Recommended night photography equipment for Nikon photographers
The question I get asked the most when people view my night photography is what kind of gear I use. I also receive many messages from folks asking for recommendations on what kind of camera and lenses they should invest money in. I've been doing night photography for about four years now and I think I can offer up some good recommendations for Nikon photographers. I have no first-hand knowledge of Canon, Sony, Fuji, Olympus, or other brands; therefore, I won't be providing any recommendations on those for you here. I'm going to try to offer up my suggestions in three categories - low budget, medium budget, and "budget is not an issue."
Before going into more depth on the recommendations, let's explore the variables that impact night photography:
DreamworldThe Milky Way reflected in one awesome lake somewhere deep within Colorado. I've been working on this photo for months. When I originally shot this panorama, I had captured the Milky Way reflected in the lake but could not get the stitching to line up right. I figured out finally how to do some manual adjustments in another program and got it to line up. This is two rows of vertically oriented shots stitched together. I used a Brinkman Dual Xenon light to add some exposure to the shore and blended exposures to get a good match. Hope you like it.
OK let's go ahead and move on to the recommendations!
Low-range Budget Options:
You would be surprised at the quality of photos you can achieve on some of the less expensive Nikon camera bodies.
For starters, I would recommend checkout out Ebay or Craigslist for a used D700, as these used to be top-of-the-line cameras that you can now pick up really cheap. With that being said, here is the Nikon equipment I'd recommend for someone just getting into the game of night photography:
Mid-range Budget Options:
High-range Budget Options:
Galactic ArchwayThis 360 panoramic was taken shortly before sunrise at the Paint Mines Interpretive Park near Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Milky Way arches above the alien landscape of sandstone and dirt.
Remember when I said earlier that you should not skimp on the tripod for night photography? I meant it! This is not where you want to sacrifice, as the tripod is crucial for stability at night for those juicy long exposures you're going to be taking with your new camera. The critical variables you'll want to weigh are cost vs. weight vs. stability. I personally have two different tripods that I use for night photography - a heavy-duty Gitzo tripod that I was able to purchase on Craigslist, and a much lighter, albeit less stable Feisol tripod for long hikes and backpacking trips. Both are amazing tripods; however, if weight is no concern, I always use the Gitzo. I also prefer using Arca-swiss style ball-heads for my photography, as I find them versatile and easy to adjust in the field as compared to the plasticy levers and toggles offered on other styles of mounting hardware.
With all this being said, here are some tripod and ball-head recommendations I would make:
Meteoric Maroon BellsThe Maroon Bells are quite possibly the most photogenic mountains in Colorado. They are photographed by thousands of people per year, especially during the autumn season from Maroon Lake. In this somewhat rarer view of the iconic peaks, I've taken the liberty of photographing both the Maroon Bells, the Perseid Meteor Shower, and the Milky Way, all reflected beautifully in Crater Lake. This nightscape of two of my favorite 14ers near Aspen, Colorado is sure to remind of of the wonder and awesome beauty that this wilderness area has to offer.
If you're to take this photography stuff seriously, I highly recommend a few accessories that will take your craft to the next level, improving your workflow and allowing for more creative outlets:
If you have any questions about my choices or have other choices you think are good, please feel free to drop a comment below. Thanks for stopping in!
Great post! Been trying to make up my mind about getting a D7100 for quit some time, but this cleared my doubts. Also, beautiful photos. :)
Thanks for your comment! I agree, the Nikon 14-24 is an absolute beast. I should probably update this blog soon since Nikon has released some new cameras. I agree with your comment about tripods with center columns, with one caveat - my Gitzo has a center column and is rock solid when it is not extended.
Great post, especially for beginners, who will appreciate the budget-targeted options.
I'd like to add a couple of comments, based upon my experiences. First, avoid tripods with center posts, since once extended, they can introduce vibrations, especially on breezy days or nights. In those times, I hang a bag of rocks from the tripod's or post's hook to stabilize the it. I use a Bed, Bath, and Beyond mesh laundry bag, since it weighs nothing empty in my backpack. Second, stopping down the lens a stop or two will very often improve resolution, but remember to increase ISO an equal number of stops to compensate. An exception is the Nikon 14-24 f2.8, which is pretty sharp wide open edge to edge.
Your images are really outstanding; thanks for sharing how they were done.
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