Stargazing

Stuart Thompson Landscapes 1 Comment

My visit to Nambiti Hills Private Game Lodge – KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Nestled in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa’s Kwazulu-Natal province is an area of undiscovered beauty coupled with fantastic game viewing.

This photo was taken at an old homestead on the 22,000 acre reserve after an eventfilled game drive followed by a much welcomed drink while we watched the sun setting over the African bush and some amazing stargazing.

As we were packing up to head back to the lodge, I noticed it was a perfect night for stargazing and the stars had come out in all their glory with the Southern Cross nestled over the old buildings and with the Milky Way cascading across the night sky.


Stargazing - Main Image

Behind the Scenes

Initial Photograph – Exposing for the Stars

I have been wanting to explore star photography from sometime and have spent a lot of time following the very useful and informative tutorials from Dave Morrow Photography.

I quickly swapped out my lens, removing the Canon EF 100-400mm lens I had been using to photograph wildlife and attaching the wider angle Canon EF 16-355mm lens which has a much wider aperture and is much more suited to landscape and of course stargazing. Applying the star photography 500 rule, I fired off an initial shot which exposed the stars to great effect. The problem was there was no detail in the foreground. All vry well for star gazing but what about the other elements?

Time for some quick thinking!


Final Image
Stargazing - Image Info

I set about trying to resolve the problem knowing full well I had two options, take a longer exposure to expose for the foreground and then blend the two images in photoshop after the fact or somehow light the portions of the image that were under exposed. With trees in the shot and difficult horizon line, blending would have proved troublesome and very time consuming. Time to adopt the old adage… Get it write in camera and spend less time in post production. I tried using the spotlight from the game vehicle but at 1m candle power it was way over the top and not very pleasing on the eye… It was just washing everything out!

As luck would have it, as I was pondering how exactly to go about achieving the effect I wanted, one of the game vehicles put on their headlights. The light wasn’t shining directly onto the building, rather it was shining away from the camera position at right angles with the subject.

A quick 20 second exposure and the effect of the residual light was just what was needed to create a really pleasing effect on the foreground that had been under exposed during the intial shot… Bonus no extra work required trying to blend two images!


Adding some people to the shot
Stargazing - People in Image

Once I’d bagged a photo I was convinced would be a keeper, it occured to me that it would be a great opportunity to experiment by including people in the shot.

Unfortunately, part of our group had decided to make their way back to comfort of the lodge so that they could relax around the fire with a galss of vino to hand. For those stuck on the game vehicle I was on, it proved a fortunate opportunity and after a little encouragement, we were able to stand still enough for 20 seconds while the camera took the exposure.

All and all, I’m very pleased with the outcome and grateful to game ranger Kel (far left) and my friends for being so patient and standing still so we could capture this wonderful memory.

Until next time, I hope you’ve enjoyed the post.

Check out my images in the Nambiti Hills Game Lodge newsletter – click below