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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Shot In The Dark

It has never been easier to create stunning astral photos

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I also use Litepanels LED lights for foreground illumination. These lights are small and run on AA batteries. I can place them in various parts of my scene to illuminate rocks and trees while I take the shot. This is a great technique when you're by yourself and don't want to run around trying to light-paint a variety of elements.

POSTPROCESSING
There are a few things to consider when processing your star images to help them reach full potential. First, adjust the white balance to your liking. I generally prefer to use Incandescent for my skies since I like the deep blue color it produces. But what happens to the foreground tree when you use Incandescent? It turns a pasty blue—not good. To remedy this problem, I choose the Adjustment brush (in Photoshop or Lightroom) and brush over the tree. Then I pull the Temperature slider toward the right and warm up what I've brushed over. This will restore the color close to neutral.

Next up is noise reduction. The new noise-reduction tools in Lightroom and Photoshop are fantastic. Pull the Luminance and Color sliders to the right to reduce noise. For best results, enlarge your image to 100% so you can see the effects. I also use Noiseware to reduce noise in my images. This plug-in has preset actions that reduce noise. Try the Night Scene action for star-trail images.

After reducing noise, your image will need some sharpening. I use two tools for sharpening. First, I apply some Clarity, which makes the stars pop out of the sky. Next, I'll use Unsharp Mask to sharpen the image. I start with these settings: Amount of 100, Radius of 1 and Threshold of 3. Experiment with your settings until you like the results. Sharpening makes star trails much more defined in the night sky.

The last thing I may try with a star image is applying an effect from Topaz Adjust 5. I like to use actions like Heavy Pop Grunge and Dynamic Pop at around 50% strength. These actions bring vibrance and acuity to an image, and look great on night shots.

Ready to go out into the night with camera in hand? One last bit of advice: Check the moon phase in your area. Stars look the best on a dark, moonless night. Have fun!

To see more of Tom Bol's photography, visit his website at www.tombolphoto.com.

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