I love stargazing. The worst thing about it is that it’s very difficult to explain the wonder of a clear night’s sky to someone who has lived in or near cities their entire life. Also for more selfish reasons it’s nice to have a photographic memory of a starry night in case I end up somewhere with light pollution so bad I can count the stars on my hands. For most of my life, any attempts to capture the beauty of the stars (or moon) have come up empty – literally. Photographs of complete darkness with the occasional “blurry dot photo” mixed in. I’ve kept on trying, and recently had some minor successes without having to break the bank (prior to this interest I owned a Canon EOS Rebel T4I DSLR camera). These were shot using a standard zoom EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, and I used the ground and a wedge-shaped rock in lieu of a tripod.

It takes some patience, and of course a very clear and dark sky helps a lot. I included some of the poorer quality shots from the same night so you can see it wasn’t quite as simple as “point and shoot” photography. Still, if I can figure it out through trial and error, I am confident that you can too.

That’s enough of me stealing the spotlight from the true stars of the show…

Stars over Guadalupe Mountains National Park

This is one of the better photographs I managed to take. You can sense the infinitude of outer space.

Blurry stars over Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Most of my photographs came out looking more similar to this one. The stars are their, but they’re fuzzy and unrealistic.

Blurry stars in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Again, it’s clear that those are stars, but I wasn’t going for a Vincent Van Gogh style.

Stars over trees in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

A combination of factors led to some of my photographs turning out much better than others. It got darker as the night wore on, I got better at finding a stable place for the camera to sit, and through trial and error I was able to find appropriate settings to best capture the light of the stars.

Stars over the Guadalupe Mountains

I included this one to contrast it with the next photograph. Same camera, same photographer, different results.

Starry skies over Guadalupe Mountains National Park

What went right here? No, seriously… this is one of my favorites from that night. The southern edge of the Guadalupe Mountain range is in the bottom-left of the photo.

Milky Way over Guadalupe Mountains National Park

You can barely make out the glow of the Milky Way Galaxy amidst the sea of stars in this one.

 

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