Night photography

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Mikhal, Jan 4, 2019.

  1. Mikhal

    Mikhal No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I've been kicking around taking some star/sky shots, something that I have never attempted before. I was curious which one of my lens would be my best bet and any other suggestions or tips you might be willing to offer.

    I have:
    nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S Dx
    nikon AF-S DX Micro 40mm f/2.8G
    nikon AF-P DX 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ed vr



     
  2. slat

    slat No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You can get decent pics with the 18-55. You'll have to play with your ISO and exposure time to get the best pics. You could use the 40 also but your field of view won't be as wide. I'd start somewhere around ISO 3200 and a 15 second exposure. That should get you a good start. From April through September the milky way is visible in north america. That is a good time to get some shots also.
     
  3. ac12

    ac12 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Use the 18-55 and go out and shoot.
    As with other things, it also depends on what you want to shoot, a WIDE field view, or a tree against the stars, or . . .
    The moon will require your longest lens at 300mm. But then if you want the moon simply as part of a landscape image, a shorter lens may be better, depending on the scene.
     
  4. Mikhal

    Mikhal No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thanks for the heads up about the milky way, I didn't realize that was something that moved in and out of visibility. I thought that the 18-55 might be the best lens, but wasn't sure if the 40 being a prime lens would beat it out for speed and quality.
     
  5. Mikhal

    Mikhal No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    For now mostly just the stars, hopefully to actually avoid the moon while I learn. It would be more of the wider view to capture as much space as possible. Thanks for the tips.
     
  6. ac12

    ac12 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    A SOLID tripod, for those multi-second exposures.
    A remote shutter release, so you don't shake the camera.
    A RED flashlight, so you don't ruin your night vision, and can shine on your watch to time the shots.

    And if you don't live where it is warm at night, a thermos of hot chocolate :D
     
  7. Mikhal

    Mikhal No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I have the first and second, but do not have a red light. I'll have to work on getting that or at least some red saran wrap to put over the light.

    Interesting tip for people who use night crawlers to fish, if you use a red light when collection them at night they don't dart back into the ground like they do with a normal light.

    I will need to practice with the tripod and the shutter release before I go out and try as I don't have much experience with either and don't want to be trying to figure it out in the dark. The hot chocolate will be a must, while it is a balmy 32F tonight that is not usual for here in Jan, usually single digits or -digits.
     
  8. TCampbell

    TCampbell Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    It's visible all year... the question is "which part". The core of the Milky Way (the densest and brightest part) is near the constellation Sagittarius. April would require going out in the early morning hours (i.e. 4am) and will still be very low in the southeast. By May it'll be a bit higher. The later in the season you wait, the higher it will be (and/or you can see it earlier). The positions of the stars shift by about 1° per night. (365 days per year... 360° in a circle. So we move around the sun by about a degree per day).

    In the winter you can still see the Milky Way (look just left of Orion). But this is the direction facing "away" from the galactic core. You can still see it, but it's thinner and not as bright in this direction.
     
  9. TCampbell

    TCampbell Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    You want the wide field of view. The wider the field of view... the easier (more forgiving) it will be as you acquire data (as you get used to how this is done, and if you have a tracking head, you can start to use narrower fields of view... but any movement (vibrations or alignment errors) will be more noticeable at narrower fields of view.

    You want a moonless night (nights near the "new moon" phase ... just check the moon rise & set times to make sure that the hours you plan to shoot wont have the moon in the sky. The amount of light pollution created by the moon will wash out a lot of faint objects.)
    You want to get away from urban light pollution and into dark skies.

    Ideally... get a "tracking" head for your tripod. Sky Watcher's "Star Adventurer" and the iOptron "Sky Guider Pro" are popular ($300-400 price range). The idea here is that you adjust the angle of this tracking head so that it's axis of rotation is parallel to Earth's axis of rotation (in other words you point it toward the celestial pole). You can still point the camera in any direction you want. The idea is that as the Earth spins from West to East, the tracking head spins from East to West ... at exactly the same rate. So if these two axes are parallel, they cancel each other out. You can take extremely long exposures with no motion blur (I've done 8 minus exposures ... no problem.)

    To take exposures longer than 30 seconds... you probably need a remote shutter release (ideally get an "intervalometer"). Depending on your camera, there may be computer apps that can control the camera to do image acquisition (e.g. "Backyard NIK" is compatible with many (but not all) Nikon models. This is software specifically designed for astrophotography image acquisition. You can pre-sequence your entire capture run and let it do the work (some guys go take a nap if they set up a capture run that will take hours to complete)).

    This is far from complete ... but I did this last Saturday night (this is 20 x 4-minute exposures stacked). It still needs a lot of work (I also shot 20 x 60 sec and 20 x 10 sec exposures so I build an HDR and not blow out the core of the nebula. I have not yet integrated the other shots to build the HDR). And it needs some work with color (it was shot through a light pollution filter in an urban location... so colors are a bit whacked out) and needs a bit of deconvolution and I need to shrink the stars (processing typically takes longer than capturing the data). I also need to work on neutralizing the background color casts... if you check closely you'll see an orange/red cast in the "black" background of space near the top half of the image... and a blue/green cast on the bottom half of the frame... thank you urban light pollution <sigh> (yet another reason to get away from the city).

    All-in-all it was nearly 2 hours of exposure time to get all the "light" sub-exposure frames. (There is also about 1 hours worth of "dark" flames, plus flats and bias frames.)

    This was shot through a 480mm apochromatic telescope.

    light-BINNING_EXPTIME_240_1_adjusted.jpg

    Here's one I shot a couple years ago ... but this one was shot using a 135mm lens (camera on a tracking head). This one is also a bit more true to correct colors.

    Orion HDR copy.jpg

    This one was much easier to process. I captured this while in "Science City" (this is the area in Maui on top of the Haleakala Volcano where the professional observatories are located. There is a national park, but the area I was in is closed to the public. I only had access because I was the guest of another astronomer.) As such... there was NO light pollution of any kind, no filters were needed, and hence it's truer to correct colors and did not need an obnoxious amount of post processing.

    Clear Skies,
    Tim
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
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  10. joelbolden

    joelbolden TPF Noob!

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  11. joelbolden

    joelbolden TPF Noob!

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    My Pentax K-70 has an AstroPhoto mode that works great. The mode sets the ISO at 32oo and also eliminates "streaking". For more than a quick snapshot I'd require the GPS unit that mounts on it. I use a tripod for stability and the 18-55mm lens for wide open work. For focusing on a particular constellation I like my old Ricoh 50mm F2.0 prime. Moon shots I use my Tamron 70-300mm.
     
  12. Mikhal

    Mikhal No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    A wealth of information, thank you! Also very awesome shots, I wonder how many people that grow up and live their whole lives in the city never get to see something like that.
     

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