A Question about High Iso

I tested the Pentax K-1 ii at high iso a few days ago. To read and watch sample images follow this Link.

A Touch of Green


Pentax Pixel Shift

Pentax Pixel Shift is a fantastic feature when it comes to boosting the dynamic range, increase the level of detail and reduce the noise in an image. However, we face some challenges when there is motion in a scene even when motion correction is turned on in camera.

Lightroom hasn’t of yet added support for Pixel Shift files like for instance Silkypix and Rawtherapee – the latter is freeware. Since I am not interested in buying yet another raw converter Silkypix is not an option. After making some internet searches I found many claiming Lightroom is superior when it comes to handling highlights compared to Silkypix, and that is a weighty argument for me to remain with Lightroom. And I love the new profiles Adobe now has added to Lightroom after the latest update.

I have tried Rawtherapee several times and the software does a fabulous job when it comes to handling Pixel Shift and motion, but the program always leaves me terribly frustrated.

I have found by trial and error that shooting two exposures of the same scene is what provides me with an easy and straightforward workflow – one exposure with Pixel Shift turned on and the second with Pixel Shift turned off. I am not talking about a static scene, but a scene where there for instance is movement in the foliage.

We will in the following examine a scene shot under windy conditions and it will serve as an example of my workflow. We will further see in the example images that I should have boosted the iso a tad resulting in a faster shutter speed and hence better details notably in the foliage and branches.

The scene in question shot with the Pentax K-1 and Pentax 15-30:

(Tip: Just press “i” on the keyboard a couple of times to remove or add the camera info in the upper left corner)

Close crop upper right corner pixel shift exposure:

branches new crop ps

Since there was motion in the branches Lightroom adds this checkerboard pattern which would ruin a large print.

Same crop but no pixel shift:

branches new close not ps

As mentioned a too slow shutter speed leaves the foliage a bit blurry, but there is no checkerboard pattern.

But, why use Pixel Shift at all on a scene like this? The following two close crops explain why:

Pixel Shift:

cabin new ps


cabin wall new not ps

The Pixel Shift exposure is cleaner and yields better detail. This corner or part of the cabin has always been a problem area. My two former full frame cameras, the Canon 6D and the Sony a7r always added noise here. The 6D was worst of the two, but the Pentax K-1 beats both of them even without Pixel Shift activated.

After raw prepping and syncing the two exposures in Lightroom I load them into Photoshop:

The Pixel shift exposure is the base exposure (bottom layer) and after aligning the two images I add a black mask to the regular exposure on which I paint with white to mask in where Lightroom has added artefacts due its lacking support of Pixel Shift. The curves layer is clipped down to the regular image to better match the exposures. In this instance I pulled the curves down a tad to avoid haloing.

Upper right corner before masking:

upper right corner new ps

After masking:

upper right corner new not ps

The wind also caused some movement in the water. Before masking:

new crop tree green

Checkerboard pattern and green/cyan color fringing.

After masking:

new crop tree not green

It only took me a few mins in Photoshop to align, mask and adding that curves layer.

How the mask looks:

White shows where I have painted to reveal the regular exposure (white reveals – black conceals)

At last, let us have a look at a close crop of the foreground rocks:

Pixel Shift:

rocks close ps

Not Pixel Shift:

rocks close not ps

Details and sharpness are way better with Pixel Shift turned on. Note: Only basic raw sharpening in Lr is applied to both exposures.

Pixel Shift explained: https://pixls.us/articles/rawtherapee-and-pentax-pixel-shift/

14 Inspirational Photographers

These 14 photographers have inspired and influenced me in several ways during 2017. Not only is their work stellar but they are also persons who I perceive as honest, humble, generous, and not least, as persons with integrity. In other words, to me photography is not only an image – it is also the person behind the image. I have asked each artist to pick one of his/her favorite images from 2017. The photographers are listed in no particular order.

Herman van den Berge

Herman has developed a very unique style and he creates images that are creative, visual impactful and strong both in composition, light and color. He is one of many photographers who cannot travel extensively but have learned to take full advantage of what is close to his home. Herman continues every day to set the bar increasingly higher for himself.


Katherine Young

Whenever I lay my eyes on one of Katherine’s black and white images I cannot help but being awestruck by how she uses lines, light and shadows to create images with a strong visual impact and with a unique artistic feel. In the context of photography she plays a fiddle with far more strings than most.


Morten Eriksen

I had the pleasure meeting Morten this fall. Until then his work was unknown to me. It turns out that he has a terrific eye for composition, colors and light and, further, his eye for details truly makes his images stand out to me. He has grown tremendously as a photographer in 2017.


Dag Ole Nordhaug

Dag Ole is one of those who has this unique gift of letting the moment completely swallow him up so that he in a sense becomes one with the camera and the scenes he is capturing. That in combination with excellent editing skills and a brilliant eye for composition have produced a portfolio of which every professional can be envious.


Thrasivoulos Panou

Thrasivoulos is driven by a strong passion and also interest for learning and that in combination with an outstanding eye have produced images that are visually pleasing and which have this unique mood which I always fall for. This past year he has taken giant steps in terms of developing his photography and that has resulted in images in perfect balance in more than one way.


Miguel Angel Martin Campos

Whenever I see one of Miguel Angel’s landscapes I always wish I had his gift for colors and light – his immaculate and time consuming dodging and burning technique turns his images into artworks very pleasing to the eyes and with tons of visual interest….and incredible mood. He works as a wedding photographer and this image combines the best from his two worlds. The finest wedding image I have ever seen, btw.


Anthony Million

His often dark renderings of what he sees with his inner eye must be viewed on a dark background to fully appreciate the amazing level of detail in his images and how carefully he mold his images so that everything is in perfect harmony and balance. An artist true to himself and his personal visions. Anthony’s panorama deserves to be viewed on black here.


Peter Zajfrid

Peter is a dedicated and hard working artist who has this unique gift of taking the most mundane scene and turn into a piece of art. I often find myself admiring how he uses light, colors and shadows to lead the eyes and to give his images visual interest and visual impact.


Lorenzo Riva

Lorenzo sees what others may just walk past, and he takes a scene and presents it as close to reality as possible. But, yet his images are visually compelling with a unique feel and mood – and you know what you see is what you get if you ever visit a location he has portrayed.


Terrence J. Drysdale

Terrence not only creates stunning images but he also tells compelling stories using a variety a creative techniques. I have more than once uttered a quiet wow when I have viewed one of this works – notably the moods he creates are spellbinding.


Sarah Lyndsay Veerman

Sarah’s sense of colors and light is what almost every landscape photographer strive for. She has a fantastic eye for strong and captivating compositions and familiar scenes look new and fresh through her eyes. Her images come across as perfectly balanced pieces of landscape art.


Bjorn Baklien

I came across Bjorn’s artistry on Instagram last spring and was blown away by his interpretations of the landscapes he visits. Outstanding compositions and everything so well balanced in terms of colors and light – his images are truly a treat to the eyes.


Hans Gunnar Aslaksen

Not many can boast of the level of progress Hans Gunnar has displayed this past year. His images are now top shelf stuff in terms of landscape photography. Notably how he uses lines is amazing. And his use of colors and light always strikes a chord in me.


Noel Casaje

I have had many wow experiences this past year and Noel has been responsible for several of those. He has honed his craft to perfection and how he creates visual interest, depth and visual impact across a scene using colors and light is absolutely amazing.

All of the featured photographers have accounts on 500px or IG – or both platforms.

The great majority of those listed aren’t professionals. They have demanding full time jobs but yet they produce beautiful and visually compelling images. Most of them cannot travel extensively – instead they have become very skilful at using whatever they have close to home, and that certainly demands respect. Some of the featured photographers have the opportunity to travel more and they return home with terrific images from locations that are new to them – and that truly is also a talent well worth lauding.

New Tutorial II

Editing a sunrise scene from Romsdalen, Norway. Download link ($45).

New Tutorial II

A start to finish tutorial which shows how a sunrise image from Vengedalen, Romsdalen, Norway, is edited in Lightroom and Photoshop. The tutorial covers raw preps in Lightroom including camera calibration color work, we work with smart objects in Photoshop, create various masks, use Blend-If extensively, do a focal length blend, add mood, dodging and burning etc etc. As usual do I go straight to the point and cover as much ground as possible in 55 mins.

New Tutorial

New tutorial (only $25)

90 secs of Tyrifjorden III

Editing a longexposure from start to finish in Lightroom and Photoshop. Many various techniques (smart objects, blend-if, dodging and burning, Color Efex Pro, adding mood, target midtones using blend-if, masking etc etc) are demonstrated throughout the tutorial and the image is edited without the use of luminosity masks. As usual do I go straight to the point and cover as much ground as possible in 41 mins.

“It is great and so detailed. I think that is a very useful “tool” for someone who wants to go further with post processing” (Thrasivoulos Panou)

Review Nisi S5 150mm Filter Holder with Cpl

I have to admit I was thrilled when Nisi announced the S5 filter holder for ultra wide angle (uwa) lenses which cannot take regular filters (the 100mm system). Finally we now have a comprehensive 150mm filter system for lenses like the Pentax 15-30, the Tamron 15-30, the Nikkor 14-24 and other uwa lenses with a front element which excludes the use of a 100mm filter system.


The genius of the S5 filter system is that the polarizer is placed behind the filter stack and that it rotates independently of the square filters inserted into the filter holder. The S5 holder comes with two slots for filters so that one for instance can use a 10 or 6 stop filter with a filter that balances (darkens) the sky.

I am shooting the Pentax K-1 which comes with a stupendous live-view system which basically means that when rotating the cpl (circular polarizer) I can see how its various positions affect a scene even with a 10 stop filter mounted in front of the lens.

I am one of those who prefer to compose a scene through the viewfinder and not with the camera set to live-view mode. With a 10 stop filter in front of the lens that is more or less impossible. However, when I mount the S5 system to the lens (Pentax 15-30) all I have to do is turning a ring and, voila, the holder is secured to the lens, and this only takes a few seconds. A brilliant solution because it takes only a few seconds to remove the filter holder and fasten it again. In other words, I don’t have to remove the 10 stop filter in order to re-compose a scene – I just remove the filter holder itself with a minimum of loss of time.

Nisi s5 3.jpg

A pano from three verticals shot with the S5 + cpl + Nisi 0.9 soft. Edited in Lr and Ps.

That a filter system is easy to use is vital when one is shooting sunrises or sunsets when time is limited and the stress factor at times is very high. In this department I can nothing but give the S5 filter holder system top score. Also worth mentioning is that when turning the wheel which controls the polarizer the transmission is very direct so that the cpl rotates without delay in its circular holder. See link at the bottom for my S5 demonstration video.

Next we have to investigate how well the cpl performs, whether the system produces vignetting or not and the overall image quality, that is, how does the system affect colors, details etc – all these factors are of great importance when out in the field shooting what may be a one-in-a-lifetime experience in terms of light and conditions. Last thing we want is to see our images ruined by a filter system with a lousy performance. All prior experiences with Nisi is that none of the above so far has been a concern, but let us have a look at some example images having in mind that the images are subject to jpg compression and WordPress’ not very good image quality algorithm.

The first two example images are only gently edited in Lightroom. The first image is shot without any filters:

Nisi s5 4.jpg

Whereas the second image is 120 secs and shot with the S5 + cpl + Nisi 10 stop + Nisi 0.9 soft.

Nisi s5 5.jpg

We would perhaps have expected vignetting in the image shot with filters but there is none. Furthermore, there is no loss of detail compared to the filter-less image – and the highlights are not clipped.

The following image is a 90 secs LE with the S5 + cpl + Nisi 10 stop. The polarizer was set in such a way that it enhanced contrasts in the sky and water reflections.

Nisi s5 ny version.jpg

And this is a very close crop from the image above. Details look very well preserved in both Lightroom and Photoshop – due to image compression the details are a tad washed out here:

Nisi s5 2 le.jpg


Again we will have a look at a LE image (100 secs) shot with the S5 system plus the Nisi 10 stop filter. I readily admit that my fondness of LEs is re-awakened after I got the S5 system. The cpl was adjusted so that it added contrast to the sky and brought out the reflections in the water. While working with the image in Lr and Ps I could detect no vignetting, color cast or loss of detail. There was, though, a very modest magenta cast on my foreground rocks, but I am not sure if that is due to the filters or me not finding the correct white balance when raw prepping the image in Lightroom.

Nisi s5 ny.jpg

Nisi S5 + cpl + Nisi 10 stop -100 secs – f11 – iso 100 – 15mm

As far as I can tell the polarizer does its job perfectly in those situations I have put it to test.

There is a slight possibility that when turning the wheels which control the polarizer in such a way that the polarizer is turned in the same direction as we would go about unscrewing it from its holder that the cpl might loosen so please check the cpl itself frequently that it is well tightened at all times.

Nisi S5 square filter holder system: http://en.nisifilters.com/s5-150mm-square-filter-holder

My S5 filter holder demonstration video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQktM3puMyM

Nisi official S5 demo: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2fDvvovYn8DUW95TlQ4T0t4Zmc/view


Nisi S5 + cpl + Nisi 10 stop – 40 secs – iso 100 – f11 – 15mm

Review Nisi Medium GND Filter

This spring Nisi Filters announced its Medium GND filter. Simply put, it is a metamorphosis of a hard edge and soft graduated filter. A hard edge filter is most convenient when one is shooting an ocean scene with a very defined horizon line, whereas a soft grad will be most useful in an environment with a more messy horizon – like for instance when we have trees or a forest protruding into the sky.

All the aforementioned filters main objective is to balance an exposure notably during sunset or sunrise when we have a relatively bright sky whereas the ground in comparison is considerably darker. In other words, a filter aims to cancel out or alleviate the limitations of a camera sensor in terms of dynamic range.

The new medium filter in many ways replaces both the hard and soft grad since it can be used for both ocean and rural scenes. Note that the medium filter has a much shorter transition zone than a regular soft grad filter which transition goes from the middle and becomes linearly darker towards one of the edges.

The medium filter has several advantages: It is far easier to “find” the transition line in an ocean scene. In other words, one do not have to be super careful with matching the lines as with a hard edge filter. Further, a sky isn’t linearly brightened towards the top of the camera frame so that a regular soft grad filter is a tad counter-intuitive in regards to the conditions we face out in the the field. This means that the medium filter in most instances will do a better job in balancing a sky than a regular soft filter.


The top left shows a traditional graduated soft filter and we see how the transition zone from transparent to dark stretches across the filter’s top half as opposed to the Medium filter (top right) which only have a modest transition zone in the middle.


In the example image above the medium filter did a great job in balancing the strong light in the sky, that is, light rays from the sun which itself was obscured by clouds. Yet, I had no problems with bringing out sufficient shadow detail in whatever was protruding into the sky and thus covered by the filter. The image is edited in Lightroom and Photoshop.

As with all Nisi filters the optical quality is very good. There is no loss of detail, no color cast, no vignetting and so on. And the filter comes with all the coatings with which Nisi furnishes its filters.

Personally I prefer to insert filters into the filter holder when the camera is in live-view mode. That makes it much easier for me to assess the effect the filter has on a scene and how far down I have to push the filter to achieve the desired effect.

We will now have a look at three sample images; one without filter, one with the medium filter and one with a regular soft grad. Both the medium and soft grad are 3 stops. The images are shot during daytime with the sun behind me so that we do not exactly have a high contrast scene, but the three exposures are not subject to rapidly changing light conditions which often is the case during sunset or sunrise. All images are straight out of camera (sooc). The camera was set to average metering and all three are shot at what the camera suggested as zero, that is, no exposure compensation in either direction. Along with the sample images I also provide the sooc histogram.

The first image is shot without any filters:

Nisi med u filter.jpg


Nisi med uten filter.PNG

The Next image is shot with the Medium filter:

Nisi med med.jpg


Nisi med med.PNG

The last image in the series is shot with the 0.9 graduated soft and the filter was pushed almost all the way down in the filter holder:

Nisi med soft.jpg


Nisi med soft.PNG

Conclusion: It should be self-evident from the images and histograms that the Medium filter does an outstanding job in protecting a ton of highlight detail which one can play with in the post process work. One can also read from the sample images that the Medium filter protects the highlights better and provide a more balanced histogram than the 0.9 soft grad filter.

Disclaimer: This is by no means a scientific test which checks all the boxes as we expect a well carried out scientific test to do, but the sample images shot under relatively equal conditions should provide a good indication on what we can expect from the Nisi Medium filter.

Pixel Shift & RawTherapee 5.1

The major downside with Pentax’ Pixel Shift technology has been issues and artifacts produced when we have a scene with motion. Even when Motion Correction is activated in camera these unwanted effects occur. However, the people involved in the Open Source project RawTherapee, which is an advanced raw converter, have now come up with a solution in version 5.1 of the program.

We will in the following have a close look at several images shot with the Pentax K-1 set to Pixel Shift and compare how RawTherapee and Lightroom handle the files. I do not have access to other raw converters. We will also show how the Pixel Shift functionality is activated in RawTherapee.

The first image is a waterfall image shot by Chris Williams – the image is used with permission. The Gorge is located along the Columbia River just outside of Portland Oregon. A waterfall, depending on its size and power, will always cause some movement in the foliage closest to it.

The image is raw prepped in RawTherapee and edited in Photoshop. A fantastic shot by Chris – well balanced with a great comp and sharpness all across.

waterfall pixel shift.jpg

First we will check out how Lightroom handles the motion in the foliage and water:

Lr pixel shift.PNG

And this is how RawTherapee translates the file:

RT pixel shift.PNG

The difference is striking – I don’t think any further comments are necessary; the images speak for themselves. Kudos to the developers at RawTherapee!

There was almost no wind when I shot the following image an afternoon in January. The image is edited in RawTherapee 5.1.

Cabin pixel shift.jpg

Even though it was very quiet there was some movement in the foliage. As seen in the following close crop (4:1) Lightroom introduces this weird checkerboard pattern:

Lr pixel shift cabin.PNG

RawTherapee yields a much cleaner result, but some minor color fringing remains around the branches.

RT RT pixel shift cabin.PNG

A faster shutter speed would have preserved more details in the branches – solely my mistake. It is not unlikely that less blurry edges would have made things easier for the motion correction algorithm like seen in the waterfall example where well defined edges resulted in a perfect outcome with no color fringing.

The final example image has some light wave action going on (ripples). The scene is shot both with and without Pixel Shift. With Pixel Shift activated I shot one image with Motion Correction off and one with MC turned on.

The scene:

The scene

Lightroom – MC off (crop is 2:1):

Lr MC off.PNG

Lightroom – MC on:

Lr MC on.PNG

It seems to me that Lightroom handles the files in the same manner. In addition to these color shifts there are also weird patterns in the water.

Pattern (crop 3:1):


RawTherapee – MC off


RawTherapee – MC on:


Whether Motion Correction is turned on or off RawTherapee produces an almost identical outstanding output for the two raw files. For both files edited in RawTherapee I set False Color Suppression Steps to 5. That seemed to give the best result.

And finally a close up of the non Pixel Shift image (Lightroom):

Not PixelS.PNG

This final crop shows without a shadow of doubt what a terrific job RawTherapee does with Pixel Shift images.

After this post was published I have learned that shooting all these exposures for the last example most likely was a bit redundant. It seems that I would have managed with one exposure set to Pixel Shift and MC on. MC and PS could then be turned off for the rest of the examples. Have of yet found out how this can be done…whether it is done in camera or in software.

How to turn on the Pixel Shift functionality in RawTherapee: Open the Raw tab (shortcut: Alt-r) when in the Develop/Editor module. Then under Demosaicing set Method to Pixel Shift:

Raw demosaicing.PNG

As of yet I have almost exclusively used Automatic to render the Pixel Shift images, and as seen in the example images the algorithm does an outstanding job when it comes to motion correction. The software also offers a Custom option which I played around with in order to see if I could get rid of or reduce the color fringing in the example image from the cabin scene.

I cannot see that RawTherapee’s motion correction algorithm in any way reduces the benefits of Pixel Shift which among other things is a tremendous boost of dynamic range.

RawTherapee 5.1 can be downloaded here and RawPedia is crucial for understanding how to use the software. I only have a few hours of experience with RawTherapee so currently I do not have the full overview of everything the program offers. Some claim RawTherapee has a steep learning curve, but my experience is that reading the instructions made available in RawPedia while playing around with the various sliders do wonders for learning how to use the software. It is of course possible to export the motion corrected image as an uncompressed tiff file and continue the editing in a software with which one is familiar.

Disclaimer: The scope of this article is not to provide an exhaustive array of examples on Pentax Pixel Shift images edited in RawThereapee, and it is by no means a scientific article, but hopefully it can give the reader an idea about what is now possible to achieve in regards to motion correction with Pentax cameras set to Pixel Shift.

Under the Stars

Ever since I got my first camera I have wanted to shoot the night sky and notably the milky way. This desire awakened in me after seeing many amazing images which in various ways portrayed the part of the milky way which stands out from the rest of the MW – the density of stars, gasses etc are much higher along this “band”. I believed I had to travel to the southern parts of Europe in order to shoot the milky way. Great was my joy when I one late August evening soon two years ago discovered it right over my head.

Moonlight Shadows.jpg

A setting moon casts a golden glow across a very still lake. This is a pano from four horizontals. I panned my camera upwards in order to capture as much of the sky as possible.

Where I live approx 60 km north of Oslo, Norway, the MW is very visible from around the middle of August until early winter. In August around 11 pm it is positioned along the south/north axis before it slowly turns westwards. I always shoot the MW towards the south or west as it is most distinct in those directions.

Our days are not exactly 24 hours – they are actually 4 mins short of being 24 hours. In other words, if the MW is seen towards the south around eleven in the evening in the end of August it will be seen towards the south 60 days x 4 mins = 240 mins (4 hours) earlier two months later.

I always carry the following equipment when doing night photography: Headlamp plus spare batteries and a regular torch, a cloth to wipe off damp from the lens if necessary, tripod, spare camera battery, camera and a fast wide angle lens. What is a fast lens? Lenses that are designed to offer apertures of f2.8 or lower are usually considered fast lenses or fast apertures. If you would like to learn more about aperture make a Google search and you’ll find plenty of resources.

Since full frame cameras or medium format cameras have larger sensor surfaces than crop cameras they will collect more light and hence yield a better result. A crop camera or aps-c camera will also produce more noise with less details at the same iso settings as a full frame camera. However, none of this should deter anyone with a crop camera from going out and enjoy the magic. And with the rapid advances in sensor technology we have seen the past years these differences between sensor sizes are not so pronounced as they used to be. You can read more about FF vs crop here.


A composite image – the waterfall and the MW are shot at different times and then blended in Photoshop.

But, how on earth do I compose my images when it is utterly dark? First of all, I drive to locations with very little or no light pollution so that the MW stands out clearly in the night sky. With some practice it is easy to locate. Next I push up the iso to max and shoot exposures at only a few secs to nail the comp. When I am happy with my composition I set the camera to around 25/30 secs. Longer exposure times than this will produce star trailing since the earth and the stars move relatively to each other. And I shoot with my lens wide open. For my lenses it means f2.8. In daylight I have tested where infinity is on my lenses so that I know where to set the focus ring. Auto focusing in the dark is not an option. The lens or camera (Pentax) has to be set to manual focusing. The next step is setting the iso. I try various iso settings until I have something that gives me a relatively even histogram. It is vital for me to check the histogram after each shot.

A decent straight out of camera histogram:

Decent histogram.PNG

But what if it is impossible to achieve a relatively even histogram? The histogram shows no clipping of the highlights but on the left side there is huge bump which starts as a straight line – no nice curving at all at that end. If you know your way around photoshop and know how to blend exposures you shoot one extra exposure for the shadows at for instance two minutes. If you want even more shadow detail you can for example set the aperture to f4 and reduce the iso and perhaps shoot a four minute long exposure for the shadows.

Trying to overly push the shadows in post when having shot at a high iso usually never yields a good result (see my end notes). There are magenta color casts all over the place and excessive noise. I am not very fond of images where the shadows only are a black ocean of nothingness, in other words, silhouettes. So for me it is vital to produce night images which offer a decent level of shadow detail. The Pentax K-1 comes with a timer in Bulb mode so making long exposures is a breeze. With my former cameras I always had to keep track of the time myself and that was an added stress factor for one who now and then is plagued with fear of the dark.

In my beginning days of shooting the MW I found that shooting it wasn’t particularly difficult. The tricky part was finding out how to edit these night shots. I spent numerous hours in front of the computer trying to find ways to make the MW stand out, to give it pop, contrast and so on. All my efforts have resulted in this tutorial.

Image straight out of camera:

Under the stars sooc.jpg

The finished image:

Under the stars finished image.jpg

The image is from the middle of Sept 2015 and the MW had turned quite a bit towards west.

Stellarium is a free program which can be downloaded to your desktop, and it shows the whereabouts of the MW at any given day and time of the day.

Turning on and off the headlamp all the time doesn’t exactly help our night vision so knowing where all the vital buttons on the camera are is a relatively good idea. And if you are shooting with others the light must be turned off save times when no one is shooting. Ruining others’ images because we haven’t done our homework isn’t very nice, to put it like that.

I have arrived at that shooting a pano of the MW this far north is a tad pointless. Firstly, one third of the MW is hidden from view. However, that part is visible for those living further south on this globe. Secondly, up here the MW is very “high” in the sky whereas for the southerners it is hanging much lower, something which of course simplifies things in regards to shooting panos. When that is said, it is of course possible to make panos like this:

Under the stars pano.jpg

End of sept 2016. Five 15mm verticals handblended in Photoshop. We had some aurora that evening as seen to the far right (north).

Shooting at a high iso is detrimental to the image quality. Both luminance and color noise are introduced liberally to our dear efforts at night photography. Lightroom offers a good raw noise reduction algorithm. The problem is that noise reduction softens the image and details become blurred so it is always a balancing act between noise and detail when we edit our night images.

There are of course a few workarounds. We can shoot our shadow exposure before it becomes too dark at a narrower aperture and much lower iso. Then we wait until it is sufficiently dark to shoot our sky exposure. But, if the luminosity values are too wide between the two exposures the blending can turn out to be a very painful affair. What I mean is that the shadow exposure will have highlights that are way too bright and we face fringing and weird artifacts along our blending lines. In other words, not a bad idea to have a third exposure that bridges the gap.

Shooting verticals can be a great way of capturing a larger portion of the MW:


A second method of increasing the quality is using star tracking devices. They make it possible for the camera to follow the motion of the stars so that we can shoot much longer exposures than 25 secs for the sky and hence reduce the iso considerably. As mentioned in my Astro Tracer blog post the camera sensor is linear whereas a wide angle lens creates a curvature so that we may get star trailing in the corners (when shooting wide angle). The Pentax K-1 is equipped with an in-camera star tracker which enables the sensor to follow the motion of the stars.

The greatest enemies of night photography are clouds and the moon. Even a half moon washes out the milky way so that it becomes more or less impossible to shoot. So keep an eye on the moon phases.

I have of yet not tried focus stacking in the dark since that is a pretty time consuming affair. Instead I make sure that my tripod is fully extended so that I can achieve infinite focus (hyperfocal distance) from around 2,5/3 meters (distance from my camera/lens) when shooting f2.8 and 15mm. An object around 3 meters from my camera should then be in focus. There are several hyperfocal distance apps that can be downloaded to our cell phones. I haven’t tried any of these.

I always shoot auto white balance at night and adjust the WB in post. When it is iso 1600-3200 dark the sky is very blue and beautiful in my raw files, but as it becomes increasingly darker colors become washed out and the raws often get this yellow tint. To put it like this; things aren’t exactly static when doing night photography and that is one of the reasons why I prefer auto white balance.

Some end notes:

Some claim they getter a better result if they expose to the right. In other words, they boost the iso so that the histogram is pushed to the right. More light to the sensor they claim yields a cleaner image. Then we have this thing called iso variance. A camera with great iso variance can achieve better results at a lower iso setting than what the histogram suggests we should use. This means that we increase the exposure in post but yet achieve a very good end result.

For example if I get a balanced histogram at iso 6400 I opt to shoot iso 1600 and then push the exposure two stops in post. If the camera has good iso variance I will in many ways achieve a better result than shooting iso 6400. Notice that doubling the iso is the equivalent of one stop of light. Since a camera’s dynamic range suffers dramatically at high iso levels we will also achieve a better dynamic range at lower iso settings, and we preserve our highlights. Anyway, we have to experience on our own to find what works best with the gear we have.

From dpreview: “The K-1 is as close to being ISO Invariant as we’ve seen, meaning there’s no cost to shooting at ISO 100 and pushing the files later, rather than using a higher ISO. This means you can keep the ISO down and protect multiple stops worth of highlight information that would otherwise be pushed to clipping by the hardware amplification.”

The following image is pushed two stops in post. Exifs: Pentax K-1, Pentax 15-30, iso 3200, f2.8, 15mm, 30 secs.

Under the stars pushed.jpg

We will end this blog post with my very first MW shot ever – I haven’t bothered editing this particular image:

Under the stars first ever.jpg

Color Enhancement in Lightroom

An image pleasing to the eyes is a combination of many factors of which colors in my opinion are a major piece of the expression. Lightroom, Photoshop and many other editing programs come with many color enhancing tools. We will in this brief article have a look at two color enhancing techniques I apply frequently and which can be carried out very swiftly in Lightroom. Contrary to the HSL section in Lightroom these enhancements won’t leave any harsh transition lines between colors. The transitions are smooth and pleasing.

My favorite time to shoot is during the golden hour, that is, sunsets or sunrises. Sunrises are in the middle of the night this far north during summer, and since I am not a morning person I prefer sunsets during that season. The approaches we are to have a closer look at are perfect for golden hour images.

The image we will be working with (shot with a Nisi cpl):


Below the HSL section in Lightroom we find the Split Toning section which is divided into two separate parts, Highlights and Shadows, which target different tonal values in an image.

After having adjusted the tonal values in Lightroom so that I have no clipping in either end of the histogram I open up the Highlights’ color picker in the Split Toning section. Click on the rectangular box and a new pop up window appears in which you can move a color picker around choosing whichever color you please. Here I will pick a warm color that accentuates and enhances the warm colors already present in the image. Be careful to not overdo it – clipped colors or over-saturated colors aren’t exactly very pleasing to the eye.


Next I head over to Shadows and do the same as over save that I now will pick a cold color for the shadows, usually something bluish. Here I just add a very modest tint of the color of my liking, and I try to find colors in both sections that work together, that is, which are as complementary as possible.


Very often what we do in the Highlights section will wash out the beautiful blues we have in the highlights, that is, in the sky or water. And usually we do want to restore our blues and not leave them too faded or warm looking.

This is easily achieved in the Camera Calibration section in Lightroom where we find four various sliders. I am only interested in the one at the bottom – the slider named Blue Primary. Push it to the right and see what happens.


Not only does it give the image a pop, it adds contrast, enhances colors and restores the blues in the highlights. Again, try to avoid overdoing it. Now and then our highlights might become clipped when we have pushed the blue slider to the right which means we have to readjust the tonal values in the image with the help of the Highlights, Whites or Lights sliders in the tonal value sections in Lightroom.

It is at this point I may turn my attention to the HSL section in Lightroom and make small adjustments to hue, saturation and luminance – very gingerly to avoid transition lines – I usually zoom into the image after making adjustments in the HSL section to see if I have produced unwanted “artifacts”. Usually I also push the Vibrance slider a tad to the right.

I do a lot of midtones work in Photoshop and use various masks to target specific tonal values or colors which always result in a color boost so that my personal preference is to hold back on the above mentioned adjustments in Lightroom.