Celebrate International Dark Sky Week with Tips + Tricks From the GoPro Fam
The following words are by Engineering Tools Specialist and night photography guru Shreenivasan Manievannan.
Every year, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) hosts International Dark Sky Week to raise awareness about the negative effects lthat ight pollution can have on nature.
According to IDA, light pollution is increasing at a rate 2x that of population growth, and 83 percent of the Earth’s population lives under a light-polluted sky. IDA’s mission is to protect the night skies around the globe for present and future generations. During Dark Sky Week, a worldwide collection of volunteers (known as Dark Sky Defenders) connect over a shared goal to protect the night and raise awareness with the public about the importance and beauty of a preserving dark skies.
As a dark sky advocate and night sky photographer for the past 10 years, I have always cherished my time experiencing starry nights. I enjoy venturing out, away from light pollution, to try and capture the elusive but mesmerizing Milky Way. Soon after joining GoPro, I started capturing stunning nightscapes with our small (but mighty!) GoPro camera (at the time, I was using a HERO5 Black).
Photo by Shreenivasan Manievannan
To honor this year’s International Dark Sky Week, and the theme “Discover the Night,” the following are some tips and tricks about capturing the night sky from my fellow GoPro Family members.
David Newman, Technical Fellow: An innovator and an ardent supporter for improving low-light photography, David has always been interested in observing the night sky. After building his first telescope in the late 80s, a 10-inch Newtonian, he immediately wanted to attach a digital imager (not great back then). That was 5 years before his engineering career began, which now focuses on digital imaging and processing. David pulled the frame grab above from a video he captured on HERO9 Black of the mind-blowing Jupiter-Saturn conjunction.
“This was shot through the eyepiece on a 7-inch Mak-Cas scope in Del Mar, Calif. As I was observing this event optically, I wanted a simple way to shoot and view interchangeably. So, I 3D printed an adaptor for the eyepiece using the HERO9 Black Lens mount system. I shot video at 1080p linear at 120fps to—reduce any blur due to atmospheric distortions and to get more frames to stack for the short shooting window (my scope alignment wasn't great)—and I set Protune color to flat at 100 ISO. I processed the result in HitFilm Pro (for tracking and stabilization) and RegiStax for image compositing.”
Matt Thomas, Senior Manager of Mechanical Engineering (a.k.a. he manages the engineering team responsible for designing most of GoPro’s accessory products): Matt is an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys camping and backpacking.
“I took these shots [featured above] while on a backpacking trip south of Lake Tahoe. I placed my HERO9 Black on the 3-WAY 2.0 tripod, pointed it in the general direction of Polaris, hit the shutter button as I climbed into the tent and let the time lapse run until the battery died. Later, I stitched the images together using the StarStax software. It was only my second time trying photography at night and I was very impressed with what I, as a complete amateur, could accomplish with my GoPro.”
Nick Lagusis, Senior Product Marketing Manager: Nick loves the mystery that comes with night photography—specifically, how something invisible to the naked eye can appear when using a camera. When he traded the city for the solitude of nature, he captured this gem.
“I was traveling outside of NYC and visiting a friend living in upstate when I captured the image of the barn and star trails above. The farm he was living on had a beautiful old barn, and we were lucky enough to have a moonless night. I set my GoPro to Night Lapse Photo mode at a 30 second exposure and set Protune to: interval auto, ISO min 100, ISO max 1600, sharpness low and GoPro color. I plugged in an external battery and mounted the camera on the GoPro Shorty tripod to shoot all night. In order to get the circular star trails, I made sure the North Star was in my view and during one of the exposure frames I lit up the barn with a flashlight so it would really come to life in my final product. To get the final image aboce, I ran the shots through a program called StarStaX and used the gap filling blending mode.”
Richard Li, Principal Firmware Engineer: Richard captured this image of Aurora Borealis in Yellowknife, Canada. Richard says choosing the proper exposure and interval settings in Night Lapse mode are critical for capturing elusive events like the above.
Matt Feddersen, Mechanical Validation Manager: Matt is an avid outdoorsmen and says he always makes time to stress test cameras to accessories while on adventures.
“Capturing the night sky and seeing star trails, like this one, are the most unique cinematographic experiences for me. These pictures remind me of the vastness that surrounds us and the incredible universe we are a part of. This style of photo will always inspire and make us wonder.”
Akshay Shinde, Mechanical Engineer for Cameras: Akshay captured this amazing photo of a moonlit Zion Canyon in all its fall glory.
“It took that first long exposure photo for me to realize that the night sky is anything but dark. Sometimes we just need the help of a camera to see how beautiful it truly is. A night-phototraphy equipped camera unlocks endless photo possibilities compared to when the sun is shining. Capturing the night sky for me is all about documenting and sharing amazing experiences that others might otherwise miss.”
You can learn more from the night content mastermind himself and author of this piece, Shreeni, at the virtual Nightscaper Conference where he will be giving a talk on HERO9 Black night photography. Or you can visit his website for more night content creation tips.