Looking High Above

I have a confession, I haven’t told you about it yet, but I’ve decided to start trying something new.  I love photographing architecture and people, doing my fine art stuff, but I want more.  So I have decided I want to learn how to photograph the stars.  I’ve been planning it for awhile and I’ve being doing some reading.  The other night with the lunar eclipse I had my chance.

LeanneCole-moon-5676This was my first attempt at the moon, well not the first shot, but my first time going out to take photos.  I know some of you know that I was going and what a hassle the whole thing was.  We had planned on travelling out of the city, about an hour, but there had been a major accident on the freeway and it meant the traffic was the worse I’ve ever seen.  We basically missed it.  We had to put up with the sun hitting it again.  Oh well, there is another one in October, so we will make sure we don’t miss that one.

I had read and watched some online things on how to photograph it, one on KelbyOne was very useful.  I think I know what I did wrong and I think I will change some things next time.   I think I will practice on some full moons as well.

While we were out there, we thought we might try some star shots as well.

LeanneCole-stars_5674It wasn’t too bad, but the moon was really too bright, and there was too much light pollution from the city.  We were also on a road that was a lot busier than I thought it would be.  We will make sure where we go next time doesn’t have as much traffic.  We moved to the other side of the milky way after this.

I have to say that one thing I am so pleased about with doing this kind of photography is that I have the right gear for it, I only have to get one thing, a head lamp with a red light.  I have one now so I am all set.

LeanneCole-stars-5692This was a little better, but still not great.  I really want to do more of this, and I am going to see if I can do some up in the Mallee, there shouldn’t be any problems with light pollution up there.  It is quite exciting, next comes the star trails.  I might have to see if I can some of that too.

I like where I started and I am excited about doing more.  You can get some great shots of the stars.  Here are the images in a gallery for you to check out.


  1. Susan Portnoy says

    Nice start.. Looking forward to your next shots.

      • I was serious Leanne!

        I have tried, and only succeeded well once. I got a good shot of a full moon once when it was setting at dawn. There was enough light to set a reasonable shutter speed in order to get a bit of detail.

      • This is what I did, I put the camera on Manual, I used spot focusing for the moon and once I thought it was in focus I put the camera on manual focus so the focus wouldn’t change. I had my ISO on 2000, though it probably didn’t need to be quite so high. I set the camera on f5.6, but if I do it again I would do it on f8 or f11 I think. Then I started playing with the shutter speed. Four seconds was too long, 1/20 of a second to quick, so I just kept changing it tell I got what I thought was a good exposure, which was around 1/8 of a second, or 1/10 of second.

      • Yeah, at four seconds you get something that looks like spread liverwurst. Hahaha …

        Like i say, Madam Luna is a fast mover! … but Auntie Babs is faster.

  2. Good job, Leanne!! I know how frustrated I have become trying to get good shots of the moon! I love your moon shot! Sounds to me you have stepped into another adventure! Have fun and I look forward in seeing the sky through your eyes. (((HUGS))) Amy

    • It can be frustrated, I did learn a lot, which is good. Thank you Amy, glad you like it. I feel like I have, I like the idea of learning new things all the time, seems macro wasn’t going to be it, but I have all the right gear to do this, well besides something like 500mm lens, but for doing the stars I am all set. That has to be sign right :) Thanks Amy.

      • Yes, Leanne, that is a sign. I enjoy close up. You enjoy other aspects of photography. Perhaps one day you will have the macro lens. If you really want it, keep putting the thought out to the Universe, and you might just be surprised. Best of everything to you! You do deserve it!!! Love, Amy

      • I like it, but for me close up isn’t really an option right now, though I have ordered some extension tubes, so who knows. I will keep putting it out there Amy. Thank you.

  3. I like this type of photography but haven’t equipped with a right gear. I really want to shoot the milky way :D

    • It is amazing how you might find you do have the right gear Inge. For the Milky way, you just need a wide angle lens, do you have one of those? I shot the stars with the 14-24mm.

      • No, I don’t have that one. I only have a kit lens at the moment, 18-55mm, but it only gets f/3.5-5.6. I’m not so sure whether f/3.5 is good enough for that kind of shoot. What do you think?

      • That will work fine, you might have to give it more time and put the ISO up more, but it will get you good images. I would use it at the widest, 18mm on f/3.5.

      • Thanks for your advice, Leanne. Really appreciated. I will give a try. I’ve done it before but still haven’t good images. I’ll have to find a better location too. :)

      • You really need a location that is very dark. We thought we were far enough out of the city, but you can see that we weren’t. If we had managed to get to the location we were hoping for, then I am sure we would have been fine.

  4. These are nice! I’m going to my girlfriend’s house out in the country this weekend and am hoping to get some night shots too.

    • So we can compare images Brendan. I really want to see what I can get in the Mallee, it should be dark enough there, it is about 400 kms away from the city. Good luck.

      • For which ones, the stars, I use manual mode, I used my wide angle lens, I focused on the moon, then switched focus to manual to look it on that, then turned to the stars. I used ISO 100, and had about 20 second exposure for the first one, I was using F/2.8 I think, The second one was similar, maybe 30 second exposure. When I go up to the Mallee I will probably use a higher ISO. I told Babewyn how I exposed for the moon.

  5. I think your new interest merits a trip to the “outback”. With not light pollution, you must be able to get fantastic shots. For the moon, i use spot metering and a adjust EV to take off the brightness.

    • That is sort of where I am going this weekend, not quite the outback, but close enough, so there should be no light pollution up there. I think my problem with the moon was that the eclipse was basically over, and the difference between the bright side and the dark was a lot. I am happy with my first attempt and am looking forward to the one in October. Thanks

  6. Sound like fun. Yes, light pollution is a bit deal when doing astrophotography work – which is why we like the canyon house in Utah – total darkness!

    • It can really ruin your images. Ahh total darkness would be great. If we had got to the spot I had planned, I am pretty sure we would have had that total darkness. It was over the hills away from the city, about an hour or so away from where I live. We will go back another time and see what it is like, like during the new moon.

    • I am Lake Tahoe would be a great place to experiment Nia, let me know if you need some information.

      • For the stars you just need a wide angle lens, to do the moon you need more telephoto. I used my 300mm, but I think if I was going to get into it more I might look at getting a teleconverter for it, or a bigger lens. Let me know how you go, if you want to know about camera settings and such, then I can email you some information. :)

      • Maybe, maybe not, what is the biggest telephoto lens you have now? Yes give it a go, the next full moon is 14th of May. I will email you about settings over the weekend.

      • Great, thanks! I don’t know what numbers to look at. One lens says 18 – 70 on one part and the other part says 3.5-5.6/18 – 70. So I guess it’s 18 – 70. Then I have a telephoto lens that I think is 28 to 200 mm. Does that make sense?

      • Yes, it all makes sense to me Nia, for doing just the stars, the first one would be fine I think. For doing the moon you would need the other one.

  7. These are great Leanne ! I think you are going to have a brilliant time experimenting like this . I wish we had clearer skies for longer ;-)

    • I hope so Poppytump, this is the first time I’ve tried, so I really hope that I can get better shots, can’t wait to get my first real shot of the milky way. Clear skies are important, but summer is coming for you, so you should be able to get some soon.

      • It would be nice I have to say :-) I read you settings advice to some one further up the thread so ….
        I did get one nice clear shot of the moon within days of having this camera … never been able to replicate it again though :-/
        Will keep trying .
        Funny … but I’ve had this bookmarked for awhile now .
        Off to bedly now dreaming of stars… ‘Nite :-)
        Have a lovely day Leanne .

      • I still don’t really know what I am doing, but I really hope to be able to get out a few times over the next few days while I am at my mums place and see what I can do. It would be wonderful. I will have to check out your link. Now I hope the dreaming of stars means you will try it some more. Sweet dreams and thank you Poppytump. :)

  8. Nice! We took eclipse photos too, but most of them didn’t turn out as well as yours. I said to Glen at the time I wish my camera would take better moon photos.

  9. I think my problem with doing moon shots is I do not have the patience. I like to take pics of things and not sit and wait LOL. You did a nice job..

    • You would be surprised how quickly you can take the moon shots Sonya, they were exposures of !/10 of a second that sort of thing. Doing the stars is a little different. Thank you.

  10. Leanne, good luck with your journey. I want to share some links with you to a photographer called Rob Packer. He used to be my neighbour a few years ago (and the local Uniting Church pastor). He has moved on from the Scenic Rim now but he photographs a lot of sunsets/night shots/star trails. His web page is and his google + page is He puts a lot of his settings and stuff under his photos. :)

  11. Pretty good stuff! I was going to set my alarm and get up here at 3am…. but it was socked in clouds and rain, so I too have set my sites for Oct… you have some great shots here!

    • We were lucky it was early evening, the only thing we hadn’t counted on was a massive accident and the traffic. Apparently it will be perfect for us in October, perhaps you could come and photograph it with me Sally. Thanks.

      • Oh yes, please do, we could come up to my mums place, there are lots of places to do this kind of photography around here.

  12. A shame about the accident. Seems you and I both missed it! At least we have October. I love the stars. I’m wondering what gear you use. I love night photography but I’m usually doing it at twilight. I’d love to take star pics!

  13. Aaron Fisk says

    Hey Leanne, great shots. I developed a love for astrophotography just last year after I caught a meteor in one of my shots. I don’t know if you know about the “600 Rule” (I use 500) and/or Crop Factor (if it applies to your camera), but it has saved me headaches out in the field by storing the settings on my phone as a reference. I recently uploaded a ridiculously long post about astrophotography and what settings I used in each shot, if you would like to take a look.
    You are a great photographer, I am excited to see what you post next!

    • No I don’t know that rule, you will have to fill me in Aaron, please. Please give us a link to your post, I am sure a few of us would love to see it.
      Thank you.

  14. Andrew says

    Hi Leanne and welcome to the world of astrophotography ….. muahahahahahahahaha. It is addicting and VERY fun!.

  15. Andrew says

    Oh,and might I suggest. If you want to take images of star trails, the North star is a excellent model for you!. Take multiple 60 second exposures from a tripod and then stack all the images together. :D

    • We don’t have the North star, we have the southern cross. I will have to find out which star to use, I have heard there is one for the southern hemisphere. I am still learning all this.
      Thanks for the tips, I will try it, what software do you need for the stacking?

      • Andrew says

        My bad!. For whatever reason,I thought you lived in the States. For stacking, I would suggest Registax or I believe Astrostack.

      • That’s okay, I’m in the southern hemisphere, so will have to see if I get the southern cross. I will have to look for those.
        Thanks Andrew

      • Andrew says

        I can’t wait to see your shots of the Southern cross!.

      • I hope I can get some and that you will be able to actually tell what it is. I am going to try tonight.

  16. I love this plan, Leanne! My parents studied the night sky with a Celestron telescope and my mother made drawings of Sun spots while viewing the Sun through a telescope with a special filter for Sun viewing. She sent her findings to some center for their collection of Sun spot activity. I enjoyed what I learned through their hobbies. I love the night sky and look forward to your photos. A couple of nights ago I was outside trying to get a photo of the full moon. I didn’t do well with it….another time!

    • How wonderful Mary, you must have learned so much. I know nothing, but I am hoping as I get into it I will learn a lot more. The next blood moon is the 8th of October, so lots of time to practice Mary. If you want any ideas on settings let me know.

    • Thanks Aaron, I will check it out when I get home, I might have to ask some questions, I hope that is okay.

  17. I’ve been addicted to Astro-imaging since 2009. It’s very rewarding and fun! Your partial Eclipse image is excellent! I stayed out shooting this Eclipse, but muffed Totality! I’m so disappointed in myself for doing that. I exposed it too long and have a bit of streaking. We also had high clouds so the images are softer than I would have liked. I too am looking forward to Oct. and a re-do!

    Star-trails are lots of fun. The Milky Way’s densest part- is back in our Hemisphere and I’m just waiting for a new Moon/dark sky to go out and image it. It’s been a year since I last shot it.

    I look forward to your Astro-imaging journey.

    • I did some research before hand, so had a rough idea, I was a bit miffed at missing the best part of it. I am looking forward to October as well. Apparently it will be a lot better for us, as this time by the time it got over the horizon it was half over.
      I have no idea what I am doing, but doing the stars is fun. I imagine I will learn as I go. I will have to wait for that part of the milky way to reach my part of the world.
      Thank you.

  18. johnholding says

    Hi Leanne,

    I have done a number of astrophotographs. The things that are needed to get a good image are:
    1) Dark skies, means a long way from Melbourne (90ks minimum).
    2) Set iso to 6400 or near.
    3) Use widest lens possible F/4 or less, I use either a 16mm or fisheye.
    4 Focus to infinity (switch to manual focus)
    5) Expose for no more than 30 secs for minimal star trails. If you want star trails then longer multiple images and stack them. If you get short star trail sis just looks blurred and not very nice.
    6) Do a black image (lens cap on) with the same settings so that you can find any hot pixels and remove them from image.
    7) Take a number of images if possible and then stack in photoshop or get special software to stack the lot (some are freeware and do a good job). However if you get a very clear night then one image will suffice.
    8) Check out when the heart of the milky way will be visible (that is the great bit to get), there is a iPhone app called GoSkywatch that will let one work out when it is visible.
    8) Hope that it is not cloudy when you decide to go.
    9) Wait till I want to go again, come with me and get to use my astrotrac where you can get images of several minutes with no star trails and lower ISO. I often make my way to Flinders or nearby when the skies are right for reasonable images.

    • I have seen much of this on one of the KelbyOne tutorials I’ve been watching, the woman was saying much the same as you have said John. I got the Star walk app on my phone which tells you where all the stars are, I have so many apps now. Maybe we can go out somewhere sometime. I have been thinking about Flowerdale, do you think that will be far enough away. I’m in the Mallee right now so hoping I can get something from here. I am reading as I’m writing and would love to come out with you. I should send you an email, I’m trying to respond to the comments quickly. Sorry I am rushing, will talk to you when I get back on Tuesday, thanks John.

  19. Awesome I did the same thing. I took my first ever shots of the moon during the Eclipse. I’ve always enjoyed night shots,can’t wait to see more from you. :)

    • Thank you Andrea, I am excited at the idea of doing the shots. I hope you got some good ones. :)

  20. Nice shots! If you get the chance you should check our Lake Tekapo in New Zealand :)

  21. What a magical project! I love it! And I love the images with the twinkly stars. Here where I live, on Dartmoor in England, miles for a town and with no streetlights there is hardly any air pollution or light pollution. One night last Summer I lay on my back on the lawn and watch hundreds of shooting stars! It was fabulous.
    Thank you so much for all the ‘likes’ on my blog, it has so helped me to keep going with it, especially when I had so few followers. It is amazing how we can be affected by the influence of something so many miles away- just like the stars!- Karen.

    • Wow Karen, that sounds very magical. Well I am well away from city lights now, looking forward to trying some this weekend.
      That is wonderful to hear Karen, I do try to encourage others. It is amazing. Take care Karen.

  22. I actually like your attempt at photographing the moon. I didn’t even get to see the eclipse at all. Would definitely like to see photos of stars from you at some point. Is winter a good season for photographing the sky?

    Hope you’re having a good weekend. I am sitting at home today :)

    • Thank you Mabel, it was an interesting experience. I am hoping to get out so some more, would love to learn to do it more. I don’t know if winter is a good time, I think I am going to find out.

      Yeah so far, traveled up to the Mallee today, so am a bit tired from the long drive, nice to be with my mum. Sounds like a good day for you, I don’t know if you celebrate Easter, but have a great weekend. :)

  23. This may help some: shoot the moon in manual mode. Use the sunny 16 rule. The light on the moon is from the sun. So if using ISO 100 as base, set the camera at 1/100 shutter at f16. For the stars, you need much longer exposures. Have fun!!!

    • Oh Yes, I have heard of that, I will have to try that next time I think. Thanks for explaining it, I think you did a better job that from where I saw it.

  24. I’ve had great fun trying this as well – as you say, it’s good to keep challenging yourself and learning new skills. Sadly there is just way too much light pollution in southern England :(

    • That is great to hear Noeline, it is good, I like a new challenge. That must be disappointing about the light pollution, I suppose that is one thing about Australia, we do have lots of wide open spaces. I think I might be in a good spot right now, I hope.

      • Thanks Noeline, I have been out the last couple of nights and I really like what I have been getting. I have put some on facebook and Google+.

      • I hope you’re going to post some here? I struggle to keep up with WP let alone getting into Facebook, Google+ or the myriad of other social networks!

  25. When I have tried, I can either get a moon shot or some context with the moon an overexposed ball. I am thinking exposing for the full moon and exposing for the context then layering would be an option, but that would mean getting the software to do it. :-)

    • If you read through some of the comments here, people have given some great advice on how to shoot for the moon, Logphotography especially had a great way of photographing the moon, using the sunny f16 method. I haven’t tried these, but you do have to put your camera on Manual and do the exposing yourself, in a way. NOt sure what you mean about the layering, how you are thinking of doing that.

      • I watched a Gimp youtube video with layering. You take copies of the photo and only tweak some copies to incorporate into the final product. I have never tried it.

      • So many people talk about, we are going to have to figure it out. I will write on the blog how I go doing it. There seems to be lots of options.

      • I looked at the comment. Hmm. That is still not going to get anything else exposed, though. Right? The only time I have gotten good clouds, trees, or something else along with the moon was with a harvest moon before it gets too bright. If you get some amazing inspiration, let us all know. :-)

      • I suspect to do what you want to do you may have to do some sort of layering. I don’t really know at this stage, still all new to me. good luck. :)

  26. Night photography, especially the kind that includes stars and star trails is the most exciting thing that’s out there, but it’s really hard to obtain. Besides reading about how to do it, one must also read about the constelations, what events are coming up and it takes a lot of luck as well. Clear skies and as far away from the city as possible.
    I also had a few attempts, but usually when I had lately my father’s car and I could get away from the city it was very cloudy at night :( hope this summer will bring me more clear nights :D

    Happy Easter Leanne :)

    • I agree it is very exciting. I have seen some amazing photos. I don’t know a lot about constellations and such, but I am sure I will pick them up as I go. I have some apps on my phone and have been looking at some websites. I am about 400 kms from the city now, so I think I might be far enough away, I hope.
      Yes, clear nights, fingers crossed for those all the time.
      Happy Easter to you too Klaudia.

  27. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says

    The eclipse was good! I especially love the shooting star. :) I’m glad you will be doing more sky shots.

    • The shooting star was a massive aeroplane Jackie, biggest one I think I have ever seen flying overhead. I couldn’t believe how big it was, thought it would have left a bigger trail though. I really want to do more up here at my mum’s, so am planning on going out tonight. Is there where I say stay tuned?

  28. Wow, nice shots. I actually got into photography to do this sort of shooting.

    • I have been wanting to do it for some time, but have only really recently got more into it, I do really want to try more. I hope you have been doing some.

    • That’s great Tiny, I was shooting more stars last night, beautiful clear night, I have one on facebook and google+. Hoping to get out again tonight.

    • That is so true. I went out last night and took some more shots and they were so much better, so I am sure as I keep doing it, I will get better and better. Thank you.

  29. Pingback: Shooting for the Stars | Macro Masterpieces

  30. Yes, you really need to get well away from any towns for good night sky photography. do you ever get up into the High Country ? the mountain air is so clear, perfect for star trails. Or way outback …..I got several decent star trails during my round Oz trip out in the middle of nowhere.

    • The mountains here are so far away, but I am well away from the city at the moment, and have been out a couple of times. The outback isn’t too far from where I am, and it has been great up here. I haven’t been doing much in the way of star trails, but I am enjoying photographing the stars. Thanks Mike.

  31. Oh I want to photograph the stars so bad! When you are using your camera’s flash outside, look up as the camera flashes and you can see every star in the sky. Not in your picture, but in real life. Ever since I did this accidentally once, I wanted all those stars I saw to be in a photo. I love moon photography and one day will trek further out so I can get some star pics! You did an awesome job by the way!

    • That is interesting, I’ve never heard of that. Might have to try it. Thanks. I have done another post on it today. Thanks

      • I don’t even really know why I was using a flash out there but I happened to look up in my peripheral vision and the moment the flash happened you could see every star in the sky…tons of them. After that I wanted that which I saw in the sky to turn out in a picture. Definitely need to be out in the country for that one.

  32. I am impressed with your dedication to take photographs outside at night. I just recently did a photo shoot outside at night and it was pure torture, because it was either too hot hot or too windy and the mosqitoes are horrible. Your star photos are beautiful. I cannot wait to see your next attempt/photographs.

    • I think it is about picking the right time of year, we are going into out winter now so the nights are still mild enough, not too cold, but too cold for mosquitoes, thankfully. Soon it will be cold and I will have to rug up a lot. Thank you.

  33. To capture the moon isn’t the easiest thing – very good to be the first attempt.

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