Night Sky at the Hot Spot
I got this image last month while taking some timelapse footage during a new moon and almost completely clear skies. I can't reiterate enough how clear the skies are in Namibia! This nice aerial view was achieved by setting up on top of an old water tower about 20-30' in the air. The building in the foreground in called "the hotspot" where the kitchen is located and where everyone at CCF comes together to eat meals daily. Admittedly, the building itself is not that much to look at, but gives a nice sense of scale and space to the image I think.
I played around with setting while shooting the Milky Way and this was definitely one of the best shots. Using a D600 I ramped up the ISO super high to 3200 and set the shutter to 30s. I used the amazing Nikon 16-35mm lens for this, but unfortunately this lens is an f/4 which is pretty slow for nighttime shots. However, because the D600 handles noise amazingly well f/4 turned out to be just fine for this kind of shot. I was pretty surprised to find that the image out of camera actually looked pretty incredible and the photoshop work I did was mostly normal RAW tweaks and color balancing. There were some steps I took to reduce noise and boost the Milky Way, but I didn't have to spend nearly as much time post processing as I thought I would which was a pleasant surprise.
A rule of thumb that I came across online was the 500 rule for star photography and I have to say it seems to work well in practice. Basically, the rule works to give you an idea of the longest shutter speed you can use to get sharp stars. Or, the other way to say it is use this rule to avoid any star trails or having bean shaped stars instead of points of light. The rule works simply. First, take your focal length in 35mm format. If using a crop sensor figure out what the equivalent 35mm focal length is and use that (i.e. Nikon D7100 and lower multiply focal length by 1.5x). Now take 500 and divide by your focal length. In my case 500 / 16 = 31.25. The result is the safe number of seconds you can expose without star trail. It's easy to see with the math that the longer the focal length equals shorter exposure so it becomes pretty important to have a fast lens once you start zooming in (i.e. f/1.4 ideally). But, the flip side is a quality slower lens coupled with a good full frame sensor with good noise handling will do just fine since you can use longer exposures.
Nikon D600 | Nikon 16-35mm | Photoshop