Night sky photography tips for RURAL areas?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by scole, Jun 22, 2008.

  1. scole

    scole TPF Noob!

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    Thought I had a handle on what I should do but a brief session on Friday night proved otherwise. :D


    First, this is the kind of photograph I'm trying to take. I took this photo with my point & shoot Casio on a backpacking trip last summer:

    [​IMG]

    This photo was taken with a ~40s exposure and full moon. Obviously it's waaay too grainy because of the limited ISO. Since taking this photo, I added a DSLR to my bag. Anyways, I set out Friday night up into the mountains to play around and take some photos similar to the one above.

    Unlike the photo above, the moon was not up at the time of my picture taking. That- and being away from the lights of the urban environment- provided more of a challenge than I had expected. This photo is my "best" attempt before my battery died:

    [​IMG]

    This photo was taken in Bulb mode at F4 with a 5 minute exposure and an ISO of 200. Kind of on the right track but I wanted more light on the snow covered face of the mountain. It seemed like I *could* use shorter exposure times with a higher ISO but then the photos would be grainier.

    I guess I'm just wondering out loud if I was on the right track or there's something I'm overlooking (or missing). :mrgreen:

    Thanks-

    Steve
     
  2. astrostu

    astrostu Guest

    I'm confused. Are you going for star trails or just a scene with point-like stars that has foreground scenery?

    If the latter, which is what I think you mean, then you have to have a shorter exposure or a wider lens. Either of those will make the stars more point-like. To then get the foreground (foreground meaning anything but the sky) illuminated, you need more light and an enhancement of light in your camera -- as in you need a higher ISO (yes, quite unfavorable due to noise) and a smaller aperture.

    OR, shoot during a bright moon. That seems like the best alternative. You could shoot during a full moon, with it in the East and your mountains in the West. Or if your mountains are in the East, then you'll need to photograph just before dawn. The moon being in the opposite side of the sky should still allow plenty of stars without too much of a gradient but also allow your foreground to be lit.

    To get the photo below, I had to use ISO 200, a 35 mm lens, but at f/1.4. It was a 15-second exposure.

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Mary-Beth

    Mary-Beth TPF Noob!

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    The main difference is the full moon, Steve. And, specifically, the delicate balancing of its light on the hill with the ('background') light of the sky with the stars. It will take a lot of dedication and patience to find the same balance again.

    A better M.O., imo, is HDR: you make exposures for the sky, and you make exposures for the hill, then merge/blend 'm in PP. That way you can very precisely balance the relative lightings to each other.
     
  4. astrostu

    astrostu Guest

    Have you actually done this? I haven't, so if you have and I'm incorrect, then I apologize. But ... I would think this would be very difficult to do, especially with the non-flat horizon. I'm not sure automatic HDR software could handle the very large range in brightness, which means you'd need to do it by hand, which I think could be more trouble than it's worth if you can get a fortuitous alignment of the moon as I described in my post.
     
  5. scole

    scole TPF Noob!

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    I was originally trying for a photo similiar to yours where the stars aren't moving. I know that the exposure time can't be much more than 12 seconds or they start to develop tails. That said, I'm actually interested in both types of astro-photos (star trails and not).

    My photo from the weekend was taken with a 16mm lens (24mm equivalent). I need to add an ultra-wide but, well, you know how LBA goes. This location is challenging because that mountain is north-facing so I can't get direct moonlight onto it.

    I think I'm gonna try my luck again this coming weekend..
     
  6. astrostu

    astrostu Guest

    Alright, well a wider lens really won't help you much. There comes a point of diminishing returns. I figured you may be shooting with a 50 mm, in which case going to, say, 18 would give you significantly more time.

    By North-facing, do you mean that you look North towards the mountain, or you look South towards the mountain. If the former, then you should still be able to get a fair amount of illumination from the Moon without it interfering with your sky since in the northern hemisphere, the moon is in the southern sky.
     

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