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Astro Photography Tips

Discussion in 'Photography Tips, Tricks & Tutorials Forum' started by Zola, Apr 19, 2017.

  1. Zola

    Zola Well-Known Member

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    Just after a collection of thoughts on how you shoot the night sky. I have recently bought a 12mm Samyang f/2.0 lens which I am keen to try on a clear night when the milky way is overhead etc.

    I have done a few shots before of stars in general, with mixed results.

    What are your tips when shooting the night sky?

    I am aware of the 500 rule - 12mm/500 = 24 seconds for shutter time as a rough guide to avoid star trails etc.

    I found that having the aperture at 2.0 and focusing on the brightest star with focus magnifier and leaving it open for 20+ seconds with ISO of anything over 1000.... it basically looks like daytime! Would I be better dialing the ISO down to 200/300 and, or shortening the shutter time... its a bit of a puzzle.

    How bright do you guys generally want your scene before you go to post processing?
     
  2. SeanNeedham

    SeanNeedham Ol' Sparky Honorary Life Member

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    I think there may be a few more variables at play here than just ISO/Aperture/Shutter...

    If there's the moon about then even if it's not in shot it's still going to be throwing a lot of light in to the image so that would be recorded as well, and also if there's other light pollution that would be coming in to it; then there's also the time too (though that varies the further north/south you are and time of year) due to the three phases of twilight (civil, nautical and astronomical) where what may look dark to the eye may not be dark to the camera.
     
  3. Zola

    Zola Well-Known Member

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    Yeah the moon can blow out the stars in the sky. I take it most successful MW shots are taken around the new moon time?

    Should the milkyway be shot during the astronomical hours for greatest impact?
     
  4. SeanNeedham

    SeanNeedham Ol' Sparky Honorary Life Member

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    It's very rare I shoot it, even though I can sit out the back at night and see it!

    Both those answers for me would be yes, and what I'd add as well (though this is me based on experience where I live) is shoot as late as possible in relation to sky position and time of night just so the air is cooler too.
     
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  5. MikeB

    MikeB Always on Premium Member

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    Roger Clark over at www.clarkvision.com has some excellent advice regarding astrophotography. The information he presents is often overly-technical but I find much that is useful.

    My advice is:
    1. shoot where there is no light pollution. Even at Monument Valley in southwest Utah, in the middle of the desert, I got light polution - so it is difficult to avoid.
    2. use a fast lens with aperture wide open. Your 12mm Samyang should do well.
    3. experiment with ISO - different cameras tolerate higher ISOs differently (Nikon generally and Canon's latest cameras do better with this). Once you found your highest ISO that has minimal noise, then...
    4. experiment with shutter speed. Choose the shutter speed where a star (a point light source) shows no stretching (trail). Ignore the 500 rule - it was created for film. The higher the sensor resolution, the less the 500 rule applies. Also, your position between the equator and the pole affects the relative speed the stars "move" as does which stars you are shooting.
    5. experiment with shooting multiple exposures, aligning the stars across the exposures, use photoshop to average the images (eliminating noise), and using editing Highlights and Shadows to improve contrast.

    I recently shot a series of night sky photos using a 35mm f/1.4, ISO 1300, at 2 sec. shutter speed - any longer and I got star trails.
     
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  6. Zola

    Zola Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Mike! Good info on that site and from yourself.

    When you shoot do you generally want your capture to be dark or light, before post processing? I am just conscious of noise etc.

    I also see some people seem to shoot the foreground at a different exposure, ISO etc and then another for the stars, then blend them together. How would I go about doing this?
     
  7. MikeB

    MikeB Always on Premium Member

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    Some photographers shoot the foreground earlier in the day while there is still some light, then shoot the night sky after dark. This is an excellent technique when you are able to plan your shoot well in advance. I tend to discover my sites late in the process. I usually to shoot the foreground at a slower shutter speed to get the amount of detail I feel appropriate. I will shoot multiple frames and average the data to eliminate noise - this gives me a clean foreground (when I get it right).

    For the dark sky frames, I'm just trying to get captures that are as close to single point light sources as possible. This means that the brightest stars are blown out, there are no star trails, and the natural sky colors come through. The images are dark. I now shoot 5 to 10 exposures (all the same exposure) and align the image layers in Photoshop and average to eliminate noise.
     
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  8. Dbvanhorn

    Dbvanhorn Member

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    Light pollution: A Hoya red enhancer filter will help knock out the sodium streetlight glare. As they transition to LEDs, that will remove this handy solution so enjoy it while you can.
     
  9. Petrochemist

    Petrochemist Old Hand

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    It works very well with low pressure sodium lights, but isn't as successful with High pressure sodium lamps which are now in use here.
     
  10. Dbvanhorn

    Dbvanhorn Member

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    Yup. Still pretty effective but less so every year.
     
  11. jameslford21

    jameslford21 New Member

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