I have been following Leanne Cole photography’s blog (see it here http://leannecolephotography.com/2014/04/22/up-for-discussion-astrophotography/) for sometime and recently Leanne has embarked upon a journey into Astro Photography. For those that are following Leanne and her adventures and would like to try it out then follow these simple steps:
1 Get a tripod.
2 A dark night (no moon) and away from city glow (might mean 100km’s into country)
3 Find out when the heart of the Milky Way is overhead, and it does change frequently . Also one can still do Astro without the heart but it does lack the real punch.
4 Hopefully have a wide angle lens or if you have a shoot and point make it as wide as possible. Frame your view so that the heart of the Milky Way is in view and if there is an interesting landscape feature include that as well if possible.
5 Set the camera’s ISO to the highest but no higher than 6400.
6 Set the camera bulb mode to no more than 30 seconds. More than 30 seconds starts to trail the stars and it doesn’t look so good..
7 Manually focus to the best of the cameras ability. It helps if one can view the stars on a small screen or laptop to check for focus. This may take a few seconds to get right but it is worth it. Note if you are using a DSLR with manual focus don’t rack the lens all the way to infinity, set it to the infinity mark as most lens over rack for auto focus reasons. Look at the lens to see what I mean.
8 Set the camera so that its timer for shutter release is on.
9 Take your first shot and review. If all went well then it will look as good as this after some minor correction in photoshop.
The red streak in the last shot is an aircraft.
Once you are bitten by this bug one can get devices that all for longer exposures which enables one to drop the ISO back a bit to get rid of noise. I have a device called an Astrotrac. However and this goes for all astrophotography once you start using things like the Astrotrac for more than 30 seconds you need to correctly align the device to two points. First is the pole star easy in the northern Hempisphere but more difficult here in then south. Secondly one has to align the azimuth to the degree latitude. The simpler way I have found for doing this is to use the iPhone app called Spyglass which when calibrated (takes a few minutes and is too difficult to explain here but it means finding a reference to calibrate to such as the moon or sun before sunset). Once set I can take exposure of 5 minutes with no star trails like this image. Now this is straight out of the camera, note the heart of the milky way has not yet moved above the horizon. Also the foreground shows the astrotrac movement over the two minutes. To get around that one can take a foreground shot for blending later on.
Lastly a shot taken at four am on my way home from Lake Tyrrell on the same night using a fish eye F/4 lens. In this the heart of the Milky Way is now well above the horizon. This is 30 seconds at ISO 6400 exposure no tracking. This straight from camera after some minor adjustments in Lightroom. To enhance further would mean applying noise reduction stacking more shots which I don’t have. In essence I just stopped at a roadside stop set up the camera took two shots and left.