In this interview, LA’s Laura Krause outlines how she goes about shooting the stars whilst having fun in the desert!
How Do You Plan Your Shots?
I just started using Photopills which has been a great tool to plan ahead when I get to a location!
Honestly, I just research through google images, Instagram, etc for interesting locations and check Clear Dark Sky for the astronomical forecast.
What Equipment Do You Use?
I actually don’t shoot with anything all that fancy.
I have a Nikon D3300 which has an APS-C crop sensor and I was using a kit lens up until a few months ago!
My tripod was something I picked up from the local camera store for $40 and I only just purchased a $20 ball head adapter for it.
I did just acquire a Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 lens which has been treating me VERY nicely this summer, and I have a Nikon 18-200mm f3.5 for my more everyday shots.
How Do You Compose Your Shots?
Because I’m not on a high-end piece of equipment I typically have to shoot at a higher ISO.
My usual settings are 25s / f3.5 / ISO 3200, but now with my new Tokina I’m able to push all three of those numbers down a little more.
When it comes to composing I really just play around as much as I can and hopefully have a friend or two willing to have some fun with light in my shots.
I do have a remote shutter for those times that I want to take selfies or light paint myself.
One of the more fun things is when I get 5 friends interested in collaborating on a shot… that’s when we get ultra creative and end up with a monster peering over a mountain, or Pacman running across the desert!
What Post-Processing Do You Do?
If I’m in California, meaning within a few hours of my laptop, I’ll just edit the shots properly once I get home.
I’m only just starting to get into stacking and panoramas in Photoshop but up until now I’ve been primarily Lightroom based.
I occasionally use a preset as a starting point but 95% of the time I edit from scratch and a photo may take me anywhere from 15-30 minutes.
I’ve recently been trying to learn how to edit a RAW image entirely on my phone for when I’m on overseas backpacking trips traveling light.
I’ve learned all of this mostly through trial and error, but I also went to college for VFX / Animation for feature films so I have enough experience to pick up computer software quite easily now.
Can You Recommend Any Learning Resources For Other Astrophotographers?
Really I think the best thing you can do is get a relatively decent camera and take it to the darkest skies possible.
Try and find a unique location within 3 hours of your home so you can frequent it at least a handful of weekends per summer.
I’m pretty fortunate to be living in Los Angeles with the dark desert skies at my fingertips.
I took a dozen blurry, mediocre photos but it was a proof of concept that I could do better with a little more practice…and almost exactly 2 years later here I am!
About You – Laura Krause
I live and work in Los Angeles but am originally from Chicago. Professionally I’m a 3D modeler and designer for Hollywood movie franchises you likely enjoy, but otherwise I’m just a hobbyist.
I’ve been really enjoying getting to meet other photographers, either while on location or through social media.
Astrophotographers are a really lovely and helpful group, I have yet to meet one that didn’t spark enjoyable conversation. For now, I’m just focusing on improving my shots and I can see huge improvements in my work every few months I look back.
I suppose down the road I’d love to be involved in some degree of travel or non-profit photography work… something that helps pay the bills while I go on a handful of trips each year.
I meet such kind, interesting people on my trips, many of them artisans or those involved in helping their communities, and I’d like to find a way to pay it forward to them.
But for now, I keep my day job to pay off my endless student loan debt and get out to some dark skies as often as I’m able :).
(This interview was first published on June 16, 2018)