Star stuff investigating star light

Copenhagen is many things but no City of Light. I like that. Building codes generally keep high rises out of the city and light pollution to a reasonable level. It means we have not killed the stars. It means the stars still shine. A crystal clear pitch black San Agustin plain it is not, but one can actually see some stars in the middle of Copenhagen. A most important fact for dreamers and stargazers like yours truly. In the words of Carl Sagan who also created my title, the sky calls to me and I will one day venture to the stars.

Copenhagen is brilliant in Summer and this Summer hiatus has been nice. I have travelled a fair bit and as cities go, Copenhagen is up there with the very best. If only it had tropical climate and some landscapes. As the days and my countdown to take-off get shorter I feel like capturing a few stars in the now darker evening. I have become quite smitten with astrophotography after my four days spent at Very Large Array. I want to see what I can capture in Copenhagen and a very calm and clear night a few days ago offered opportunities. The lakes are my favourite place and an hour of photography allowed me to create these images:


The exposures are 20 to 25 seconds at roughly f/8.0 and iso 1250 using the 17-40mm L lens. The long exposures means our planet has rotated slightly and the high iso adds a bit of noise. For pitch black astrophotography you end up with 30 seconds exposures at f/4 and iso3200, creating fuzzy stars due to Earth’s rotation. I would very much like to add the expensive 24mm f/1.4 lens to my arsenal as it allows me shorter exposures at lower iso. The panorama is two images stitched, enabling me to capture a lot of sky without distorting the buildings of Søtorvet. 

The Stars of Copenhagen. Perhaps one of these may end up in my Copenhagen gallery as it could do with a few more night images. I need your help in selecting which, if any, of these images do you like and why?

25 Comments on “Star stuff investigating star light”

  1. Looks like there are great starscapes, if not landscapes, in Copenhagen. How far do you have to venture out of the city to find landscapes?

    The first, for me, for the colour of the sky, but there are not enough stars to really hold my attention though. The last one (rightmost) would be sensational if the exposure of the buildings were brought down a bit and the sky had more stars… I realise you can't add the stars, but my 0.02 🙂

    1. Not exactly great starscapes, but at least there are starscapes. In some cities you cannot see one star. To find something resembling landscapes you probably only need to go 30-40 kilometres. But it's rural farm landscapes, there is no untouched nature as I like to capture it. Very tiny and populated my country is, completely 'touched' and built-up.

      I like the blues too, there are some more stars visible in the large versions (they disappear when downscaled) of these shots. I think you're right, the buildings are a bit hot on the panorama…I could also add a few more stars 🙂

      1. You know you'd get obsessed for hours adding stars right? Making sure you put key ones in the right position lest some errant astronomer should come along and go "heeeeeey there's something dodgy about your constellations." Hehe

        It would be awesome to recreate a sky something like this in the panorama:

        Not particularly realistic but gotta push that envelope to the Edge after all.

          1. hey mate, good technique to reduce the noise in the sky is to take a fast exposure of pretty much pure black sky and then blend the stars you captured with a longer/higher iso capture through that image with 'lighten' blend mode. Then you will have a nice noise free sky with your stars.

            Can also do a slight gaussian blur of a duplicated layer to make the stars glow a bit more and look a bit bigger, and then blend the sharp stars on top of this.

            hope this makes sense

            1. floris van breugel is the man when it comes to shooting star trails and static stars so check out some of his work. he also has a couple of tutorials i think. His work is, to say the least, breathtaking!

            2. Yeah I know Floris, he produces stunning work. His star trail from Playa Racetrack is unreal. Tom Lowe of Timescapes is also a master of star photography. Then of course, there are many dedicated amateur astronomers with motorized telescopes who shoots amazing work but that's in another league altogether from us landscape photographers pointing our lens at the sky.

  2. Great shots!

    I like the blue hue in "Blue Hour Stars," but I like the broader scope of the Panorama even more. It gives me a better feel for the city and how it might really look if I was right there.

    Your work is great and I wish I was cool enough to travel as much as you!

    1. Thanks very much for reading and commenting, glad you like my work. The panorama does have much more detail and buildings and gives a better feel of how the city looks like, important point you make. I am so used to seeing the city, I just wanted as many stars in there as possible 🙂

        1. Mid-Winter: sun rises about 8.30am, sets around 3.30pm on the very shortest cold and gray days where everyone, well especially me, feels like killing themselves.

          Mid-Summer: Feels like the sun never sets, it never really gets dark. Sun rises around 3.30am and sets around 10.30pm at night – with the lovely warm dusk light lingering for about an hour to an hour and a half sometimes longer! Pure bliss at least on the warm days.

          I takeoff October 31st for general Papua New Guinea mayhem with Mark and Christian and continue to Australia, Malaysia, Borneo, Thailand etc. etc. and skip the Danish Winter once more 😀

  3. Hi Flemming, great photographs all three!

    I like the blue-orange-contrast. Therefore the left photograph is my favorite. I would cleanup the airplane-trace. The two photographs on the left have more depth. The reflections in the water in the right one could be better with smooth water. See that the trees are not reflected because of moving water.

    Cheers, Jens.

    1. Hi Jens, and thanks for commenting and your suggestions are good. Yes the airplane will go on the final version. Unfortunately the wind kicked in later that evening and ruined the reflections which were so nice earlier in the evening.

  4. ROFL @ banning winter ! Now there's a concept 🙂 Winter is good for mountains that get snow though.

    I feel that the skyline gives an old world charm, I like the left image best for the blue sky (seems more 'natural', the way nature intended it). I also like the detail and vibrance of the buildings in the righthand image which could look great printed large.

    1. We have no mountains so no skiing so Winter is useless here. If only one could snowboard but no, so I say get rid of Winter, global warming in Copenhagen now. Really, the only season that works in Copenhagen is Summer.

      Thanks for your feedback Tone. Black skies are quite natural as well don't you think? As in, skies are usually black at night 🙂

      1. Yeah but you could just shoot over to Sweden or Norway or something !?

        Well yes black skies at night can be natural too… but not with ambient city light pollution glow 😉 (can't be helped in cities of course !)

        1. Yeah I suppose so 🙂 Never been much for paying for travelling to go skiing though, too cold too much snow 🙂

          The sky is pretty black here, it's nothing like the cities in Austraaaaalia, there's not a mega amount of light pollution here. Of course, the stars are still drowned out by the light pollution :/

          1. You should just go to Norway for the landscapes I reckon – the place looks insane from what I've seen (without having been there). I would anyway. You could also go up north there and shoot landscapes with the aurora too 😉

            Yeah we have mega-cities over here – haha. But yes more light pollution. I can see the glow in 2 of the shots and yes it is nice to still have some stars visible in the city at night – so great idea and concept for images 🙂

            1. Yes I will visit Norway one day for the landscape, Terje of TSO Photography has shown me how incredible gorgeous Norway is. So will pay him a visit one day 🙂 And the aurora, yes!

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