After the sun goes down…


I’ve always been curious about night photography, but to this point I had never tried it. There were two main reasons why I hadn’t tried shooting the stars… one was that I didn’t have a clue where to start from a technical point of view, and the other was that I knew my overactive imagination would get the better of me, and I would not have the nerve to be out alone in the dark.

That all changed recently however, when Maine landscape photographer Moe Chen mentioned that he was going to be heading to Acadia to shoot the Milky Way. Moe is no stranger to shooting at night, and since he was looking for someone to come along for the ride, I figured it would be a great opportunity to hang out with an accomplished photographer and learn something new. Turns out Moe isn’t too keen on being in the dark on his own either, so in addition to sharing what was an incredibly beautiful night sky, we were able to ease each other’s fear of all things spooky.

Moe had a preconceived plan for his first photograph of the evening, so right as dusk was settling in, we met at the Schooner Head parking lot just off the Loop Road near Sand Beach. The tide was going out, and Moe’s plan involved getting inside a cave so that he could do some light painting and shoot from inside the cave out toward the night sky. I didn’t have suitable footwear to join him in the cave – and to be honest I was a little freaked out about being in a cave in the dark – so I opted to “stand guard” outside instead.

It’s an exhilarating experience being on the edge of the ocean in the dark… your senses definitely heighten, and you become acutely aware of the subtlest of movements and sounds around you. I’d holler in to Moe every now and again just to make sure he knew I was still there (believe me, I know he appreciated the fact that he wasn’t alone), and as I waited for him to do his thing, I began to really notice how the night sky was starting to twinkle. Luckily for me, the Big Dipper was on show in the western sky, and as the last light of the day faded, I made the photograph below. Shooting at f4, iso 1000, with an exposure time of 27 seconds, this was my first photograph of the night sky… I was psyched.

The Big Dipper


26 thoughts on “After the sun goes down…

        • David Patterson

          After Schooner Head Moe and I moved on to Sand Beach. Got a really nice view of the Milky Way from there, and there’s definitely something exhilarating about being so close to the ocean in the dark. Have fun!

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets a little freaked out by the dark sometimes. 🙂 I was doing a star trail picture at Jordan Pond last year and heard coyotes howling in the distance! That sure gave me a spook. I was glad I had my Dad along with me! The big dipper is SO clear in your picture! Absolutely magical. 🙂

    • David Patterson

      Sara… thanks. Even with Moe being there with me, it still felt weird being on the edge of the ocean in the darkness. Both freaky and exhilarating at the same time… I can’t imagine hearing coyotes howling at night when out in the “wild” – must have been exciting.

    • David Patterson

      Bill… thanks. I wasn’t sure how dark the sky was going to be, but when you consider that most of the horizon was the Atlantic Ocean, it isn’t surprising how well you could see the stars.

  2. Ed Spadoni

    Sounds like quite an adventure. I hope we get to see more shots from that night. I’ve had pretty good success shooting the moon but haven’t yet tried the stars. Now it’s on my list. Thanks David.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Ed. I do have a couple more to share, though I have to admit I found it quite challenging. Whetted my appetite to do it again though… now I just have to find time 🙂

  3. The last photo is a beautiful shot, David. The blue sky is amazing – and the framing with the black silhouette at the bottom and the dark sky above is fine. I think i have to try this soon myself, very inspiring!

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