An encounter with the star-lit secret nightlife of Jaisalmer
~ by Umesh Gogna
A galaxy of opportunities
The power of nature is that it enjoys the freedom of transformation with each passing moment and its perfection peaks and dazzles you at dawn and dusk hours.
Vast skies are always perfect to shoot because it remains consistent in terms of uniqueness and varied in terms of hues, character, and location. For instance, the hues of light piercing dark night skies and the rays of sun piercing a summer-lit, cotton-white bunch of clouds are both – varied in character, yet consistently beautiful.
Jaisalmer: A playfield for freestylers
My desert shoots – clicked with the Mirrorless Full Frame Sony A9 and its ultra-wide angle zoom companion Sony SEL1224G Lens – were about, but clearly not limited to, capturing the mainstream; the camels and livestock, portraits and streets, or the sand dunes or desert city.
Walking under the harsh sun of Thar Desert, its barren lands and vast skies make sure to embrace you with immaculate views of the entire desert. However, the place has much more than skylines to communicate with you.
Gearing up to go beyond the mainstream
To capture the treasure that unfolds from its starry nights, vast skies and expansive landscapes, you’ve got to be equipped with a full-frame camera, an ultra-wide-angle zoom lens for the widest view of the skies, and a heavy-duty tripod for stability, which my Sony gear simply powered me with.
Rajasthan is a high-on-action destination, especially for photographers to create something novel if not so often then at least once in a lifetime. To compose that defining shot as a photographer, Sony sensors, such as that of the 24.2MP A9, enable you with dominating digital signal over noise, just how it allowed me to shoot this picture, where the dynamic range is beyond the scale of expression.
Night sky photography: Coverage, Contrasts & Compositions
Aiming for skies with a smaller percentage of cloud coverage and more of blacker areas on the map is most advisable, with an f/4 aperture and a 30-second shutter speed for the night sky and star photography. But it has to be tried and tested to get the best results. For this image I opted for F5.6 and a 15-second long shutter speed.
The blacker the areas, the smarter we need to be with the ISO settings. A little gone overboard and the composition will turn out to be washed out, a little less and the composition becomes unclear. For this particular shot, I had kept the ISO set at 3200, for a sharper, clearer focus.
After all, it’s not just the eyes that see when you are clicking a picture; it’s the light which your lens can see that matters as the key tool of expression. The SEL1224G lens quickly gave me a coverage, which was beyond the scope of my eye; it seemed as if the lens gathered all of the Jaisalmer in one shot. The G lenses are one of the top-notch glasses for your cameras and best suited for long exposures and night shoots.
Of course, to absorb the vastness of the ever-changing aura of the starry night sky, the stunning, refined, ultra-wide angle, corner-to-corner G Lens resolution and clarity of SEL1224G too helped me immensely.
The weight of the tripod that I used to mount my Sony A9 was the only gear that was draining my energy en route an uphill climb on the sand dunes. However, I realized that the vibration-free electronic shutter of A9, the compact and lightweight SEL1224G and my sturdy, heavy-duty tripod only came together to deliver me some of the most stable, razor-sharp images. In the case of tripods, the heavier, the better it is.
Explore and challenge yourself
While the most familiar of landscapes are the most explored, there are still millions of things unknown about it. A photographer is an alchemist, who hunts for treasures with his camera and gears, and exploration of the untrodden is the only way to expand your skill-set.
So, every now and then, challenge yourself with something that you’ve never done before, even if it means to for you to try new settings on your camera and who knows, you might land on a gold mine. If not, then a golden opportunity and a starry vision is always there to embrace!
About Umesh Gogna
Umesh Gogna come from a family of jewelers. After completing his post-graduation, he started helping his father in their family business while also working on his Ph.D. thesis on ancient Indian jewelry. For his Ph.D., he needed good some quality photographs of jewelry. Good images were difficult to find in those days and he could not afford to hire a professional photographer. That’s when he decided to buy a camera and try photographing the jewelry himself. During the process, he discovered his love for photography and started spending more time with his camera. He upgraded his camera kit, brought studio lights and even set up a small studio in his house and started photographing full time. Most of his professional work is in the field of handicraft and jewelry, stone and the hospitality industry. Apart from his professional work he also does travels and nature photography. He has spent a lot of time documenting the cultural architectural and natural heritage of Rajasthan and the Himalayas and his work has been published in several books on these subjects. After spending many years as a professional photographer, he felt the need to give back something to his profession, therefore he started educating aspiring photographers about the science and art of photography by personally mentoring them. He has conducted more than 150 workshops on portraiture, jewelry, fashion and digital photography. He is an early adapter of technology and was one of the first to shift to digital cameras. Some of the cameras that he loves shooting with are the Sony A7RM2 which gives great performance with unmatchable image quality in a small, well designed, package and is perfect for low light conditions. He also uses Sony A7S for time lapse and night astro photography.
Story Stats & Gear Used:
|Lens||FE 12-24mm F4 G|
|Focal Length||(160, 10)|
|Shutter Speed||(-4906891, 1000000)|
Sony Alpha 9 Full-frame Mirrorless camera - Made for professionals.
G Lens ultra-wide-angle zoom lens.