The Lensrentals Podcast Episode #49 – What is Nightscape Photography? With Matthew Saville
Each week Roger Cicala, founder of Lensrentals.com, hosts conversations about the art and science of capturing images. From photography to videography, film, history, and technology, the show covers a wide range of topics to educate and inspire creators of all kinds.
What is Nightscape Photography? With Matthew Saville
Ryan and Joey are joined by nightscape photographer Matthew Saville today. Nightscape photography is the art of shooting landscapes at night with particular emphasis on stars. It’s separate from the more scientific astrophotography but shares many of the same challenges such as extremely low light and very long exposure times. Optically it’s one of the most demanding types of photography imaginable. Just about any flaw in a lens is going to be more noticeable when shooting nightscapes so we’ll be covering Matthew’s go-to gear, how he decides what to take on a shoot, and his favorite techniques for capturing nightcaps.
Not only that, but if you’re a follower of this blog, you may recognize Matthew’s name and work from his contributions to this website. Matthew has been an educator and writer for the photography community for a long time. You can see more of his education and writing work at SLR Lounge, and we’re excited to have him as a regular contributor for this blog. Sit back, relax and listen in as Matthew tells us all about the stars, and how to properly photograph them.
Find Matthew Saville all over the internet:
- Astro Landscapes Website
- Personal Website
- Articles on our blog
- Testing low light metering article
Gear Mentioned In this Episode:
- Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS
- Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM
- Rokinon SP 14mm f/2.4
- Sigma 14mm f/1.8
- Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM
- Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S
- Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Art
- Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD for Sony E
- Sony a7R III
- Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM
- Slik Tripods
- Sean Goebel
1:00 – While Matthew’s day job is at a wedding photography studio that specializes in cultural weddings of all types in Southern California, his former night hobby has grown into a full-blown job, shooting nightscapes.
4:20 – Matthew went to Orange Coast College in Southern California that had one of the best film photography programs around. Learning on large format cameras means that he is like many of the rest of us as far as being self-taught on all things digital and astro related.
5:40 – Much of what Matthew does today with digital equipment seems would have been impossible in the days of films. From taking 1000 frames to options for low-light exposure, digital capabilities have allowed the nightscape and astro specialties to grow at an exponential rate.
8:20 – When asked, “What lens should I buy?” Matthew’s answer depends on if the questioner is a daytime landscape photographer or includes nighttime in their work too, and how much pixel peeping they’re going to do in the corners of their photos if the images will be printed and shown on a 4k display at some point and not only Instagram.
9:20 – Matthew cares about the images he takes corner to corner, so he has to worry about things like coma, astigmatism, color fringing, and the big bad field of curvature, resulting in completely out-of-focus stars.
12:10 – We talk tips on figuring out how to adjust for best focus. While Matthew tests lenses by shooting the night sky at infinity focus using the rule of thirds and “live view” to discover if there is any softness or aberrations. We check for these things on our MTF bench at infinity.
15:55 – Matthew prefers the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 over the Sony GM 14mm f/1.8 when stopping it down to 2.8. He’s willing to compromise on is the Rokinon 14mm f/2.4, which he feels has a good balance of low coma, astigmatism, vignetting, and when the focus is set correctly, can get incredible focus over the entire image. Overall the Sigma Art Primes, Sony GM, and new Canon and Nikon full-frame mirrorless are all excellent.
17:55 – Matthew has switched to mirrorless overall despite his love of using an optical viewfinder to frame his shot. But the long exposures, 4-hour time-lapses, and general demands of nightscape photography eventually won him over to using mirrorless and he’s never looked back.
21:30 – Break
22:10 – The optical, weight, ergonomic needs are top priorities for Matthew because he often walks miles to set up his shot. He often wants to bring up to 5-7 lenses and cameras on these excursions to have multiple options. His main strategy is, “Pick your one epic camera angle you’re planning your entire trip around and that gets the best mirrorless full-frame camera and lens.”
26:35 – Gear support wise he only uses Slik tripods, which is under the umbrella of Tokina and Hoya we learn. Matthew is not sponsored by them, he just likes their gear that much and pro tip: Slik products can often be found at Wal-Mart and Costco.
29:10 – Time-lapse is to BBQ as time-lapse is to nightscape, right? Ryan explains his analogy and Matthew agrees with the slow-and-low comparison and tells us his internal checklist he runs down before starting a time-lapse.
34:25 – Capturing day-to-night transitions is quite tricky and Matthew lays out the holy grail technique of manually bumping controls up and down, versus the hotly contested method of metering the camera in aperture priority while making sure the shutter speed doesn’t go longer than the time-lapse interval. He uses the best of both techniques depending on the camera, using aperture priority and switching to manual right before the darkest part of the night.
The Lensrentals Podcast is a production of Lensrentals, founded by Roger Cicala. Our production staff includes Drew Cicala, Ryan Hill, Sarah McAlexander, SJ Smith, Julian Harper, John Tucker, and Zach Sutton. Other contributors include Roger Cicala, Joey Miller, Ally Aycock Patterson, Joshua Richardson, and Philip Robertson.
Thanks to Jacques Granger for our theme song.
Articles written by the entire editorial and technical staff at LensRentals.com. These articles are for when there is more than one author for the entire post, and are written as a community effort.