January 2013 Night Photography Events Calendar

Each month I post a monthly night photography events calendar on the first day of the month. Events listed on the calendar are suitable for wide-field and moderate-telephoto astrophotography, as well as for general night photography. The calendar does not include events or subjects that are more suited to telescopes or extreme telephoto lenses. 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.

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.

January is a night-photographer’s month, with half of the day in either twilight or total darkness. Yes, it’s cold, but no self-respecting night photographer is going to let that stop them. Bundle up and make some great photos!

January 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.

The long nights of January 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 January’s weather is an asset in that regard.

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, January features the sky’s brightest and most prominent constellation, Orion. Although not as commanding as the summer Milky Way, Orion works well as a strong compositional element.

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 to 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 January night than any other time. (Personally, I would NEVER, ahem, sneak to get a photo, but I thought I’d mention it for those of you who do.)

Times are Eastern Standard Time (UTC-5)

All month Orion shines nearly all night long. At the beginning of the month, it rises around sunset and sets a couple hours before sunrise. At the end of the month, it has already risen at sunset and sets around mid-morning.
All month Jupiter is the brightest object in night the sky except for the moon and Venus. At the beginning of the month, the planet sits low in the eastern sky at sunset and sets in the west a couple hours before sunrise. At month’s end, it is fairly high in the sky at sunset and sets around mid-morning. It will make a nice complement to dusk landscape scenes, as well as a brilliant component of tighter night-sky scenes.
All month Venus is the “Morning Star,” rising before sunrise and shining low in the dawn twilight sky. At the first of the month, the planet rises in the southeast around the start of morning twilight and it makes a great complement to a landscape scene. By the end of the month, it rises close to sunrise and quickly fades in the morning light.
3 The Quadrantid meteor shower occurs this morning. The shower is usually very strong, producing an average of 2 meteors every minute. Peak time is around 8am, which is after the sun has risen, so the best time for viewers in the eastern U.S. will be just before morning twilight. Viewers in the western states will catch most of the peak period. Unfortunately, light from a waning gibbous moon will drown out many of the meteors. Only the brightest ones will show through.
4 Third quarter moon at 10:58pm.
8 The crescent moon shines to the upper right of Venus in the dawn twilight sky. Look southeast.
9 The thin crescent moon lies close to the upper right of Venus in the dawn twilight sky. Look southeast.
10 A very thin crescent moon lies very close to Venus, low on the horizon in the dawn twilight sky. Look southeast.
11 New moon at 2:44pm.  Don’t forget, the best time to shoot the stars (either as pinpoints or star trails) is when there is no light pollution from the moon.
12 A very thin crescent moon lies low on the horizon in the dusk twilight sky. Look southwest.
13 The thin crescent moon shines fairly low in the dusk twilight sky. Look southwest.
14 The crescent moon is in the southwestern sky at dusk.
18 First quarter moon at 6:45pm.
21 Jupiter lies extremely close to the waxing gibbous moon, making for a stunning sight. The Pleiades star cluster lies to the upper right, while Orion is farther away on the lower left of the moon. Jupiter is closest to the moon around 10pm, but it will be a good sight at any time this evening.
26 Full moon at 11:39pm.  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.
29 – 31 The Zodiacal light is visible in the western sky after evening twilight ends. It will remain visible for about 2 weeks, until moonlight interferes.
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