This star filled night sky was captured during my workshop in the ancient Bristlecone forest located at about 11,000 feet in the eastern Sierra range, above Bishop, CA. I used one of my 24-105 zoom lens, but honestly, it’s not the perfect tool for this application. The image was captured at F4 at 24mm focal length. For night skies this lens is a bit slow, an F2.8 lens would have cut my exposure time in half. Shortening the exposure is a plus, so the stars and gas clouds remain sharp and not streaks in the sky.
When shooting night skies and the Milky Way, it may seem obvious, but the sky must be very clear, no dust, smoke, or light pollution from nearby cities. Fortunately, our location high in the Sierra Range meets all these requirements. Obviously the bristlecone pine tree would be a silhouette against the night sky without a source of light for illumination. There are multiple ways to light the tree in the foreground. In this case our class used a small hand held flashlight to paint light onto the tree during a 15 second exposure for the sky. Using an ISO of 10,000, it only takes a quick brush across the tree with a small flashlight, to provide enough light on our tree.
If you would like to join us on an Eastern Sierra photography tour and learn more about exciting night photography, please visit my Eastern Sierra Photo Tour page.
Equipment & Settings:
Gitzo Tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead
Electronic cable release
Canon 5D-Mark III camera body
Canon 24-105, F4 lens, shot at F4, 24mm
15 sec. Exposure