Lightscapes by Jerry on Flipboard

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Nightscapes – showcase your photos in a movie

Now that you have created your nightscapes you might like to share them with friends. One way that you can do this is to package them up into a short movie. With a movie you can enhance the viewing of the images with music that helps create the mood that you want to convey. The above video was created with iMovie as that comes standard with my computer.
Before creating the movie and importing your photos it is important to check out the default options associated with loading still pictures into a video program. iMovie for example will display a photo for 4 seconds by default. It will allow a transition time of up to just under half the time a photo is displayed. Think about how many images you want to show and how long you want the movie to be. Give some consideration to the transition between images too. You can simply just swap from one to another or use one of your programs special effects for transitioning.
I wanted to do a ‘cross-dissolve’ between images and allow enough time for the viewer to experience the transition so set the transition time to 3 seconds. I also set the photo viewing time to default to 8 seconds (this avoids changing it later for each photo).

To do this in iMovie I did the following:

  • In iMovie select ‘File–>New Movie then enter the name of the movie to create it.
  • On the ‘Window’ menu select ‘Movie Properties’
  • Press the Settings button
  • Set the ‘Clips’ time to 8 seconds
  • Set the ‘Transitions’ time to 3 seconds
  • Import the photos by pressing the + (import) button and selecting the images I wanted.

You then select the images and drag them to the timeline in the order that you want.

Select all, then go to Edit–>Add Cross Dissolve to add the transition effect.

By default, iMovie displays photos using the ‘Ken Burns’ effect.  This effect does a slight zoom in or zoom out when showing the photo which can convey a sense of movement.  You can control this by going into the Adjust menu then selecting the Crop button.  There is an option under that which allows you to adjust the amount of the effect.  In this movie I kept to the defaults which just performs a small amount of zooming.

To add audio go to the iTunes menu and select the music you want.  Remember to ensure that you have the rights to play the music if you are publishing or sharing in a public manner. is a great source of royalty free music and is where I found the track that I have used.  You will need to acknowledge them in the movie by inserting the link to their site.

Once you have done that all you need to do is File–>Share and share to the place you want your friends etc to view the video and you are done.

If you would like to share your movie please leave a link in the comments for this blog or in the comments area for this video on Youtube.

Please note that the above video runs for several minutes.  It is meant to be viewed by readers who are interested in experiencing the types of images that can be taken using the techniques outlined in previous articles and how they can be enhanced through music and video editing.

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Nightscapes – black and white at night

This series about ‘nightscapes’ has been all about light – from getting away from it (light pollution) to observing and understanding it, to manipulating and being creative with it. There has been a focus on the use of colour to enhance night time images. An alternative is to focus on form and shades of light rather than colour. Black and white photography can produce some striking images and it is interesting to apply it to nightscapes. Below are some of the previous images used in this series converted to black and white. To convert to black and white I simply used the Silver Efex Pro plugin for Lightroom however just about any imaging program or camera for that matter can convert photos to black and white.


In the second and third photos above I used a torch to shine some light on the foreground areas of the images to provide some areas of visual interest.  When converted to black and white this technique can produce some quite striking effects.

Some thoughts on Black and White
Your camera may support a number of different presets for black and white photography (e.g. monochrome, sepia, high-contrast black and white). Try the different settings to see the effects. If you are using a photo editing program such as Lightroom, Photoshop, iPhoto etc you will have access to more presets but you will also be able to manipulate the conversion process itself.

For example in Lightroom, in the Develop module if I select Black and White I can manipulate the saturation levels of the different colours. To illustrate this, in the images below I have altered the saturation levels of the reds in the conversion process. The first photo is the colour version of the red car and the second is the standard black and white conversion. In the third photo I have pushed the saturation levels of the reds to almost +100 and the ‘colour’ of the is now almost white, quite different from the mid-grey of the standard conversion. In the fourth photo I have reduced the saturation levels of the reds to almost -100 and the car now appears black. You can do this for all colours (eg blues, greens, yellows etc) to create some quite different conversions.

Try this with your images.

red car

Colour version of red car

standard BW conversion

Standard black and white conversion

saturated reds BW conversion

Saturated reds conversion to black and white

de-saturated reds BW conversion

De-saturated reds conversion to black and white


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Nightscapes – light painting

The images in the gallery above were created using a technique known as ‘light painting’. In light painting we use a light source such as a torch to produce very creative images. Other light sources such as sparklers, candles, flares etc can also be used to great effect. In the above images I used my torch which also has some very low-powered coloured (red, green, blue) LEDs. Since I was taking long exposures to capture the stars, only very low-powered light sources are required. The coloured LEDs in my torch are not bright enough to be used as a flashlight for finding your way in the dark but are quite capable of lighting up tall trees in 30 second exposures. To the naked eye you can hardly see the light on the trees etc but the camera is quite capable of picking up a lot of colour over 30 seconds. In fact the images out of the camera were so bright that I had to reduce the colours significantly as they just looked completely saturated with high-intensity colour. While the camera was taking 30 second exposures I only ran the coloured torch over the area for a few seconds during that time. You will need to experiment to find the effects that you like and to best meet local conditions too. Man-made objects seem to work better with different colours than natural objects such as trees etc.

If you have any tips about how you use light sources to make more interesting images and would like to share them, a comment would be most welcome.

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Nightscapes – the processed images

The images in this post are a gallery of the processed versions of images posted in the capturing light post that were processed using the technique described in the processing light post. You can see the vivid difference that processing makes to to these images. As the creator of those images, you are free to be as artistic or realistic as you like in order to produce images how you imagined them.

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Nightscapes – processing light

In the previous post we looked at a number of images taken straight from the camera. With exposures of 20-30 seconds and high ISO settings these photos are very ‘noisy’ and have green-brown colour casts that are not that attractive. Processing the images in software such as Adobe Lightroom it is possible to remove some of this noise and highlight the night sky using blacks, blues and magenta to create some quite spectacular night skies. Using editing software it is also possible for the photographer to create the images the way they imagine them when taking the photos so it is possible to be quite artistic. When processing the images from the photoshoot I played with a number of settings in lightroom but essentially tried to emphasise the whites, remove the brownish tinge and highlight blues and magentas. Below is an example of before and after processing.

Before and after processing in lightroom

Before and after processing in lightroom

The images below show more clearly the settings that I have used. Each photo will be different and settings should be adjusted to how you envisaged your image. I have reduced the ‘temperature’ of the image to make it more blue and increased the tint away from green towards magenta o try to remove the green-brown colour cast of the original. In order to bring out the stars I played with the highlights, shadows, whites and blacks settings until I found a combination that I liked. The colours were really quite bright so I reduced the vibrance a little. My personal preference would have been to reduce it further however what I wanted to do was illustrate quite vividly what is possible in post-processing. The image on the right shows the noise reduction settings. Setting the luminance reduction so high resulted in many stars disappearing however I don’t mind that as the result is that it draws more attention to the main star cluster (the Milky way) which is what I want to feature. The other processing that was performed was to add a vignette (darken the corners). This gives the picture a bit more drama but also helped to remove some of the chromatic aberration around the trees which I couldn’t get rid of. lightroom basic settings

Noise reduction settings

Noise reduction settings

Towards the bottom of the horizon you can see some discolouration in the sky. This is the light from pre-dawn. Most of the photos were taken between about 3am and 4.45am in the morning as the moon was in the sky until very late in the night. As it got closer to dawn this became more prominent but actually looks quite good in some photos. The next post will feature a gallery of processed photos.

As indicated, most image processing software (from free to quite expensive) will support the types of adjustments mentioned in this post. See what you can do with the unprocessed images from the previous post or from your own images. If you would like to share your efforts please post a link in the comments below to your images.

If you have any ideas on how you process long exposures of night skies and would like to share them, please leave a comment – I will be happy to have some feedback.

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Nightscapes – capturing light

Now that we are all set up it is time to start taking photos. You are going to have to experiment with a number of different settings. Different cameras have different size sensors and are also differently sensitive to light – some of the newer cameras offer amazingly high ISO settings that are very usable. Note the higher the ISO setting (sensitivity to light) that you use the more ‘noise’ there will be in the photo that will have to be cleaned up in post-processing.

As a starting point I use a 30 second exposure at F4 aperture and 3200 ISO. I will vary the time from 20 to 30 seconds and also vary the aperture from 1600 up to 6400. Any longer than 30 seconds and you are going to start seeing movement (trails) in the stars due to the rotation of the Earth.

Below is a gallery of unprocessed images taken over two nights in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. In the next post I will look at post-proessing of these images and show the final results. Post-processing is an important element of taking ‘nightscapes’ if you want to bring out the most of your photos.

If you don’t have images of your own to experiment with post-processing you can download any of the images in the gallery and use them. The full size images are available as jpegs. To download them, open up the gallery and click on the images that you are interested in. At the bottom of the page will be a link to the full size image. Click on that to open the image then use ‘File–>Save as’ in your browser to save the image for processing.

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