An Attempt at Night Photography

Comet NEOWISE viewed from Neck Road near Huntersville, North Carolina

If there is something you really want to do, don’t avoid doing it just because things you can’t control make it uncomfortable.  Go! (Me)

We had been waiting for a clear evening to try and see the Comet NEOWISE and finally got it on Sunday.  Unfortunately, our neighbors are afraid of the dark and we have way too many lights around to see the sky.  We had pre-scouted a place out in the country for just such an occasion, and ventured out there after dark on Sunday.

The comet was harder to spot than I thought it would be, but we finally did locate it with binoculars.  I tried to make a decent photograph of it, but between not being able to focus and using a too-long shutter speed for the focal length of my lens, I got mostly junk.  The in-focus shots are sharp but have long star trails, and the out of focus shots have blurry lines.

Most night photography how-tos suggest using a wide-angle lens, but I was using a longer lens because I knew that with a wide-angle lens the comet would be even less visible than it was with the telephoto.

The first shot was taken at 55mm for about 10 seconds, and even it has some blur.  The second one was taken at 200mm, but I made a rookie mistake by using a 12 second exposure when it should have been about 5 seconds or less.  Oh well, it was an interesting outing with or without photos and satisfied my desire to just see the comet.  My philosophy is that there are other people taking night photos far better than mine, so I don’t need to make my own, just look at theirs instead!

One of my sharper blurry shots of Comet NEOWISE

7 thoughts on “An Attempt at Night Photography”

  1. We went out to the Leetonia bike trail parking lot to try and see it but no such luck. Thanks for sending your picture.

    1. I had mistakenly gotten the impression that it would be more visible, but even after I had found it in binoculars it was nearly impossible to then find in the camera viewfinder. Also, it wasn’t as close to the Big Dipper as everything I had read said it was.

      I did get to see it, and that was all I really wanted. Give it another try – you might be able to find it once your eyes get accustomed to the dark.

  2. We went out to the Leetonia bike trail parking lot to try and see it but no such luck. Thanks for sending your picture.

  3. Got to say that you did a pretty good job of capturing the comet Tom. Astrophotography is something I’ve tried my hand at on a few occasions but the results were never worth the effort. The closest I ever came to something good was by taking hundreds of 2-3-second exposures and then bringing them into photoshop, lining them up blending them all, argh! what a chore that was. Now I can set my phone to “Night Sight” and it makes a far better picture of the night sky than I ever could. Search “astrophotography with night sight on pixel phones” you’ll see what I mean.

  4. I’ve never been much for night photography for the simple reason that it happens at night! 😉 I do admire the work of others, but like Macro photography and other sub-specialties, I prefer to leave that to the people with the time, equipment and inclination to do it.

  5. I have a few night shots but those are of the moon and stars, all on a tripod and no comet. As far as I’m concerned you did a fine job. It’s not easy getting a photo of a a fast moving subject that’s only 160 million miles from earth. So, well done and lessons were learned. You will probably have to practice on another comet because Neowise won’t be seeable for another 6,800 years.

    1. One of the advantages to an optical viewfinder vs. an electronic viewfinder when shooting in the dark is that the electronic viewfinder shows a lot of noise, making it nearly impossible to see to compose and focus. An optical viewfinder is more like using a telescope. The next time, I’ll think about finding a way to secure the zoom so it doesn’t move, then I can focus on something then recompose. Also using a prime lens and taping the focus ring so it won’t move might be an option. Or maybe just let other people be the night photography experts and enjoy their work! 😉

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