Quote Originally Posted by Poisson Du Jour View Post
I wouldn't really bother with B&W film for star trails/night sky photography. It may look just a vast mass of twinkling stars, but if you do the task in colour you will see stars of many different colours from orange, to red, blue, white, yellow and the occasional green, and maybe even satellites. The Milky Way is also quite colourful; all this would be lost on B&W.
PDJ, the original poster, Peter K, specifically stated he had a concept of shooting the night sky in B&W. Instead of assisting him with that you dismiss his request and impose your own views on color versus B&W photography. Night photography in B&W is just as valid as it's color version. It 's just that it is far more reliant on having interesting subject matter, lighting and composition and not just relying on pretty colors for it's visual interest. Michael Kenna and APUG's Bill Schwab are clear examples of the merits of B&W at night.


Peter, you're better off using Fuji Acros 100 as it has almost no reciprocity failure. The 400 speed films usually end up losing a great deal of their sensitivity due to reciprocity failure so you end up with an ISO 100 film or slower anyway but also lower resolution and larger grain. As you have the option to shoot MF or LF, I'd start with MF as it easier to work with at night and gain experience.

Shooting during a new moon will give you the best star quality but little in the way of available light to distinguish the scenery. You can sometimes use supplemental lighting if your subject is accessible but unless you know something about lighting I find that in most cases the type of lighting used looks theatrical and very unnatural.

Shooting during a fullish moon will give you low contrast in the sky and will make the scene look like daylight. I find I get the best compromise around quarter moons. They can provide light that gives the landscape a natural yet night time look, while providing detail. There are also two of those a month versus only one full or new Moon. I also use a very powerful hand held flash light to light paint, but be aware of your position when doing that. You do not want to do that from the camera position as it tends to flare the light around the camera if there are any particles in the air and looks flat as well. I will walk several hundred feet away from the camera and light paint the scene from the direction of the moon, or add some fill from the other direction.

You have to be very aware of city lights, car headlights and other forms of available light in your scenes. Altitude has a great effect, the higher you are the clearer the skies. Shooting east means the sky will be darker sooner in the early evening, shooting west means you'll have to wait until the sky darkens more.

Also it helps if you are aware of the star locations and movements when you compose. In the northern hemisphere facing north, the stars rotate counter clockwise and you will see the center point of them. As you go east, stars rise, or west, stars set, the star trails get longer and appear less spherical compared to those closer to the north, they meet the horizon almost vertically at the due east and due west points depending on your latitude. When facing south, you will not see the epicenter of the stars as the Earth's horizon blocks it, so the stars will form an arc over the southern sky. There is cell phone and tablet software, such as SKyWalk for iPad that makes this far easier to predict.

You will also need a sturdy tripod, I weigh mine down with sandbags so that any breezes do not shake the camera. Depending on how bright the sky is, amount of moon, a good staring point on exposure with Acros 100 is f8 at about 15- 20 minutes. Darker skies means you can go longer without fading the stars into a lighter background, brighter skies means you need a shorter exposure. The aperture is what matters most for the actual exposure of the stars.