Here is another image I shot last month while on the Welder Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast during while judging the Wildlife in Focus nature photography contest with Kathy Adams Clark and Earl Nottingham. We went out one night to photograph some of the night sky. I found this big palm tree and framed it up against a little bit of the Milky Way.

If you want to shoot the night sky and get sharp dots for the stars, you can only leave your shutter open for so long before the earth’s rotation causes blurring. A little blurring looks bad (and I have made some bad mistakes there). A lot of blurring (i.e. several minutes) is a star-trail and can be nice. (I will save that for another day).

So how long can you leave your shutter open to get relatively sharp looking stars? There is something called the Rule of 500, which essentially is that if you divide the focal length of your lens into 500, it gives you your shutter speed in seconds. The Rule of 500 is controversial (some say it should be Rule of 600, others that it is just not that simple), but it at least gives you something to start with.  So for a 16mm lens, I can leave the shutter open for 31.2 seconds before the stars start to blur. (500/16=31.2). This assumes you have a full frame sensor or are making the sensor conversion.

So I often will shoot my 16-35mm lens at 16mm and leave it open for 25-30 seconds. That is what I did here.

Stars over palm trees, Welder Wildlife Refuge, Sinton, TX, USA.

Stars over palm trees, Welder Wildlife Refuge, Sinton, TX, USA. Canon 1Dx. 16mm. ISO 3200. f/4 @ 30 seconds. Flashlight “painted” the foreground. Click the image to make it larger and see more star detail.

Night Photography Resources

Lightstalking provides an excellent resource titled How to Master Night Sky Photography with lots of helpful tips and links.

Night Photography Workshops

Several of my photo workshops feature night photography. Contact me if you are interested and I can provide more information.

Night Photography Posts

Check out some of my other blog posts about photographing at night.