How I got that shot – Kombi at night

July 19, 2016

I have only very recently come back from 3 weeks in Tasmania with Hubby and Etta, my beautiful 1975 Volkswagen Microbus. Soooo many images to edit!

We were traveling around Tassie and I also photographed my friend’s wedding in Hobart where Etta was the wedding car – needless to say it was a great adventure. Having our gorgeous bus and a trusty Tasmanian National Parks Pass meant we could camp in some of the most stunning places in Tassie.

One night we set up camp in the shadow of The Hazards mountain range on the western side to Wineglass Bay on Tasmania’s east coast. After cooking a mean as curry which the local possums attempted to eat straight out of the pot – I decided to do some night photography with my bus, a video light, a hubby and my Canon 5D mkii.

I have shared this image with our Kombi community and on my bus’ Instagram account – @ettas_travels and have had some really awesome feedback and people asking how did I get that shot?!

So this is how I got that shot:

THE SHOOT: Being far away from any city – the night sky was clear of clouds and the milky way was very bright – and only a tiny tiny moon. Ideal for capturing stars. We were parked in a clearing with trees surrounding us.

Things to consider – I didn’t want very long star trails which come from a long shutter and I wanted my bus to be lit up in the foreground.

First thing is to get an exposure and look for the sky – because I didn’t want long star trails, I knew I would need a wider aperture and a high ISO to let more light in so my shutter speed could be faster.

Focal Length: 24mm
Exposure: ISO 3200 | f/9.0 | 87 seconds – obviously I’m on a tripod.

Ok awesome sky looks great, but my foreground is dark and the trees are dark – cue hubby with the video light.

Time to get an exposure for the bus and trees – turn light on for 10 seconds at full power – WHOAHHHH way too blown out – shoulda realised that! Ok 2 seconds – perfect.

Now the trees are further away, but I don’t want them to be as bright as the bus – I’ll give them 4 seconds but I’m moving around the tree’s painting light over them – so they are getting about 2 – 3 seconds in total.

Ok time to take the final shot:

Cable release on Bulb with video light on – hit it – count to 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi TURN OFF video light Hubby! I take the video light turn on and paint the trees for 4 seconds being carefully not to hit the bus again. Then we wait with the shutter open still – 87 seconds – close shutter.

Boom. Done.

Now the edit. RAW file are flat – there’s no processing in camera unlike Jpeg’s, you gotta add some umpphff in.


First thing I do is add in some contrast, RAW’s are flat so so flat – cue contrast. Then I really want to bring out the whipsyness of the Milky Way so I boost my shadows. Add a bit of colour boost with my vibrance, and bring down the noise level with some noise reduction – I shot this at 3200 ISO remember. The left side of the bus looks a little hot so I apply a gradient filter to the left side to bring in those highlights.

And that’s it.

Here is another frame from that shoot and two from a similar shoot I did the next night at the Friendly Beaches – same concept, same process. But this time I opened up my lens more to get an even shorter shutter to avoid ANY star trails. The exposure was ISO 3200 | f/5.6 | 30 seconds




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