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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Shooting to Balance Colours: The Glittering Milky Way Over Greenery

2022-09-27
13
4.43 k

Stunning landscape photography is often the product of very deliberate decisions on things like when to shoot, gear to use, composition, and colours. Minefuyu Yamashita shares the decisions that achieved his ideal colour balance in this stunning landscape. (Reported by Minefuyu Yamashita, Digital Camera Magazine)

EOS R/ RF15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM/ FL: 15mm/ Manual exposure (f/2.8, 5 sec)/ ISO 5000/ WB: 4000K

In this article:

 

The vision behind the shot

It was an impressive scene that lay before my eyes: a lighthouse lighting up the silent darkness, and behind it, the Milky Way high in the night sky. I wanted my shot to express the tranquillity and grandeur of the scene.


The importance of the green

One way to do it straight out of camera would be to adjust the white balance so that the entire image would take on cooler tones. After analysing the scene, I determined that I needed to add just enough blue to make the lush green grass illuminated by the lighthouse stand out. Its deep green rising against the darkness of the night would add an element of summer to the image.

I wanted both the greenery and the Milky Way to take up enough of the frame so that they would draw sufficient attention.

 

1. Green: Lens decision—focal length 15mm

When deciding how much greenery to include in the frame, I paid a lot of attention to its balance with the Milky Way. I didn’t want to just fill the frame with the sky: I wanted the land to be prominent as well. To ensure that neither the Milky Way nor the grassy green hills would appear too small, I couldn’t shoot too wide. I found the best angle-of-view at 15mm.

11mm

15mm

Although a focal length of 11mm allowed more of the sky to be in the frame, the scenery on the land appeared smaller and less impactful than desired.


Tip: Depth and dimension become more visible when the scenery is larger in frame

Scenery tends to lose depth and look less three-dimensional when photographed at night, but composing so that its details are bigger in the frame will give it more depth and dimension. You may be shooting at night, but it’s good to be aware of the same elements of composition that you would be conscious of when shooting in the daytime!

 

2. Blue: White balance settings—4000K

To bring out the quiet night atmosphere, I planned to add blue tones to the image. However, I had to make sure I didn’t overdo it:

- The Milky Way should not become too bluish.
- The green grass on the land should not have a blue cast.

I achieved the perfect balance when I manually set the colour temperature to 4000K. This was enough to ensure that the Milky Way stood out while retaining the lush colour of the greenery.


Too blue at 3000K

When I set the white balance to 3000K, the image became bluer and looked more surreal. However, many details ended up blending into the blue, and the grass took on an unnatural blue cast.

For those times where you want to spend more time shooting and less time editing photos in front of the computer, tweaking white balance settings offers a quick fix. The best thing is that you can preview your results in Live View, or in your electronic viewfinder if you are using a mirrorless camera! Find out more in:
White Balance Basics to Achieve Your Desired Colour Tone!
How to Render Colours with the White Balance Correction Function

 

3. White: Separation between the lighthouse and Milky Way—Time of the day

I waited until the Milky Way rose higher in the sky, leaving more space between itself and the lighthouse.


Wrong timing

The Milky Way is partially obstructed by the light from the lighthouse and doesn’t stand out.

The lighthouse connects the sky with the land and completes the image. It also acts as an accent. However, there are a couple of reasons why the image is better with more space between the lighthouse and the Milky Way:

- The lighthouse is so bright, it would draw attention away from the Milky Way if they are too close together.
- Separation ensures that both elements are against a darker background, creating contrast and allowing each of them to stand out better.

Once there is enough space between the Milky Way and the lighthouse, it was about finding the best angle of view to them with sufficient impact, as described in point 1. 


For more tips and tutorials on astrophotography and photographing starscapes, see:
Nailing the Shot: Moon and Milky Way Stars Over the Sea
Slow Shutter Art: Using Zoom Burst to Transform Stars in the Sky into a Meteor Shower
One Location, Two Looks: Photographing a Lighthouse in Moonlight v.s Under the Stars

The main image in this article was shot on the RF15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM. For more ideas on astrophotography gear and how to use them, see:
EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM: My Go-to Lens for Photographing Starscapes
Astrophotography Techniques to Try with the EOS R (also works on newer EOS R system cameras!)

About the Author

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Minefuyu Yamashita

Born in 1979 in Aichi. After gaining experience in jobs such as interior and graphic designing, Yamashita became an independent photographer in 2011. His works have been used in many calendars. 

http://www.minefuyu-yamashita.com

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