How to Plan your Trip

Overview

One of the major parts of astrophotography is the selection of a site where you will take your epic photograph. There are many considerations for an ideal site in South Africa. But my biggest advice is- shoot anywhere, and spend time with your loved ones as well.  The topics covered in this article are:

·         Selecting your location;
·         Looking at the weather;
·         Planning around the Moon Phases;
·         Best Months to see the stars;
·         Scenery;
·         Software Assistance;
·         Decide What type of photograph you will take; and
·         Getting ready

Location

Location is one of the most important parts of taking your photograph. I usually look for the following conditions:
·         Far away from City Lights;
·         A lot of visually pleasing scenery to include in your photograph;
·         Open Spaces – so that you can include some of the landscape;
·         Safe conditions – that you do not have to feel threatened and all your equipment are safe; and
·         Ensure there is no predators close by – as this may have a negative impact on your health

I would recommend the following areas in South Africa:
·         Karoo;
·         Close to Sutherland;
·         Deserts;
·         Waterberg;
·         Eastern Free State;
·         Drakensberg region; and
·         Your Home (yip you heard correctly – I have some awesome photos taken in my own back yard)

Weather

“Always take the weather with you” By Crowded House is the most apt song for astrophotography, as you got to deal with rain, clouds, lightning, snow(depending where you live), extreme cold, winds and even hail. Thus I would highly recommend going to the South African weather service site to see what kind of weather you are dealing with. This will enable you to take the appropriate clothing to your photo shoot.
Item
Description
Site
Weather SA
Description
Best place to see a forecast of South African Weather Conditions
URL

 

Moon Phases

Check the phase of the moon as well as the moonrise and moonset calendar usually a dark moon phase is best to photograph, but if it does not correspond with your outing then don’t despair. Just check when the moon will rise, and if it does not clash with your shooting session then  you are home free to start your astrophotography.
I use the time and date website to check the moon calendar:
Item
Description
Site
Time and Date
Description
Best site to see the phases of the moon, including moonrise and moonset.
URL

 

Best Months to see Stars

The best months to see the stars and the Milky Way are during winter. The primary reasons is that there are usually less clouds in the sky, the milky way’s position is not behind the sun (like the summer months), and there are less moisture in the air which causes diffraction of your images.

Scenery

I would recommend that you scout your location first during daylight. During the day you can properly plan your photograph, and see the “lay of the land” This will enable to choose the most optimal site with the most effect for your photograph.

Software Assistance

I use PlanIt! For Photographers App on Google Play-store, to assist me in planning my photos beforehand. I included the link to the App and a tutorial on how to use it.
Item
Description
Site
PlanIt! For Photographers
Description
PlanIt allows you to plan your night time Photograph with settings based on google maps. I’ve included two links: One for the download and one for a how-to guide
URL

 

Decide what type of photograph you will take

Some of the types of photography you can do are:
·         Lightning;
·         Stunning night-time scenes;
·         Star trails leading into clouds;
·         Boat;
·         City Lights;
·         a Haunted House;
·         The Garden;
·         Long exposure light painting;
·         Time-Lapse Star Trails;
·         Sunset;
·         Sunrise;
·         Milky Way or
·         Moon

 

Night Time Photography

Item
Description
How to Guide
How to Photograph Lighting
Description
One of the most difficult night time photographs you can take is lightning, and thus this tutorial will make Photographing lightning easy with the assistance of this guide.
Link to Guide

 

Item
Description
How to Guide
Guide on what to photograph on a cloudy night
Description
Sometimes when you are burning to take the perfect star-trail photograph you will be encountered by cloudy weather. Most photographers then just give up, but I see it as an opportunity to photograph something else, which would be amazing by it-self. You will be amazed at the different kinds of photographs you can take
Link to Guide

 

Star Trails

Item
Description
How to Guide
How to do long exposure light painting
Description
Long exposure in essence is the slowing down of your shutter speed to allow more light to enter the camera. This guide will show you in a easy step by step way how to do long exposure light painting.
Link to Guide

 

Item
Description
How to Guide
How to do Time-Lapse Star Trails
Description
This article will cover how to do Time-Lapse Star trails. I usually do Time-Lapse star trails when there is too much light around you, which may spoil your photograph, or when there are some clouds around in the sky.
Link to Guide

Sunrise and Sunset

Item
Description
How to Guide
Guide on what to photograph during sunrise
Description
If you wake up early or are an early-riser then there are some photographs which you can take of the Sky. Early morning is a brilliant time to take photographs as your options are brilliant, and you can get some dramatic effects without too much effort. This article will give you some ideas of which you can use.
Link to Guide

 
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Description
How to Guide
How to photograph stunning sunsets
Description
One of the most majestic types of photographs has always been photos of sunsets. Photographing sunsets can be a highly rewarding experience, and can be done spontaneously. But as per any magnificent photograph you need to do a bit of planning, with regards to where you what to photograph the sunset, and setting your camera up with the ideal settings to capture the magical moment.
Link to Guide

 

Evening Sky

Item
Description
How to Guide
How to photograph the Milky Way
Description
Freezing stars is a rewarding photographic style where you take a direct photo of the Milky Way. All you can see when you take a photograph of the Milky Way is a-lot of white dots. Do not be despaired because with proper editing you can enhance the colours of the Milky Way to marvellous and wonderful pictures
Link to Guide

 

Item
Description
How to Guide
How to photograph the Moon
Description
The closest celestial body to Earth is the moon. For centuries man has looked up to the moon in awe, from which stemmed countless songs, poems and sci-fi stories. Photographing the moon can be extremely difficult, to the rotational speed of the Earth and moon, and due to the luminescence of the moon. This article will help you to photograph the moon so that it does not come out as a big white blob in your photographs.
Link to Guide

Getting ready

1.    Plan your trip – find a venue which is away from the city, plan around the phases of the moon (dark moon is the best). Winter is usually best for this kind of photography due to there not being a lot of clouds. Note: make sure that the venue where you take the photographs is safe,
2.    Wait for the sun to set,
3.    Take snacks and a lot of water with an extra jacket with you, and
4.    Make sure you have a fully charged battery, with a spare battery, as capturing the stars takes a lot of power from your camera
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