Night Sky Photography on Maui

by Douglas Hoffman on June 22, 2021

These days, people are enamored with Maui, and the stars, and want to create portraits that reflect that.

Creating black and White images at night is fun, especially when the clouds add secondary interest to complement the water movement in the foreground.

Learning how to create this style of images is an experience on Maui that is unforgettable. If coming to Maui, consider a private workshop.

When creating portraits of the nights sky there are several factors to take into consideration. Three of the most important include depth of field, shutter speed, and ISO. Each element is important and needs to be considered. In general, the idea is to have the shutter stay open long enough to let the required light in , but not so long that the stars develop light trails. Since it is dark, open apertures like 1.4,1.8, 2.8 are most often selected as these F-stops allow the most light in. Higher number F-stops reduce the size of opening in the lens and as result require longer shutter speeds. This in turn would clause star trails in the sky. When photographers select F-stops like 1.4, 1.8, 0r 2.8 they sacrifice depth of field but gain speed, and this is critical for night sky photography.

Each photographer has their own style of night photography and while settings will vary, but in general here are some tips to follow. Set your composition up as much as possible prior to it getting dark so you can use auto focus to lock your focus in place. Simply look through the camera and focus on an area as far away as you can. It might be lights on a mountain, city lights, or just traffic. Then switch camera to manual focus and leave it alone. Recompose for the scene you want to capture and get ready. Once the camera is set and locked on a tripod set the camera ISO to 2500. ISO relates to sensitivity to light. The brighter the light the lower ISO. So during the day 100 ISO is great. At night however that ISO is not going to get the job done but setting the camera to 2500 is a great place to start. For shutter speed, set the camera to anywhere from 5 -15 seconds and an F-stop of 2.8 as a starting point As you get some experience you will see that night sky photography can be very rewarding. This is especially true for those that can stay up for the milky to rise.