Learn to take night sky pictures with a master photographer

An iconic image showing airglow from the Llyn Collection Photo: Nigel A Ball

An iconic image showing airglow from the Llyn Collection Photo: Nigel A Ball - Credit: Archant

Get a lesson from acclaimed Cheshire astrophotographer Nigel A Ball

In conjunction with Cheshire Life magazine, acclaimed astrophotographer Nigel A Ball is offering a 30% discount on all prints ordered from his website and the first five people to order will also receive a free one hour’s tuition online. Use the promo code CHESHLIFE here to take advantage of this offer.

Nigel Ball, who lives just outside Nantwich, specialises in images of the night sky. He was awarded Fellowship of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2013 for his services to astrophotography and public outreach work. He provides talks, one-to-one tuition and runs regular workshops throughout Cheshire and North Wales. Last year he released Casgliad Llyn, a collection of images portraying the beauty by day and night of the Llyn Peninsula. These pictures follow the night sky along the North Wales coast. The iconic image seen above is from the Llyn collection and is called Airglow. Nigel says: “Airglow is a phenomenon whereby the sun’s heat during the day warms the atmosphere to such an extent that the molecules are energised. After dark, this energy is released as green light. This photograph was taken at Porthor in August: the foreground is a rockpool and in the sky, a Perseid meteor makes an appearance,”

Nigel’s interest in photography began in the 1970s using firstly film (Ilford FP4) and then later slide (Kodachrome 25 and 64), developing and printing in a home darkroom with his father who won various Photographic Club awards for his close-up photography. His interest in astronomy began during the Apollo Moon missions back in the late sixties when he watched the coverage on the BBC. He says: “I’ve always had a healthy or, some say, an unhealthy interest in astronomy and in recent times I’ve had more free time so I returned to the hobby and in particular astrophotography and nightscape photography. I’ve always been interested in mathematics and science; I believe most of the natural world can be understood by these two disciplines. Astro and night photography allow me to combine my love of maths, science and real-time software into one.”

Nigel says that lockdown has significantly reduced the amount of air pollution and the stars are shining brighter. Now is a great time to practice night photography and it’s warmer out there too. Why not have a go yourself?

Nigel A Ball’s top tips for photographing the night sky

1. You’ll need a camera capable of manual exposure. Basic camera settings are aperture of your lens to the maximum opening, lowest f-number on the dial, exposure to 20 seconds, ISO to 1600.

2. Focusing is the most important thing to do. Set the lens to manual mode, and focus on a distant object, a streetlight, electricity pylon something that is far off. Do this during the day and then be careful not to knock the focus ring.

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