Capturing the night sky is an artform that few can say they’ve truly mastered. Today kicks off International Dark Sky week and we’d like to share the following thoughts by Engineering Tools Specialist and night photography guru Shreenivasan Manievannan. We hope that this article is equal parts inspirational and informative.

Pristine stars, shining galactic cores and magical moonlight—they can only be experienced if, and only if, there is minimal light pollution, which is becoming harder to find with ever-growing towns and cities.

“Protecting the night from light pollution is a powerful conservation tool,” explains International Dark-Sky Association Executive Director Ruskin Hartley. “We don’t have to wait generations to see a change. When we implement solutions, we see immediate results.”

This conservation is the driving force behind the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) and the inspiration behind International Dark Sky Week on April 19-26. The nonprofit hosts the week-long event to raise awareness and shed light upon the continuous work with the public to preserve the dark and bring back the night.

Although night comes and goes as usual to the casual observer, a trained eye will notice how, as populations grow, more and more lights are used to illuminate the night. These lights are slowly causing the stars to fade from our lives. As an avid Dark Sky seeker who was born and brought up in a heavily light-polluted city, I was stunned the first time I experienced the billions of stars shining brightly within the Milky Way. Dark skies are not just beautiful to watch with the naked eye, but there are additional benefits as well. By limiting light pollution, we conserve energy, save wildlife that is distracted by bright city lights, and positively impact human health. In short, we are at a loss by the disappearance of the stars from our life.

In honor of International Dark Sky Week, I would like to showcase the beauty of the night sky through this series of images captured using GoPro’s flagship HERO line of cameras, specifically HERO8 Black.

The following photos and videos feature some of the most pristine dark skies around the world along with my how-to guide + tips and tricks to capture similar photos from your backyard. That’s right, your very own backyard! With many of us sheltering in place through April 2020, this is the perfect opportunity to embrace the night sky from your home and dial in your low-light skills.

Once you feel you’ve mastered the art of night photography, GoPro wants to see it. And the best way to show us is via the #HomePro Challenge. The rules are simple:

  1. Download the free GoPro app.
  2. Use the GoPro app to post a photo or video that shows us your #HomePro moment to Instagram, Youtube, Facebook or TikTok.
  3. Tell us and show us how you #HomePro #GoPro – use these tags upfront in your description of your post so we can consider it for the daily prize.

 

HERO8 Black Night Photo: A gateway to long exposure + low-light astro photography

HERO8 Black makes long exposure and low-light photography easier than ever by including higher ISO options to capture dark, starry skies while in Night Photo and Night Lapse Photo modes. The following are my go-to settings.

PRO TIP: Night Photo differs from regular Photo mode by allowing users to select a shutter length up to 30 seconds. This is the GoPro equivalent of setting up a long exposure shot. Whereas Photo mode is optimized for faster captures.

GoPro tips to night photography

1. Dark skies with no moon. If you are shooting under a dark sky, with no moon and no foreground lighting:

Mode: Night Photo

Shutter: 30s

ISO Min + Max: 1600

Output: RAW

PRO TIP: By switching the Output setting to RAW, your GoPro photos will be stores in two files—one JPEG format and one GPR format, which is GoPro’s RAW format. This file contains more data than a JPEG, and it’s the most ideal format when you plan to post-process your photos.

RAW is ideal for Night Photo mode because it maintains details that can get diminished when pairing a long shutter speed with high ISO, reducing noise and making post-processing + editing easier.

GoPro night photography tips

2. Dark skies with a dull, waning moon. Use the moon light to your advantage when capturing a landscape and have it act as your source of light paint the foreground.

Mode: Night Photo

Shutter: 30s

ISO Min + Max: 1600

Output: RAW

How to use a GoPro for night photography

3. Dark skies with a bright moon. This setting requires you to gauge the scene more closely. Pay close attention high contrast areas. If there are a lot of shadows, use:

Mode: Night Photo

Shutter: 20s

ISO Min + Max: 1600

Output: RAW

If you need a faster shutter speed, try:

Mode: Night Photo

Shutter: 10s

ISO Min + Max: 3200

Output: RAW

How to use a GoPro for night photography

PRO TIP: If you are shooting against the moon, use the Auto-Exposure feature by tapping + holding your finger to the LCD touchscreen on the area you want to expose to. This will lock the exposure to this area.

How to use a GoPro for night photography

4. Shine your own light. Creative lighting always helps when there are a lot of shadows in the frame, and luckily, GoPro now has the Light Mod to integrate with your GoPro and help with night photo light tricks.

Try shining the Light Mod directly on a subject to brighten it up. Or use the included diffuser for an evenly distributed, softer light. Also, play with the duration, location and concentration of the lighting.

Mode: Night Photo

Shutter: 30s

ISO Min + Max: 1600

Output: RAW

PRO TIP: Keep in Mind that Light painting is not permitted in some National Parks in the USA and also be aware to not disturb other folks who might be around with your bright lights.

How to use a GoPro for night photography

5. Shooting night lapses. When capturing low-light time lapses using Night Lapse mode, you end up capturing content that transitions nicely in a video form as well as stackable shots that can be used to create amazing star trail shots.

Mode: Night Lapse Photo

Interval: Auto

Shutter: 30s

ISO Min + Max: 1600

Output: RAW

Format: Photo (if you need to edit)

For a Night Lapse Video:

Mode: Night Lapse Video

Resolution: 2.7K 4:3 (4:3 allows you to get the full view of the sensor; upping to 4K resolution will create a 16:9 crop of the sensor frame)

Interval: Auto

Shutter: 30s

ISO Min + Max: 1600

Output: RAW

Format: Video (for quick turnaround)

How to use a GoPro for night photography

7. Capturing panoramas. While capturing with HERO8, if you would like to increase the coverage of the sky—to shoot a full arch of the Milky Way, for example—a panorama technique can be used. To do so, capture the whole scene with multiple photos shot in multiple rows and columns. This will allow the final stitched panorama to be a higher resolution and better quality than the single image.

The easiest way to execute this is by mounting the GoPro to a panhead tripod, enabling a sequence of shots with at least 20% overlap between each frame. Import the RAW files into Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop or any other editing tool that stitches separated files into a panorama. You can even use this technique to shoot a 360 photo with multiple shots capturing the full 360 view of the night sky.

Adjust the camera settings based on available lighting, but in general, the go-to lowlight settings are:

Mode: Night Photo

Shutter: 30s

ISO Min + Max: 1600

Output: RAW

How to use a GoPro for night photography

“International Dark Sky Week is a weeklong celebration of the night,” says IDA Senior Director of Outreach Amanda Gormley. “It’s an opportunity for us all to consider the role of the night and its star-filled sky in each of our lives. This year, IDA is encouraging people around the world to come together online to celebrate the night and engage with authors, creators, scientists, and educators whose work has been vital to the movement to protect the night from light pollution.”

Let’s get together to virtually and enjoy those beautiful stars from where we are. Don’t forget to join the International Dark Sky Week conversation with GoPro by tagging @GoPro and #HomePro in your social posts. You can learn more from IDA learn more and join the virtual event at idsw.darksky.org.