Why Memory is So Important to Photographers (By Mike Carroll)

The Night Sky:

The beauty of our universe is certainly something I look forward to — especially the Milky Way. The sound of nature, shooting stars and that feeling of getting lost in yourself while you’re under the night sky is priceless.

The Milky Way, Alabama Hills, CA (Sigma 28mm f/1.4 Art + Lume Cube 2.0 Foreground)
How To Locate The Milky Way:

If it’s your first time out, you will want to look at a light pollution map to find the darkest skies close to your area – they might be closer than you think! You can try www.LightPollution.info and look at the bortle scale as a reference point. Second, download the app Sky Guide or Star Walk to help you locate the Milky Way. it’s best to find a dark sky location using the light pollution map that I just mentioned. You will want to look southeast as a starting point and use the compass app on your smart phone as a tool to guide you in the right direction.

The iconic Joshua Tree, Joshua Tree National Park, CA (Sigma 28mm f/1.4 Art + Lume Cube 2.0 Foreground)
Shooting The Milky Way:

For the best results, you should use a full frame camera, such as a mirrorless or DSLR. Use a lens with a fast aperture of f/1.4 or f/2.8. The Sigma 28mm f/1.4 Art is my go to lens for the night sky. You can also use a wide angle zoom with a constant f/2.8 aperture that way you have more options for compositions and a more desired focal length. As for as settings, I usually shoot around f/1.8 and I keep the shutter between 5-10 seconds to avoid star trailing and I turn up the ISO to compensate for the my exposure.

Movie Road, Alabama Hils, CA (Sigma 28mm f/1.4 Art = Lume Cube 2.0 Foreground)
Moon Photography:

Photographing the moon can be quite challenging – but if you plan your vantage point ahead of time – the end result can be the key to your success! A lot of photographers dream of getting that “huge moon” at moonrise. Now we can accomplish that by using telephoto lenses and planning with apps such as PhotoPills, Planit Pro and The Photographer’s Ephemeris

Moonhenge, New York, NY (Sigma 60-600mm Sports)
Planning Your Moon Shoot:

Plotting your location ahead of time, using different techniques will improve your final result. It’s best to go to the location ahead of your shoot so you can get your bearings with parking, to make sure your view isn’t obstructed by trees, etc. None of these images are composites! They are one image only. Using apps such as Photo Pills or Planit Pro will be a key to your success when you’re trying to align moonrise or moonset over your target such as 42nd Street or the Empire State Building.

Blood Red Moonrise over the Empire State Building, New York, NY (Sigma 60-600mm Sports)
Lightning Photography:

I always watch the storm to get an idea of what my settings will be. You will need to change your settings as the sky gets darker. I usually use an ND filter so I’m able to control the lighting during the morning or afternoon hours. My shutter speed can range anywhere from 2 seconds – 15 seconds. I like to shoot shorter exposures because it can get windy and those 60 mph winds will cause motion blur if your shutter speed is too long! If you’re going to shoot longer exposure times of up to 30 seconds, I highly recommend that you have a sturdy tripod and ball head.

  • Turn off your optical stabilization/image stabilization
  • Focus on your target using auto focus or manual focus. If you choose auto focus, just use AF once and switch back to MF. It’s very important to check your focus every few minutes. It can get windy or you might accidentally move your focus ring and not even realize it
  • Keep your ISO as low as possible, so you can recover more shadows of your final image
  • Shoot in manual mode
  • Shoot in both RAW and JPEG (edit your RAW file, the JPEG is a back up)
Double Lightning Strike, New York, NY (Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 Art)
A direct strike hits the spire of the Empire State Building New York, NY (Sigma 70-200mm Sports)

Sunrises and Sunsets are very popular among us photographers and we’re looking to capture that burning sunset or a colorful rainbow just before sunset!

Rainbow and Fall Foliage, New Jersey (Sigma 70-200mm Sports)
The Judges Shack, Lanoka Harbor, NJ (Sigma 14-24mm F/2.8 Art)
Shooting Into The Sun:

You need to be careful while shooting into the sun. Make sure you’re using proper exposure so you don’t blow the sun out! It’s best to underexpose your image by a stop or so, that way, you can bring up your shadows and dump your highlights in post later. If you’re looking to capture a sunstar aka sunburst such as shooting Manhattanhenge or just shooting directly into the sun, you can start with an aperture of f/18 and work your way down to f/22. You will be able to create a pretty interesting sunburst effect, such as this image below of the Portland Head Lighthouse

Portland Head Lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth, ME (Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art, Ice Filters 3 Stop ND)
Concert Photography:

Is your favorite band set to perform in your area? You will want to be prepared for all of the candid moments on stage during their performance.

Charlotte Sands, The Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ (Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 Art)

Live acts are moving targets and you will need to freeze the action in most situations. Start out with a shutter speed between 1/500 – 1/1000. Your aperture should be wide open to allow as much light in as possible. Crank your ISO a bit compensate for your exposure.

The Maine, The Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ (Sigma 40mm f/1.4 Art)

Storage holds our most cherished memories and we count on the reliability of memory cards so we can go back in time to retrieve that once in a lifetime shot.


Mike Carroll is a professional landscape and night photographer who has a passion for moon photography, astrophotography, concert photography, long exposures and cityscapes.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Mike is a former musician who started his craft by photographing live music performances. His dedication towards photography has taken his journey from the sun to the moon and even the Milky Way — It’s all about getting that once in a lifetime shot!

Mike will plan his shoots a couple of weeks in advance. Preparation is key to capturing that big moon or that lightning shot — Even if he finds himself running in a thunderstorm to a location or navigating in the dark to shoot the moon.

He was recently featured on the TV station News 12 NJ for his time lapse of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket over New Jersey. In addition, the rocket was also published on Accuweather, Yahoo and MSN. Other TV stations where his work was featured on were WPIX & NY1. Mike is an author for the Sigma Photo Blog. He’s also an ambassador for f-stop gear, Lume Cube and Ice Filters.

His awards include:
  • 2019, 2020 & 2021 PhotoPills Award Book
  • 2020 NJ Monthly Magazine First Place
  • 2021 NJ Monthly Magazine Runner Up
  • 2019 Empire State Building Photo Contest Finalist
  • 2022 Printique Weekly Photo Contest Winner
Have a Favorite Print from Mike Carroll?
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