Thursday, December 11, 2014

Starry Nights

Over Thanksgiving, I took the opportunity to sneak out during the night hours to see if I could capture some night sky photos.  In my previous attempts, I was either too tired or clouds were present and it just wasn't worth it.  Since everyone was tired from turkey and the rush of the day, there was an early turn in.  Knowing the area as I do, I had a good idea where I could go that I wouldn't be disturbed.  I also knew that I didn't have to go to far out of town to get a good area to see the stars.  If the night started out a failure, I could take the 5 minute journey back home and get myself to bed.  The night wasn't as cold as I thought it was going to be so it things started to work in my favor.

I initially planned on getting a couple night shots, try a night panorama where I could get the entire Milky Way in the photo and do a little star trail action.  I purchased a remote timer some time ago and never really used it to date.  I tried to familiarize myself with it while sitting in the car at the time, but it just wasn't clicking in my head.  So I tried to do a lot of the stuff manually.  The initial challenge with this is keeping the proper shutter speed to keep the stars sharp.  In night photography you can only have a certain amount of time before the stars start to blur.  If you want a crisp photo of the stars, you have to use 600/focal length.  This will give you the longest shutter speed you can use without trails.

I tried 3 different lenses over the course of the night for a couple reasons.  I read that a fisheye would give me the greatest amount of sky in my photos; therefore, giving me the best single shot of the Milky Way.  The initial problem with this is the fisheye lenses aren't known for their sharpness at their widest aperture.  I had to set my fisheye at f/5.6 to get nice, crisp, sharp stars.  This cuts down on the amount of light that reaches your sensor and doesn't provide as many stars.  The good thing about the fisheye is it is very wide, 8mm.  This gives the best opportunity to use a longer shutter speed.  I was able to capture a couple different shots between 35 and 39 seconds.  Second I used my Tamron.  I like my Tamron because it is fairly wide for a APS-C sensor lens at 17mm and it is sharp as a tack at f/2.8.  This gives me the chance to take photos at about 23 to 25 seconds.  The last lens I used was my Tokina.  That lens is a wide lens at 12mm but only a f/4.0 aperture.  It however is also sharp as a tack at 4.0.  Instead of sitting out in the cold for the entire shoot, I set the tripod right next to the vehicle.  I rolled down the drivers window, had a seat, and pushed the shutter button on the remote in the comfort of my bucket seat.  Most astrophotographers set their cameras up with the remote and leave them to do there thing for hours.  I didn't want to do that at all.

So where are the images.  Well, I have only had a chance to process a couple and not sure if the others are worth the time since they are kind of the same stuff, but I think this was a good start.  I might wait for a little warmer weather before I try the next round.

One cool thing to note from the evening, there was some type of meteor shower I didn't know about.  I saw in the hour I was out, four shooting stars.  I happened to catch 2 of them in my photos.  For next time, I need to focus on composition and post processing noise reduction.  Some of my images were very noisy.

Rokinon Fisheye @ 8mm, f/5.6, ISO 2500

Tamron @ 17mm, f/2.8, ISO 2500

Tokina @ 12mm, f/4, ISO 2500

This is a panorama of 8 different photos.  I attempted to get the entire Milky Way into the photo, but I cannot get them to line up when I attempt to make the panorama.  I may need to take a couple more photos up to get the entire system.  

Lastly, here is the one attempt at a Star Trail.  This is a single exposure using my Rokinon 8mm fisheye.  This exposure was 4 minutes long at ISO 1600.  It was a good start, but I was far too tired to continue getting the next 20 photos needed for a good star trail.  I hit the brakes of the car to give the foreground a little light.

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