One of my award-winning star photographs I took back in April of the Milkyway reflecting light onto a small dam. The temperature was close to 0 if not below and the water was creating fog which was rising from the dam and slowly drifting away. 

For me star photography or 'starscapes' are captivating and breathtaking. They allow the viewer to see a whole different world up in the night sky. Starscapes are not the easiest type of photography, they are actually one of the hardest. The majority of the time is spent planning and researching star locations, constellations, weather, events and physical locations in which to take the photos. Once all of this has been determined, I often spend hours, usually at least 2, out in the pitch black night changing camera settings, positions, lighting set-ups and many other aspects to capture that "WOW!" photo. It doesn't even end there. After all of that work you would think I'm done, well actually I'm not, I'm only about 60% done. The rest of the time is spent in the post processing stage of photography.

Milkyway reflection on a dam at a property I was staying at. 

Now the debate still goes on about whether using Photoshop, Lightroom or whatever image editing software is true photography or is the photographer "cheating". This statement, I could write pages on weighing up both sides. In short, my opinion on it is this. In the film days photographers had access to chemicals that would saturate colours further, deepening blacks and change exposure. Fast-forward to the 21st Century where we are now in a digital era, these same techniques still apply just in a different manner. We use computers instead of chemicals, and have even greater freedom in perfecting our images. How does this relate to starscapes though?

Well, to create professional and "WOW!" star photos, post processing must be used extensively. I am not putting things into the image that aren't already there, but instead extracting the data that was captured in the RAW file. (For those that do not know, a RAW file is a specific format of image, where it is not compressed and contains all of the information that the camera captured, unlike a jpeg.) I use a combination of masks and layers in Photoshop focusing on sharpening and exposing the stars, lifting the detail out from the sky, which brings the stars to life. I also use curve adjustments and increase the saturation of colours to really make the image pop. I soon plan to make a blog post about how to process star images and provide some light on some of the techniques that I use. 

Thanks for reading!