Astrophotography Photographer

365 Day Challenge – Week 4 Review

There were a lot of lessons learned this week and even more “firsts”. It was ultimately a really successful week!
Image 22 of 365
Storm Chaser Photography
Finally Struck

Why: I have wanted to capture an image of a lightning strike REALLY badly. It’s one of those powers of nature that you can’t control and you just have to be in the right place at the right time. They’re uncontrollable (at least I have no desire to try to control a lightning strike), they’re dangerous, they’re powerful, and you never know when it will strike or what it will look like. It’s always a mystery and exciting when you see the flash and know it will show up in the final image.

Also, once I have finally obtained this capture, it has opened a new door for creativity. I can not only capture the strike, but I can not focus on a better composition to go along with the strike. Who know what images I will be able to capture now??!


1. Be in the right place at the right time. I just HAPPENED to be at the front end of this storm. We were actually receiving a tornado warning and I was on the road. I pulled over to make sure I wasn’t driving into a dangerous situation. Likely, if I wanted to, I could get a little more into storm predictions and storm chasing to truly capture some interesting images. Hmm.

2. I needed a tripod. In this case I used my 12 in flexible Patekfly strapped to my steering wheel and just parked facing the storm. The exposure will require a long duration shutter. Lightning is simply electricity traveling at the speed of light. So, good luck trying to capture it when you see it. It’s impossible. Human reflexes aren’t that fast and neither is the camera. With that in mind, I wanted a 15 second exposure if I was able. That would leave the shutter open long enough, and the strike would be bright enough to leave a lasting imprint on the sensor. Hence, the tripod.

3. Like I said, use a long shutter speed. Then you capture images until a strike graces it’s presence in your shot.

4. ISO was at 100 and aperture was set to the exposure.

5. I used a Gobe ND1000 filter. I’m really pleased with the filter’s performance. This allowed me to have a long shutter in the middle of the day.

Lessons Learned:

Basically everything! This was the first time I ever captured a lightning strike. Still, I had a basic knowledge that the longer shutter speed was needed. After this, though, practice will make perfect. One thing I didn’t do very well was compose the image for the strike. It would be been better to have less ground and more sky to try to capture the full strike. I will definitely take this into account the next time I get this opportunity.

Ultimately I’m just really excited that I captured this shot and ready for more!

Image 23 of 365
Astrophotography Photographer
Chasing Star Trails

Why: Continuing my star trail development. This is a shot with the North Star which is generally considered the star that all others seem to rotate around in this area (based on the Earth’s rotation). It does actually have a very small rotation of it’s own. I wanted to see how the star trails looked in the moon light.


1. Composition: I composed the image by taking a shot at fully open aperture (f/3.5) and “Time” Shutter. These are the settings I would use for the actually image. I then cranked the ISO to full power at 25,600 and look a short 2 second image. These images always turn out horrible, but they can give a great representation of focus and composition. The focus isn’t “perfect”, but sometimes when moving the camera the focus ring is bumped. This practice just helps as a flag.

2. I set the ISO back down to 100 and took a 30 minute exposure. This image was the end result.

Lessons Learned:

1. The moon light really washed out a lot of the stars. I need to keep it in full darkness.

2. Jasper’s light pollution was really bad. The only thing to do here is change locations or direction (changing direction would lose the circular composition.

3. I may want to try ISO 200 to capture more stars, but bring the shutter down to multiple images of 15 minutes each and stack them. I’m hoping it would provide more definition.

Image 24 of 365
Astrophotography Photographer

Why: Continuing my testing and practice of Milky Way images. Every single images seems to be better than the last. It was the first chance of the year to take a full Milky Way image and I had to get up at 4 am to do it. I also wanted to practice with light painting as well as take a new stab at stacking a star image.

Staying at home was a good solution because I could grab any needed supplies I needed and it was for practice. Plus, how many people have a Milky Way shot with their house?? 🙂


1. Settings for all images: ISO 800, f/3.5, 15 second exposures.

2. I took 15 images of the Milky Way with a focus on the stars themselves. I made sure not to move the tripod at all and used a remote to shutter the images.

3. I then covered the lens with a lens cap and took one more image for a dark frame.

4. Lastly, I held a piece of paper to the lens and shown a flashlight straight at the camera to capture a light frame. (This was not needed)

5. For light painting, I took one more exposure and then manually set off a speed light flash at the house to get an exposure of the house itself for the foreground.

6. In editing, I combined the 15 star images and the dark frames to get a base file with the Milky Way to be fully edited and then edited in Raw Therapee and combined the stars and foreground in Gimp.

Lessons Learned:

1. I was thinking that it would be better to use a lower ISO at 800 due to noise. However, this thinking is a little backwards. It would have been better to take images in the 1600-6400 ISO range. I’m next going to take stacked images at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400 to view the difference once stacked. The lower ISO definitely has less noise in a single image, but stacking is meant to take that noise away. We will see.

2. I chose the 15 second exposure due to the 500 Rule. I did this to minimize any star trails in the image. (500 / 18mm / 1.5 Nikon Crop) = 18.52 seconds. If I bump to 20 seconds the trails begin to show.

3. Composition – I’m not sure why I cut off the left side of the garage. I was so excited to shoot the stars again I forgot my head.

4. Editing: I used Sequator to stack the star images. This worked out VERY well. The only thing I realized is that I did not need the light frame. I then edited the star stacked .TIFF file in Raw Therapee.

5. In Raw Therapee, and after some help, I edited the final image. The main lessons learned are that I was able to really crank out the exposure. It helped a LOT. Then I learned this trick: Change the entire image saturation to 100%. Go into the White Balance sliders and adjust the Blue/Yellow and Green/Magenta sliders until the Milky Way has a wide range of rainbow colors to it. (I.E. its not all red or all blue or all purple, etc). Then bring the saturation back down to 0. This simple trick made a HUGE difference in the final image.

6. Finally, I brought the image into Gimp. Placed the stars as the background, layered the image of the house in, and blended the two together with the eraser tool. I could have honestly spent a bit more time on this, but my focus was on the stars at this point.

7. Moving forward: I want to do one more round of shots with the different ISO levels. I also want to ensure that I can replicate the editing / stacking side. Once I decide on the ISO that looks best in my camera and am confident that I’m capturing the images correctly in the field, then I want to put a high level of effort into create one solid, well composed and well edited image (The portfolio shot).

Image 25 of 365
Macro Photography Photographer
Spring Buds

Why: Because it’s spring and the new growth is a sign that new days are here. It’s exciting!


1. Exposed for the flower and shot the flash at a high power to darken the background.

Lessons Learned:

1. The image of the bud ONLY worked with a flash to darken the background. In this location, the background was lighter than the bud and it got lost in all the green around it.

Image 26 of 365
Landscape Fine Art Photography Photographer
Simple Compositions
Why: Simplicity. I wanted an image of simplicity. Simplicity in composition truly trumps all. When taking a photo of a vast landscape, most people that take pictures will try to just capture everything. This confuses the image and the viewer. By going with simplicity, I wanted to practice remembering to focus on a single subject.


1. I shot this with the camera basically on the ground to lose as much background as possible.

2. Editing is where this image change a lot. I removed our mailbox and a couple trees from the left side of the image to make it work. If you look close the edit is visible. It’s not the best result, but the healing tool on SnapSeed is what I had to use at the time and it’s honestly fairly powerful.

Lessons Learned:

1. Continue to remember simplicity in composition.

Image 27 of 365
Pet Portrait Photography Photographer
Misterious Face

Why: I’ve had this image in my head for a long time. It can still be done better and I intend to do so. The image just has so much mystery and draws you in. I’m happy with the result.


1. I exposed for a clear and well exposed image of the horse. It was HARD to get here. The horse’s head kept moving and it took a long time to find the vertical angle I wanted.

2. I edited the horse for a moody type result and removed some shiny objects from the left side. There was a shiny metal plate on top of the stall opening that distracted from the image.

3. I added the fog in a free app on my iPhone.

4. I brought the image into SnapSeed and added some blur effect to help blend everything together.

Lessons Learned:

1. Help with the horse would have been AWESOME.

2. Save the image as each step to a different file! I messed up on the blur effect by blurring the horse first, adding smoke, and then re-blurring to blend. I wish I hadn’t.

3. I’d like to try this image with real smoke and as much in camera as possible.

Image 28 of 365
Headshot Photography Photographer
Headshot of a Leghorn

Why: Because it’s a chicken.

How: Simple exposure.

Lessons Learned:

1. Chickens MOVE, and JERKY, and FAST. This was a hard image to capture.

2. Pull back and try to capture the full chicken with more space on above the head.

3. I still have a tendency to cut too much out of the image (remember the Milky Way shot of the house)

This is likely the last review for a couple weeks. I need to pull back and re-consider priorities. The 365 challenge is actually taking a lot of time and I want to ensure I’m putting my efforts towards the best and more worthwhile priorities in my life.


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