I primarily shoot the Milky Way over landscapes in dark locations in Maine, New Hampshire and Canada. I like shooting around where I live in Maine – we have some of the darkest areas on the East Coast of the US, and growing up by the ocean I feel a special connection to the coast. Other locations photographed for my book Night Sky Photography include Utah and New Mexico, both of which provide some very dark skies and unique desert landscapes.
My publisher initially approached me about writing the book in late 2018. I enjoy teaching, and this seemed like the perfect chance to get a detailed written guide of my techniques to a large audience. The book is also a great companion to my video tutorials and workshops.(opens in new tab)
The book is primarily about landscape astrophotography – taking pictures of the night sky while including a foreground. Its main focus is capturing the galactic core of our own Milky Way galaxy over natural landscapes and human-made structures, such as lighthouses, in dark locations. The book also features some information on photographing the aurora borealis.
Many of the images in the book came from my existing library of photographs, but during the course of 2019 and 2020 I took more images specifically for the book. In late 2019 I set off on a cross-country road trip in an RV, and in early 2020 I took some deep space photos in the dark desert of Arizona, as well as some landscape night shots from New Mexico.
Being out under the stars is always an amazing experience, and I never get tired of it. Standing at the edge of an oceanside cliff, in the dark, listening to the waves crash below with the stars above – it’s breathtaking! I also enjoy the journey that comes with going to distant locations, which for me is usually a road trip. Meeting the locals and trying their cuisine is just as much fun as taking pictures! Unfortunately, however, the trip was cut short in March 2020 due to the pandemic.
I currently use a Nikon Z 7 (opens in new tab) as my primary camera, and a Nikon Z 6 (opens in new tab) as my backup. I also have a D810A. The book features photos taken with all of these, plus the D800E and D810. For lenses, at night I primarily use the AF-S Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 ED (opens in new tab) lens. I’ve been using Nikon gear since I purchased my first digital camera in 2008. The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 is an amazingly sharp lens, even at f/2.8, and is a favorite among many landscape astrophotographers.(opens in new tab)
On the technical side there are quite a few challenges with shooting at night. The photos will be noisy if you don’t take care to use proper shooting techniques, such as star stacking and separate long exposures for the foreground, which must all be processed and blended together in software to create a seamless image that has good detail and is in focus from the foreground to the stars. Other challenges include the always-unforgiving weather. Night sky photography depends on clear skies, and it’s not uncommon to go almost a month in some locations without ever seeing the stars!
Night Sky Photography: From First Principles to Professional Results by Adam Woodworth is published by Ilex Press, £24.99.