Starry Night over Dream Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

On a perfectly clear night in Rocky Mountain National Park I hiked to my favorite location in the entire park – Dream Lake. Lying about a mile and a half from the Bear Lake trailhead it is a relatively easy hike but in the depths of winter it takes a little more effort with several feet of snow to deal with. Luckily for me the snowfall has been light and the trail was well compacted so I was able to hike up to the lake fairly easily (although I did experience altitude sickness the next day for the first time – not very pleasant) to catch the starry night over Dream Lake.

Starry Night over Dream Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Starry Night over Dream Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

My new camera – Nikon D750 – allows me to more easily capture starry nights because it performs better in low light situations. I haven’t shot a ton of photography at night but I learned alot during this last session about what makes a good starry night photograph:

1) Shoot with the widest angle lens you have (I used the Nikon 16 – 35 mm)
2) Shoot at the lowest aperture possible (My lens was only a f/4.0 – typically you should use something f/2.8 or below but I don’t own one and they tend to cost alot more)
Note: If your lens has any type of ‘vibration reduction’ you’ll want to turn that off
3) Unless you want to have movement in the stars you will want to keep the exposure time to less than 20 seconds; Star trails are cool too but not if they are unintentionally
4) Shoot at a high ISO level (I started at 800 and eventually moved to 6400 in order to get the exposure less than 20 seconds)
5) Use a sturdy tripod because the camera will be sitting there for a while so you won’t be able to handhold it
6) If your camera has a remote – you’ll want to use it in order to minimize camera shake; Also, if your camera has ‘mirror lockup’ mode or ‘delayed exposure’ you can use that to move the mirror out of the way and limit camera shake

This image is really clean and I shot it at ISO 6400 with an exposure time of 17 seconds. I used Nik Software Define 2 to rid the photograph of some minor noise and then did some additional processing in Adobe Lightroom to make the stars pop. The moon was rising right behind Hallet’s Peak so it makes the light slightly more concentrated behind the mountain as if it is being spotlighted.

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