Nightly Night Photo – Starry Lighthouse

You might recognize this lighthouse from yesterday’s post. Obviously, I shot it on a clear night this time. This is a film shot that I took some 20 years ago.

Modern digital cameras have opened up an incredible world of possibilities for night photographers that I couldn’t have dreamed about when I took this photo, but shooting star trails was always something you could do with film.

The process was simple. Mount camera on tripod, use a slow-speed film, like ISO 50 or 100 (um, excuse me, I meant ASA 50), shoot the aperture wide open, use a locking cable release to hold the shutter open on bulb. You fired the shutter, walked away, and came back an hour, or four hours later and closed the shutter.

Night photo of lighthouse on the Outer Banks

Bodie Island Lighthouse and star trails. Nikon Nikkormat, Nikon 24mm lens, Kodachrome 64 film, 4-hour exposure.

It’s really not a lot different today, except for one BIG variable. You had to do a lot of guessing about the overall exposure. At a very dark site, you could leave the shutter open all night without any problems, but if there was any light pollution to affect the exposure, you had to make a big fat guess as to how long to keep the shutter open.

I often would set up four cameras at a time to shoot star trails, each with a different focal-length lens, some with different films, and with trying out different exposure times. Sometimes I’d even get a shot that looked pretty good.

Of course, I didn’t know it until two weeks later when I got the film back from the lab!

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