What could be more romantic than an evening on the Lake of the Isles skating rink? How about a star? Many of you have asked about the star effect that I have in a few of my shots and frankly, I wasn’t sure how I was getting it. After a little experimenting I have the answer.
You could use a star filter, but then you would have to carry it with you. This image was created without one. How? Crank down the aperture (bigger number, it’s an inverse ratio, i.e. 1/22). When the aperture opening is very small, the points where the blades intersect become more pronounced and this causes the star effect. By the way, you can find out how many blades are on the aperture by counting the points on the star. Arcane knowledge for sure, but each lens may be different and it’s fun to know. This shot was taken with my Nikon 70-300mm at f/32. This is possible at night with a good stable tripod — you’ll have a longer exposure. Also, note that you need a point of bright light, not an illuminated surface for this to work.
Once you are set up, put your camera on aperture priority and try different settings to see how big of a star you can get. I shot this in manual mode so that I could set the shutter speed as well to determine the exposure. Another problem with night photography is that your LCD is relatively bright, so you may accidentally underexpose your images because they seem bright on the LCD to you (and your highly dilated eyes) at night. Check you histogram after each shot and make sure that the exposure is right.
If you get a chance to try this and like the result, please leave a comment with a link to your picture, I’d love to see it and share it with my readers.