|The Starry Night Photo Window: 2 hours after sunset & 2 hours before sunrise (click for larger view)|
Fudging even 15 to 30 minutes outside this window can greatly lower the quality of your star photography. That's because daylight is 40 million times brighter than starlight, and even a little left over in the twilight sky can be overpowering to all but the brightest stars! Although this twilight may be imperceptible to the eye, it will lower the contrast of your night sky and dim the weaker stars, as in the example below. In this photo, the sun set on the right side, 1.5 hours ago, and a crescent moon is just now setting on the left side —but it is the leftover twilight from the sun that is competing the most with the stars:
|Moonset over Teton Range & Jackson Lake — 1.5 hours after sunset ~ © Royce Bair|
|Milky Way over Teton Range & Jackson Lake — 2 hours after sunset / no moon ~ © Royce Bair|
Other competition for darkness: Moonlight should also be avoided, since it is at least 135 times brighter than starlight. Even a thin, crescent moon is five times brighter than starlight! Man-made light pollution should also be avoided where possible. (Both of these competitors will be discussed in greater detail through other posts.)
Royce Bair is the editor of this blog and the photographer of the above images. Here is my gallery of NightScape images. My schedule of workshops, tutorials, and other events is available here.
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