutral density filters are a must during sunrise/sunset shots when I'm shooting for this kind of image. From now on I will shoot with a strong (at least 2 stops) neutral density filter before the sun comes up, and a circular polarizer afterwards.

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