February 2015 Night Photography Events Calendar

Each month I post a monthly night photography events calendar on the first day of the month. Events listed on this calendar are suitable for wide-field and moderate-telephoto astrophotography, as well as for general night photography. Unless otherwise stated, all events occur in the United States at mid-latitudes. Most of the events also occur at other locations, although some of them may require correction for latitude and longitude.

The position of the Moon relative to the planets and stars changes throughout the night. Generally, when a position is given, it is for the period about 45 minutes after sunset or 45 minutes before sunrise. Do not confuse the times of the Moon phases for the times of Moonrise and Moonset. Consult local charts for rise and set times.

Compared to most months, February offers little in the way of specific nighttime photo events, celestial or otherwise. The zodiacal light is a notable exception, visible this year on February 6-20.

I should also mention Valentine’s Day. While there usually isn’t anything going on with the holiday that would interest a night photographer, it does offer the perfect opportunity to play with light painting. Get outside with your significant other and have some fun painting hearts and Cupids and arrows with a red-gelled flashlight

For general night shooting, February is January’s twin, hence much of the info below is a duplicate of last month’s calendar. This is a good month for photographing skylines and some types of cityscapes. It’s cold and it gets dark early, so more people will be inside with the lights on early in the evening. Distant city views usually have less smog than in summer months. Street scenes can work well, since there are fewer people on the sidewalks who might interfere with the composition. Of course, this is not a good time to shoot outdoor café scenes, or any type of cityscape where you wish to include people.

Also, the long nights of February are perfect for shooting night-sky scenes. At mid-latitudes, you have more than 10 hours of total darkness all month long. Digital camera sensors create far less noise in cold temperatures than they do when it’s warm, so February’s weather is an asset in that regard.

Winter trees make good night subjects, either as the main component of the composition or as a foreground to a night-sky scene. The lack of foliage makes it less of a problem for shooting on windy nights and the graphic lines of the bare trunks and limbs work beautifully for light painting.

The best time to shoot landscapes illuminated by the light of the Moon is when there is snow on the ground. The snow reflects much of the light and helps evenly illuminate the scene. It’s even better if you can catch it with the snow clinging to the trees.

Winter is an ideal time to photograph abandoned commercial sites and any type of decaying structure. You’re not likely to encounter any snakes or bees and the lack of foliage reveals sights that are hidden in summer. If you’re one of those who likes to sneak into places, you’re less likely to get caught in the middle of a winter night than any other time.

The winter Milky Way is far less brilliant than in summer, so this is not a good time to shoot those grand wide-angle night sky scenes that show the Milky Way arching across the sky. However, February features the sky’s most prominent constellation, Orion. Although not as commanding as the summer Milky Way, Orion works well as a strong compositional element.

If you sign up for my free Night Photography News eNewsletter, you’ll receive each calendar two weeks early, on the 15th of the preceeding month. This will give you more time to plan your night shooting.

All month Orion, the night sky’s brightest and most prominent constellation, is fairly high in the southeastern sky after sunset. it sets around 2am during the first of the month and around midnight by the end of the month. It makes a great complement to a wide-angle night-sky image, as well as being a terrific principal subject.
All month Brilliant Venus (mag -3.9) shines low on the horizon in the dusk sky, looking West-Southwest. It sets soon after sunset.
All month Rusty-colored Mars shines close to Venus in the dusk sky, looking West-Southwest. At the first of the month, it shines to the upper left of Venus and at the end of the month it lies to the lower right. At mag +1.2 it is far dimmer than Venus, but will show up well in photos. It sets a few hours after sunset.
All month At the first of the month, Saturn rises around 3am in the East-Southeast and stands about 30° high in the South-Southeast at dawn twilight. At the end of the month, the ringed planet rises around 1am and is about 35° high in the South at dawn.
All month Jupiter is visible nearly all night long. At the first of the month, it rises in the East-Northeast around sunset and sets around sunset in the West-Northwest. At the end of the month, it is about 30°  high in the eastern sky at sunset and sets a couple hours before sunrise in West-Northwest. Shining at about mag -2.6, only Venus and the Moon are brighter.
Last 3 weeks Mercury shines very low on the horizon in the dawn sky, looking East-Southeast. It shines at a respectable 0.0, but will be hard to spot in the twilight.
3 Full Moon at 6:09pm. Don’t forget, in addition to including the full Moon as a complement to a landscape or urban scene, you can use the light from the full (or nearly full) Moon to illuminate your scene.
4 The nearly full Moon and Jupiter shine close together all night long.
6 – 20 The zodiacal light is visible in the west after sunset from dark locations. See this blog post for more information.
11 Third quarter Moon at 10:50pm.
14 The  crescent Moon shines in the south-southeastern dawn sky. Look for Saturn to the upper right of the Moon.
15 The  crescent Moon shines in the southeastern dawn sky.
16 A  thin crescent Moon shines low on the horizon in the dawn sky, looking Southeast. Mercury lies to lower left of the Moon.
17 A sliver thin crescent Moon shines very low on the horizon in the dawn sky, looking East-Southeast. Look for Mercury to the right of the Moon.
18 New Moon at 6:47pm. Don’t forget, the best time to shoot the stars (as either pinpoints or star trails) is when there is no light pollution from the Moon.
20 A very thin crescent Moon shines very close to Venus and Mars in the dusk sky, looking West.
20 – 23 Venus and Mars lie only about 1° apart. Look for them low in the dusk sky, to the West.
21 A  thin crescent Moon shines above Venus and Mars in the dusk sky, looking West.
22 The crescent Moon shines high above Venus and Mars in the dusk sky, looking West.
25 First quarter Moon at 12:14pm.
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