Astrophotography is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding aspects to landscape photography. Everything has to align: clear skies, a new or near new moon to ensure the stars appear brightest in the sky and aren't washed out by the moon, and the knowledge of the right settings to use to capture a night scene, check out my Beginners Guide to Astro if you're just starting out. But when everything does align the rewards are great, seeing the Milky Way appear on the back of your camera screen is always a thrilling moment, and when I ask my landscape photography workshop attendees what their favourite part of a weekend workshop is, shooting the stars is always top of the list, especially if they haven't ever done any astrophotography before.
Once you've mastered the basics of capturing single astro shots, the next step is to find something new and unique to add to your images, whether that's creating panoramas, stacking your shots to reduce foreground noise, or setting up a scene to capture star trails. Another way to add a unique look and feel to your images is to use a filter, and I recently tested out the Kase Filters Dream Star Filter at Moke Lake in Queenstown to see what effect it would have on a starry night scene.
The filter works with the K9 100mm filter system or any other 100mm brand system for that matter and slots in like a normal ND filter, adding a soft glow effect and enhancing the brightest stars in the sky. Talk about magical!
Here's a before and after shot:
It's a great way to add more colour and vibrancy and a dreamy feel to your star images, particularly if you have a scene where you have star reflections to enhance as well. The one thing I'd quite like to see Kase Filters make next is a graduated version of this filter so that you can add it only over the sky itself if you prefer to keep the ground looking sharp, so I'm hoping we might see this in a later addition of the product.
I also tested out the Kase Neutral Night Filter at the same time to see what effect this would have on reducing light pollution, although Moke Lake is already in quite a dark spot and it doesn't really suffer too much from many effects of city light pollution. Using the night filter introduces a much cooler hue to a Milky Way scene, in this example I was shooting at fairly neutral Kelvin white balance of 4250 with both the original image above and then using the night filter, so you can see how much cooler the scene becomes.
There's no right or wrong when it comes to a correct white balance for starry skies, it's personal preference as to how warm or cool you want your images to appear. I can see I'm going to enjoy using both these filters in my astrophotography to create different results!
The Kase Dream Star Filter is available at Kase Filters NZ and retails for $249.99.
The Kase Neutral Night Filter is available at Kase Filters NZ and retails for $329.99.
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