I recently went on a trip to Tasmania, an isolated island state off the southern coast of Australia. Tasmania is known for its vast rugged wilderness areas. I was accompanied by a few of my photographer friends, and needless to say, the trip was very photo-oriented.
We carefully designed our itinerary over the course of a few weeks, with cautious planning to hit the right spots at the right time. The glue that held our itinerary together was lighting conditions. Depending on the location, we had to match the time of day that would best complement the landscape or setting. Sunrise, or Golden Hour is named such because it’s one of the most precious time of day. In other words, there was a lot of waking up at 3am, driving 2 hours, shooting astro and sunrise, then heading back for a nap before heading to the next location.
Capturing nature is a completely different game compared to cityscapes. There is a lot more planning and research involved. Variables such as time of day, weather conditions, cloud formations, fog/mist, and possibly the location of the cluster of stars in the sky, are crucial to the setup. For astrophotography, I use apps like SkyView where it identifies stars and constellations simply by pointing your phone towards the sky. It is the best way to estimate the perfect time to line up the perfect astro shot. This is when things like, “3:43am – Depart Hotel,” and, “4:47am – Set up tripod at Cradle Mountain,” start to become commonplace in your itinerary.
Once you locate where the stars, especially the galaxy belt is, you can then start framing your shot and setting up your tripod. Using a tripod when shooting astrophotography is essential as you’ll be shooting in long exposure, but I also suggest using a remote shutter or timer to ensure there are no vibrations on the camera when the shot is taken. Most cameras will have trouble autofocusing in the dark environment too. What I’d do is set the camera on manual focus, use live view and zoom into the brightest star, then adjust the focus manually that way.
Like most Australian States, Tasmania has a highish population density in its cities, but the rest of the state is full of lush green national parks and beautiful natural bodies. Once you leave the city lights behind, it makes way for a beautiful night sky engulfed in diamond-bright stars. Luck was on our side during the trip, as the weather conditions were perfect for capturing beautiful nightscapes each and every night.
If you’re a two birds with one stone type of person, I find that the most convenient period of time to shoot both astro and sunrise make way to your nominated spot at least two hours before sunrise. The sky is a star-studded black velvet when you arrive, and as the sun comes up, you’ll be able to capture the gorgeous first light splashing a warm and orange hue on the tall mountains and landscapes. For sunrise, I use the SunSurveyor app, where it shows you the exact spot where the sun is expected to rise based on your location.
When shooting sunrise by the coast and water, often times I use a filter allowing me to slow down the shutter speed to capture the calmness of the water with a silky smooth finish.
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