Night Photography (Peter Warne’s Notes)

Andy    February 16, 2019

On March 7th we have a presentation by a new (to us) speaker called Peter Warne who’ll be giving a presentation on Night Photography.

Peter has very kindly provided the following notes to accompany his presentation, which we’ve published early because we’re sure many of our members will want to read in preparation for our Night Photography competition on the 14th March.

Many thanks to Peter for providing this information.


Night Photography

of all sorts

A summary booklet detailing some

of the references made in my talk of that name.

Peter Warne

Flickr pics; Peter Warne-Epping Forest

Selective lighting of fixed objects


Rolson (61770) 72 LED Inspection Lamp, Black (Single) – £8.53

Urpire LED work lights – rechargeable – various powers £15-30

LedLenser LED torches – several models and prices to match

Or visit the pound shops.

Methods for lighting buildings and other static objects

Exposures will be long – into seconds rather than fractions of a second;

Mount camera on tripod,

Turn off image stabilization

Manual exposure starting with about f5.6 for aperture and 5 to 15 sec shutter speed and adjust as required – probably in region of 2-400 but take test shots to confirm.

Fire shutter with cable release or IR trigger – keep hands off the camera

Use mirror lock-up unless mirrorless camera – use Live-View or non-Canon equivalent.

Try to avoid windy evenings.

Night sky photography

The earth is turning – to achieve pin-point stars use the rule of 500;

500 / focal length of the lens – a 25mm lens will allow a 20s exposure time before stars start to blur (500/25) – this is an approximate rule – I shy towards 15 sec.

To focus (using wide angle lens) – place a light or seek out lighted window about 30 metres distant and focus on that – DON’T just set lens to infinity.

Exposure – f4, speed around 15sec and adjust iso which may need to be quite high.

Reference Book; Shooting Stars by Phil Hart available as a download from his web site (charge is about $15).

Many apps and aids available for viewing the night sky schedules and conditions;

Moon phases, star formations and positions, light pollution levels.

My preferred method for star trails

Find the pole star by taking a line from the top 2 stars in great bear (plough) from right to left.

Arrange camera to have pole star within the frame (doesn’t have to be central) and take series of RAW images each of 4 minutes duration (having focused the camera of course).

Set aperture to f4 and iso to 100.

Take say 10 images and from Bridge in Photoshop – Tools – Photoshop – load files into Photoshop layers.

Alter blend mode of all layers (except the bottom one) to lighten and watch the trails appear.

This may have to be done individually unless you have CS6 or CC when you can Shift – left click to select them all.

Milky Way images

In the northern hemisphere find the Summer Triangle of Deneb (Cygnus) Altair (Aquila) and Vega (Lyre) – the Milky Way passes up through these stars.

Download Stellarium to help with this –

The images will require boosting in Photoshop.  Many excellent You Tube videos to help.  Perhaps try AstroBackyard to start and don’t be put off by all the professional talk at the start.  Watch it and take what you want from the video.

Also see Unmesh Dinda on PiXimperfect for luminosity masking and a host of really useful Photoshop techniques.

Aurora images

Exposure times between 3 – 10 secs dependent upon the veil detail you want to preserve.  Wide angle lens opened right up and iso around 800.

Fireworks – exposure times about the same but f8 gives tighter trails.  Iso 100.

Lightning – f4 and exposure times 3-30 seconds.  Iso 1-200

Light painting

Eric Pare is the guru – find him on Facebook.  There are many others once you get searching.

Photoshop trickery – turning day into night

See Glyn Dewis videos on YouTube.

Remote wildlife photography

Bushnell motion capture cameras and for dslr standard work see


Very much trial and error but f8 seems to give best results – after that experiment between 3-10 second exposures and iso values between 100-400.


First find your storm but after that f4-8 seems to work well.  Iso around 400 and shutter speeds between 5 and 30 seconds.  Use a wide angle lens and shoot in RAW to help processing.  With your wide-angle lens focus on an object about 30 metres distant.  Don’t set the lens to infinity and expect that to be in focus – infinity really does mean infinity.

The wide angle lens and long shutter speeds are designed to help have the shutter open when a flash occurs.  There are people who claim they can anticipate a lightning flash coming (and where) and fire the camera in time but as these are all Americans so we can take that with a pinch of salt.

Take lots of pictures – many will be failures.