Anybody doing any landscape astrophotography?

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Jock Elliott, Apr 18, 2013.

  1. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
  2. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    I've shot a few decent night sky shots (at least I like them...). What kind of photos are you after? As the first article mention, trail shots are one answer and still shots are another. I've done the stills a few times, never intentionally gotten trails. I'll try to post some examples while you work up an answer...
     
  3. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    KillRamsey,

    I'd interested in the still shots, nix on the star trails.

    Cheers, Jock
     
  4. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    From the Andes in Peru:
    [​IMG]

    In the woods of Maine:
    [​IMG]

    And with a bit of evergreen tree lit by a fire, the deep woods of Vermont:
    [​IMG]


    So none of these are top-shelf gorgeous, crisp maps of the heavens, but they were all taken by laying an X100 on someting like a rock or a bucket, setting the 10 second timer, stopping the lens down around 5.6, having ISO around 800 (I think), and leaving the shutter open for around 10-30 seconds depending on the shot. Something along those lines for all of them. Usually freezing cold fingers, strong beer, plenty of time alone to d_ck around with camera settings, and a little luck. Not even a tripod.

    Edit: and that second shot was wide open at f2 I am now remembering, hence the fuzziness of stars.
     
  5. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    Too much light pollution where I am in the burbs.. but I would like to one day.
     
  6. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    To attempt to more directly answer your original question, from what I've seen you need a lens that is very, very sharp, and which doesn't suffer too badly from flare. You can see in the top image above (even at this smallish size) that the stars out towards the corners have crescent-shaped flare around them, which is a lens artifact because I had the aperture too wide open. At the time I thought "better get as much light as I can, right?" and cranked it open. And while the overall exposure was good, I still got a lot of slop around the little pin pricks of light. I didn't initially understand why until I dug into it. Subsequent shots like the VT shot were made with middle apertures, and were indeed a helluva lot crisper.

    So something with a pretty sharp lens that won't flare too badly. As for sensors, as far as I know the bigger the better, and mine at 12MP APS-C size is getting there but not as great as the bigger 16 and 24MP DSLR options. With a 10MP smaller canon powershot I've certainly gotten stars to appear, but not in spectacular number or detail.
     
  7. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    Another thing - I begin to see star trails around 13 or 15 seconds, depending on what part of the sky I'm pointed at. So when you're figuring out your exposure time, see what you can do at about 10 seconds and try that.
     
  8. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Zowee

    Those are bee-yew-tea-ful! No tripod, no tracking drive . . . music to my ears.

    Cheers, Jock
     
  9. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    Yeah man. If you don't want trails, then follow these general rules:

    1. Stop it down a little and don't shoot wide open (as much as posible).
    2. Lower the ISO as much as you can to reduce noise, all such that you can still obey Rule #3
    3. Keep the exposure time under 13 seconds, ideally under 10.

    Bonus points if you catch airplanes or shooting stars.
     
  10. Garylh

    Garylh SC Veteran

    Those are some nice shots. U have inspired me to give it a try myself.

    Thanks
    Gary
     
  11. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    Post some results!
     
  12. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Here's some early results with small sensor cameras.

    Okay,

    This was taken a couple of nights ago with the G12 on a tripod, letting the camera choose the exposure.
    Peebles_and_night_sky_011_Medium_.JPG

    And this one was taken last night with the G12, tripod, ISO 400, f4, 13 seconds. I fiddled the brightness a little. (Both shots were taken at a suburban location).

    [​IMG]

    I think perhaps I need a camera with higher sensitivity.

    Cheers, Jock
     
  13. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    So far I don't see any real camera problems, just location problems. In the first shot the moon is going to wash out pretty much all but the brightest stars no matter what you do - that sucker is much brighter than it looks, and the pitiful little stars cannot really compete with it. It will turn the sky into a big milky blue soup that eats star light. In the second shot you did it right, but there's just too much light pollution. That *exact* shot out in the woods, 60+ miles from any big cities, would've netted you a much richer shot of stars and maybe even some milky way banding.

    I didn't harp on it much, but perhaps I should've. The three shots I posted were taken 1) with no moon out, in the middle of the damned Andes mountains, in a horse pasture a hundred+ miles from anything approaching the brightness of an american suburb; 2) in the Maine woods, with no moon out, with no towns bigger than a few thousand people anywhere NEAR it, and 3) dead-center of the Green Mtn National Forest in Vermont, with 30 miles of pure woods in every direction without so much as a porch light to pollute the atmosphere up there, just the fire I had going, and you can see how the fire "painted" the underside of the trees but didn't compete with the star light.

    So if I took my camera and tripod out in Cambridge MA tonight and set up the same way I usually do, I'd get shots of dark blue sky and maybe 40 stars like you did. You seem to have the mechanics down, now you just need to go camping!
     
  14. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Thank you for the encouragement!

    Your point is wel taken (and my wife was saying the same thing): I need dark (or at least dark-er) skies. I believe I know of a spot a few miles from here that might serve the purpose.

    Thanks again for the encouragement and the guidance.

    Cheers, Jock
     
  15. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    Yeah man! Listen to your wife.

    (This time.)
     
  16. kyteflyer

    kyteflyer ~@¿@~

    Jan 31, 2011
    Newcastle, Australia
    Sue
    Here's my offering, but taken with the K-5 and DA15mm. It was a 30 second shot, far too long, and theres a bit of trail which I don't like (don't like star trails at all, those circular things people insist on doing. Overdone, IMO)


    Milky Way 1 by kyte50, on Flickr

    Its from a couple of years ago and I have been promising myself another outing during winter, to try again. But, I'll go to a different location. The light you see emanating from the lower left is from the city, something like 17km away. Light pollution is a killer on long exposures.

    Then, at the other end of the scale, processingwise, theres this with the FA43mm. 13 second exposure and theres still a bit of trailling.


    A Billion Suns by kyte50, on Flickr

    Its been processed to heck. The original is not anywhere near as glaring.
     
  17. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    Nice!

    And as you point out, once you solve one problem (like clarity, by using a GOOD lens stopped down in the middle range) you then expose another problem (like 13 second star trails, which are only visible because your lens did such a good job of capturing tiny little pin pricks of light instead of blobby white marks). Which means you wind up trying for about 10 seconds, eventually.
     
  18. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    While not strictly astrophotography, these pics from NYC this past weekend required the same techniques on the X100... f5.6 or f8, ISO 200, and about 6 second exposures.

    This is my wife, our friend (whose roof were on), and his dog. You can see they moved - I didn't tell them I was taking a picture or ask them to sit still. I like the light beaming through his wine glass, and the trails on the incoming airplane headlights behind him.
    [​IMG]

    This was my first exposure guess for a landscape, and I found it a bit too bright but still acceptable. The next shot I cut a few seconds off of.
    [​IMG]

    Second try. Better blacks.
    [​IMG]

    Looking down to the street.
    [​IMG]
     
  19. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    ....those looked a lot better at full size. (frown)
     
  20. kyteflyer

    kyteflyer ~@¿@~

    Jan 31, 2011
    Newcastle, Australia
    Sue
    They look fine to me :) The third does seem to be the best. Maybe post them at a larger size?