January is a great time to have a go at some star photography with your camera, if the skies are nice and clear of course!
In January, there are opportunities to spot the Andromeda Galaxy, plus, around the 14 January you will be able to see Jupiter clearly next to the moon. So, why not get out there with your Nikon camera and give some star photography a go? Here are some top tips for star photography:
Keep Warm - It may seem like an obvious thing to say, but you'll be sat still for a long time so it's an idea to wrap up, take a warm drink and be prepared for the cold!
Equipment - A camera like the Nikon D3300 will be great for this as it has excellent low light performance and a wide ISO range, as well as all the manual features you'll need.
Get Away From Light Pollution If Possible - Lighting in towns or cities can create an orange glow which can ruin night sky photos. You'll need to try and get out into the countryside where there's less light pollution to get a better shot.
Lenses - You might think that a telephoto is the best lens for star photography as it will get you closer to the sky, but in truth a telephoto can limit the amount of sky you can fit in your shot. To get the most of the vast sky, and even some landscape in the bottom of your shot, a wide angle lens will be better to get a feeling of the hugeness of the galaxy from your shot.
Settings - You'll need to use a relatively high ISO, say around 800 or 1600, and surprisingly, a large aperture. You'll also need to set the focus to infinity. Use bulb mode so you can control how long the shutter is open for. If you don't want to capture star trails, that is the stars creating lines as they move across the sky, you can use the rule of 600. By dividing the focal length of the lens by 600, you'll get the number of seconds you can leave the shutter open without star trails appearing. You'll need to take several images without moving the camera, why you need to do this is explained below.
Post Processing - Your images will most likely look a little plain on the camera screen, but don't panic. You'll need to stack your images together in post processing and bring the colours up to create that stunning night sky image. When you've stacked the images you need to merge them into a TIFF file. You can then edit the curves and levels in Photoshop to bring out the colours of the sky that can't usually be seen with the human eye.
It might take you a few attempts to get a good final image, but don't give up!