COlorado Astrophotography

What is Astrophotography?

Astrophotography is the photography of the night sky.  Many people think that astrophotography only includes the Milky Way, but just one small sliver you can capture in the infinity of constellations, comets, and meteors the dark night provides… Let’s not forget the moon either!  Astrophotography opens the door to all types of long exposure photography and you get to actually paint with light.  When the moon is out, often times pictures appear as if it were daylight.  Your photo is a canvas that captures light, so the longer the exposure, the more light will burn into the image.  When the moon is full or close to full, there is plenty of light from the moon so scenery will absorb the same color frequency as the day, except you will collect stars although the amount will be diluted and post processing will be needed to darken the amount of exposure to balance the black.   When there is a new moon, or little light, the camera will capture significantly more stars that the naked eye can see.  Imagine the light of the stars burning on the image of the canvas, your photo.  

Astrophotography settings on your camera will be relative many things including:

  • The F stop or aperture of you Lens (this is your lens setting, not your camera).
  • Shutter speed (amount of seconds you expose the light into the camera).
  • ISO will determine how much noise and grain the image will have.
  • The moon rise and set will be relative to your settings.
  • The direction of the sky, city light pollution, and weather.

When is the best time for Colorado astrophotography?

There is no bad time to take pictures of the stars in Colorado. From May to October the Milky Way core is at it’s most vibrant, so summer is definitely a great time for those shots. But the contrast of the bright white snow capped mountain peaks of the Rocky Mountains against the starry skies can be as equally breathtaking. Additionally, constellations such as Orion are only visible in the winter and shooting star activity is greater.

Since there are so many variables in astrophotography there are many resources and applications available for use to determine what time and date are optimal for the image you are trying to capture. Photo Pills is a wonderful app that allows you to pinpoint a location and it will show you which direction the moon is rising, setting, same with the sun, and it will tell you when the Milky Way core is visible and what part of the sky. There are also many other maps of the sky that will show you in real time what constellations you are looking at such as Sky View and Sky Guide.