Photos like this are extraordinarily difficult to shoot, and therefore quite rare.
The combination of 1) low light, 2) the International Space Station moving
5 miles/second, 3) a powerful zoom lens, and 4) a handheld, weightless
camera make it very difficult to shoot a photo that isn’t smeared at all.
In fact it’s so difficult that a clever astronaut invented a motorized camera mount specifically for “cities at night” photos. This is the result:
Boat lights, mostly red, are scattered around the blackness of Lake Michigan.
We’re not allowed to tell you the astronaut’s name (FAQ) but it’s not hard to figure it out if you know that this
photo was taken during Expedition 30 in 2012. He speaks publicly about his photography and camera mount.
Original (raw) image courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center.