Night photographer David Maimó Lázaro shares how he created this mesmerising shot with the OM-D E-M1X
Night photography has marked my career as a photographer. The darkness, the silence and being accompanied by the stars that illuminate the sky is an indescribable experience – you have to live it! I live in Mallorca, an island in the Mediterranean, and feel privileged to have been born in this paradise, an island that has spectacular landscapes. I try to show the different side that night photography offers with my photographs.
Night photography involves many sacrifices, one of them being many hours without sleep, but it is worth it to enjoy the night. In my case, I take advantage of the fact that my family are sleeping, so that I can go out and photograph.
For some years now I have been teaching night photography courses, sharing my knowledge and passion for this discipline; planning, equipment, techniques and processing. I try to share everything that I know with my students so that they are inspired by what I feel when doing this type of photography.
This year I will be starting a new project, working on workshop trips. In July I will be going to Tenerife, an island in the Atlantic, which for many photographers has one of the best skies in the world. In September, I will be going to Iceland, another dream destination for every photographer. I have wanted to go to Iceland for many years and finally my dream will be fulfilled.
The photo was created in the south of Mallorca, Cabo Salines. It is the best area on the island to gaze at the sky without light pollution and it also has a beautiful lighthouse that crowns the coast.
On the day that I created this shot it was a fantastic night; I left home around at 2:30am to arrive just as the moonlight was blocked (which by then was about 3:30am) as it is important to not have moonlight in order to have better visibility of the Milky Way. The night was fantastic, the best; no clouds and with a gentle breeze that did not cause much humidity. Although it was quite cold, I’m always well equipped!
The backpack of a night photographer always needs to carry specific equipment – the first and most basic is a flashlight or frontal headlight and of course for security you must always travel light in order to move safely.
In my backpack I always have the following with me: a frontal headlight, two flashlights, one small and a larger one with warm light, also some light boxes which allow me to change the colour of the light and to illuminate various scenes, batteries, rechargeable batteries and of course, photographic equipment – the OM-D E-M1 Mark II and OM-D E-M5 Mark II together with a wide-angle lens. In night photography a tripod is required, so this is my inseparable companion!
To take a photo of the Milky Way, you have to put your camera in manual mode and always shoot in Raw. At night, whenever possible use bright lenses; this will mean that you don’t have to shoot on as high an ISO. For example with a 7.5mm, I may have an aperture of f/2.8, ISO 3200 and a shutterspeed of 20 seconds. Time is important to get the stars as points; if we exceed the time it will start to leave traces due to the movement of the earth; which will create a star trail. On the other hand, it is advisable to set the white-balance of your camera to between 3400 and 3800K, to extract the most characteristic colours of the Milky Way.
On this occasion Olympus Spain had lent me the OM-D E-M1X and I used this with a 7.5mm f/2 lens and a new equatorial mount that I had. With this device you can take a shot with a slower shutter speed and therefore use a low ISO. The setting I used for this shot was a shutter speed of 200secs, ISO 800 and an aperture of f/2, shot at 7.5mm. Without this device, I would have not be able reach these values and capture the stars as points. This technique is used to capture all the detail of the sky without the noise affecting the quality of the final photo.
For the last part of the photo I set an exposure of 20secs, at ISO 3200. I connected the OM-D E-M1X via Bluetooth to my mobile and used the Live View mode to allow me to see the shot on the screen. I could then place myself in the scene and take the shot. I then merged the two photos together in post-processing to create this final shot.
In the photo you can see the galactic centre, which is the most visible part of the Milky Way. It is important when taking photos like this to shoot in Raw and with a little processing you can achieve an even more detailed shot. I like to keep a fairly natural photo without excessive processing and no feeling that it is day!
Article featured in Olympus Magazine Issue 63 – to see the latest copy of this free digital magazine click here.