A couple of days before this event I saw the planets Venus and Jupiter aligned in the sky. I also noticed that the New Moon was rising in the west. (That is the apparent direction it traverses the sky each day, not the daily appearance of it. It moves from West to East with relation to the stars and other heavenly objects.) I found out that this alignment won't happen again until 2052.
Due to energy costs the people caring for the Church of the Nativity were leaving the lights off most days. So it was very questionable whether I would even be able to get a shot worth anything if I tried to get the alignment of the moon and planets over the church.
When I got there the objects were very high in the sky and I knew it would be one of the most difficult shots I've ever done since it would be totally dark when the church steeple would be in the alignment.
As expected, the church lights were turned off and I only had ambient light (which was next to nothing) to work with. I did manage to get my flash to reach that far, but the colors were terrible using it. Even with the camera color balancing it was not that good.
In spite of all of that, it looks like I have something I can work with. I will have to work with the individual shots as layering the images won't work since the Earth is spinning too quickly and nothing stays aligned. A 20-30 second exposure will show star streaks and most of the shots had to be between 1/4 sec to 30 sec. I never used the "bulb" setting since all my shots were 30 sec. or less.
4 AA batteries in my battery pack were dead (10 pack). I was having such a difficult time since my flash and my flashlight needed batteries. The batteries were so dead that even when they were put with good ones nothing worked. This is a reminder to check your batteries BEFORE you get out to the site. I had charged all my camera batteries, but failed to check the AA's. I thought they were all good since I hadn't used them, but apparently they can go dead just sitting in the backpack. (Note for me: get a small battery checker I can keep in my camera bag.)
I bracketed all my exposures using f-stops and exposure times both. I wish I had changed the ISO settings also. (Another reminder: bracket ISO settings on really important shots.)
There are several images that I will have to really adjust quite a bit to make them work, but I think I can pull one of them out of the darkness. I have some shots that have starbursts around the moon and Venus. On a few of them the moon starburst is silhouetting the cross at the top of the steeple. I think one of these will be the best for composition and crowd appeal. The cross looks so dark against the light of the heavens. (<--good photo label message).
The mistakes I made during this shoot are typical mistakes. I should have known better, but I haven't been able to get out and get low light photos for quite a while now. One constant I find with any of the arts is practice is necessary to keep your mind sharp. I apparently have some real bad nicks in my photography edge. If you wish to get good with photography, you have to constantly practice.
Thanks for reading this and I hope it helps.