January 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.

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 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 in to places, you’re less likely to get caught in the middle of a January night than any other time. (Personally, I would NEVER sneak to get a photo, but I thought I’d mention it for those of you who do.)

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 most prominent constellation, shines nearly all night long. At the beginning of the month, it rises around sunset in the East and sets a couple hours before sunrise in the West. At the end of the month, it has already risen at sunset and sets around mid-morning. The constellation 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 to the upper left of Venus in the dusk sky, looking West-Southwest. At mag +1.1 it is far dimmer than Venus, but will show up well in photos. It sets about 3 hours after sunset.
All month Jupiter rises in the East-Northeast around 8:30pm at the first of the month and shortly after sunset by month’s end. At the first of the month, it is about 35° high in the western sky at dawn and by the end of the month, it is low on the western horizon at dawn. Shining at about mag -2.5, only Venus and the Moon are brighter.
All month At the first of the month, Saturn rises about 3 hours before sunrise in the East-Southeast and is about 20° high in the southeastern sky during dawn twilight. At the end of the month, it rises around 3am and stands about 35° high in the South-Southeast at dawn. At mag +0.5, it is brighter than Mars, but far dimmer than Venus and Jupiter.
1st half Mercury shines very close to Venus in the dusk sky, looking West-Southwest. It fades from mag -0.8 at the first of the month, to about mag -0.4 by mid-month—far dimmer than Venus, but still easily visible to the naked eye. In the 2nd half of the month Mercury sinks lower on the horizon and is lost in the sun’s glare.
3 – 4 The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks. The shower is usually very strong, producing an average of 2 meteors every minute under ideal viewing conditions. Unfortunately, this year the shower occurs during a full Moon, so most of the meteors will be drowned out. The Moon sets about an hour before sunrise on the 4th, so the best viewing will be about 2 hours before sunrise, when the Moon is low on the western horizon.
4 Full Moon at 11:54pm. 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.
13 Third quarter Moon at 4:47am.
15 The  crescent Moon shines to the upper right of Saturn in the south-southeastern dawn sky.
16 The  crescent Moon shines extremely close to Saturn in the south-southeastern dawn sky.
17 A  thin crescent Moon shines low on the horizon in the dawn sky, looking Southeast. Saturn lies to the upper right of the Moon.
18 A sliver thin crescent Moon shines very low on the horizon in the dawn sky, looking Southeast.
20 New Moon at 8:14am. 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.
21 A sliver thin crescent Moon shines very low on the horizon in the dusk sky, looking West-Southwest. Venus lies very close to the left of Moon. Mercury, which may not be visible, lies below the Moon.
22 A very thin crescent Moon shines directly above Venus in the dusk sky, looking West-Southwest. Mars is very close to the Moon, on its upper left.
23 The crescent Moon shines above Venus and Mars in the dusk sky, looking West-Southwest.
24 The crescent Moon shines high above Venus and Mars in the dusk sky, looking West-Southwest.
26 First quarter Moon at 11:49pm.
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