Landscapes In Motion
Shutterbug|May 2018

HOW MICHAEL SHAINBLUM CAPTURES HIS TRULY BREATHTAKING IMAGERY

Jack Neubart

WHEN I OPENED Michael Shainblum’s Instagram page, I sat there mesmerized by the landscape images and videos. After some minutes, I had to remind myself that I had work to do. Shainblum creates breathtaking imagery that reflects his fastidious approach to his art and a dedication that is unrivaled, which is also mirrored in his tutorials. And he takes a multidisciplinary approach. He shoots stills, time-lapse videos, and panoramas, day and night, often remaining in one area for hours at a time, in locations close to home and far away—shooting on land and from the air.

SHOOTING THE NIGHT SKY 

The night sky has always been a cornerstone of every location shoot for Shainblum. He tries to incorporate some night sky work into every trip, not only close to home (California, Oregon, and Washington), but internationally as well, namely Iceland and Italy. Summer weekends may find him driving out to the mountains or the desert and camping out to photograph the Milky Way.

“For night sky photography, the biggest goal has always been getting as much light into the camera as possible,” Shainblum observes, “and getting enough foreground detail and sky in the same frame. In the past, to get foreground and sky in one well-exposed shot meant you would have to take 40 different images and blend them or spend 30 minutes just for one exposure. Now, with cameras such as the Sony A7S, you can bump the ISO up to 12,800 and still get an evenly exposed image at or near maximum aperture on just one Raw file. My goal is to do a night sky shot in one exposure. But, where needed, I also use stacking (blending exposures) and panoramas.”

He continues: “I’ll also sometimes use a star tracker motorized tracking mount to maintain alignment with the North Star. You can, for example, set the exposure for five minutes and get a clean exposure for the night sky with this device on your tripod.” There’s just one proviso, as Shainblum points out: Owing to the movement, the foreground becomes blurred, so you then have to shut the tracker off and make a separate exposure for the foreground, and composite these shots together.

CAPTURING THE MILKY WAY 

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