One of my favorite images of my career won a first place in the pure art division in the latest contest from the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers, a great organization I joined a few months ago. The ISPWP is one of the three big photographer organizations I’m a part of, in addition to Fearless and the Wedding Photojournalist Association. I like these three because the contests they run are juried by my peers, and I get psyched to see all the amazing work from all the other photographers from around the world.

This is a shot from Sarah and Nick’s engagement session in Estes Park of the two of them kissing under the Milky Way just after sunset. We shot their engagement in an amazing area on a mountain top near Estes Park, overlooking Rocky Mountain National Park.

The trick to these sorts of shots is to get lucky on timing. The Milky Way rises and sets just like the sun and the moon, and you need a situation where the moon has not yet risen but the Milky Way has. You can also make an image like this during the new moon. The point is to have no other light in the sky aside from the stars. Being too close to the city won’t work either, since the city lights tend to pollute the sky and you’ll get a strange yellow glow down near the horizon.

Then you’ll need a super fast wide angle lens that retains its sharpness on the corners when shot relatively wide open. The best lens I’ve used for this was during my Nikon days, when I had the 14-24 f/2.8. The edges were sharp and distortion free, rendering very detailed stars. The original Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L lens didn’t cut it, but the new one, which I highly recommend, does a pretty good job.

Then you need to pay attention to your focal length and exposure time — too long a lens and/or too short an exposure will result in star trails, which are cool if it’s what you’re going for and pretty annoying if not. I wanted the stars to not be moving, so I had to expose properly to freeze the action given my focal length.

Next time I mix wedding and astrophotography together like this, it would be cool to see the stars moving completely across the sky, so I will need to ask my couple to stay completely still for 5 or 6 hours… 🙂

I guess there are easier ways to accomplish this, but that’s no fun.

Who’s up for it?


ISPS Spring 2014 contest

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