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Tips for star photography?

Discussion in 'Photography Techniques' started by theoldsmithy, Nov 24, 2014.

  1. theoldsmithy

    theoldsmithy SC Top Veteran

    826
    Jan 7, 2013
    Herefordshire, England
    Martin Connolly
    Hi everyone, last night was wonderfully clear and starry. The Milky Way was showing up nicely so I thought I'd attempt some photos. I got out the tripod, set the X-E1 up with:
    - image stabilisation off
    - ISO 6400
    - aperture wide open (f3.5 on the 16-50 zoom at wide angle)
    - 15 second exposure
    - 2 second timer
    - manually focused to infinity

    The exposures looked pretty good but all the stars showed up as fuzzy blobs instead of sharp dots of light. I had assumed that focusing to infinity (or as far out as I could manage anyway) would do the trick. I wasn't able to check the focus in the viewfinder - it just didn't show me anything except a black screen.
    Any ideas for what might have gone wrong?

    Thanks
     
    • Like Like x 1
  2. PJacobs

    PJacobs SC Veteran

    354
    Apr 7, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Paul
  3. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
    One thumb rule is to divide 600/"equivalent focal length" to set shutter speed to avoid smeary stars. If you're using a 50mm lens on full frame then 600/50 = 12secs. That would be the maximum time you can leave the shutter open without stars moving from position (or actually the earth rotating) enough to give you a blurry image. If using an apsc sensor use the 35mm equiv focal length.

    Of course once you go past this simple exercise, things start to get really crazy like the LL article in the previous comment.

    edit - Oh this is a really good video talking about the basics - http://vimeo.com/16833554
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    From my experience, f3.5 isn't really enough to get the ISO and shutter speeds down to where they need to be. I generally wound up around f2 to make it work out, both on the X100 and the XT1. With stars, little tiny pin pricks of light, just the noise of ISO6400 would probably render them a little blobby anyway, I would think. Again, I generally kept it at 3200 or under, from what I remember.
     
  5. Ripleysbaby

    Ripleysbaby supernatural anesthetist

    Sep 9, 2011
    Cumbria UK
    Garry
    This one , taken from my back door was 15 sec at f2.8 ISO 2000. I found the focus (manual) scale to be accurate on my GH3. (12-35 f2.8) set to 12mm. 24mm FF
    The fuzzy blob lower right of center is the galaxy Andromeda. Image was subject to heavy processing, but i'm happy with the result.

    15114709579_931cb6ee9c_b. untitled-1030100 by sucofni, on Flickr
     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Ripleysbaby

    Ripleysbaby supernatural anesthetist

    Sep 9, 2011
    Cumbria UK
    Garry
    Martin. Try focusing to infinity then back it off a little. I believe most digitals focus beyond infinity.
     
  7. kyteflyer

    kyteflyer ~@¿@~

    Jan 31, 2011
    Newcastle, Australia
    Sue
    Its difficult to get a balance between "right for the night" and no star trails. Its instinct to open up the aperture but I am intending to try stopping down a bit more useful for a blobless shot, with ISO as high as I can manage, and shutter no more than 10 secs or so. My experiments thus far with apertures of f/2 and f/2.8 have been quite blobby. I want to get pinpricks of light, instead, and normally f/16 onwards get starburst effects in night shots, why not with shooting the stars. I've never shot my K5 at a really high ISO but I reckon with a black night, it probably doesnt matter that much about noise.
     
  8. theoldsmithy

    theoldsmithy SC Top Veteran

    826
    Jan 7, 2013
    Herefordshire, England
    Martin Connolly
    Thanks everyone. I found a better set of parameters - stopped the lens down a bit, went for lower ISO, focused just this side of infinity, and it's much sharper. What I need is a faster lens...
    15874627015_96f39772ee_b.
    Astro #1 by theoldsmithy, on Flickr

    15688855077_945e9496c5_b.
    Astro #2 by theoldsmithy, on Flickr
     
    • Like Like x 3
  9. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey SC Hall of Famer

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Kyle
    Yep that's about the best I'd expect from that lens, unless you went to the top of a mountain somewhere far from city lights.
     
  10. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    The dense star cluster on the lower left is the "Double Cluster". Not a bad shot.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  11. kyteflyer

    kyteflyer ~@¿@~

    Jan 31, 2011
    Newcastle, Australia
    Sue
    Dragging up this old thread, because I have just read a really interesting article at Petapixel, with regard to lens choice for shooting the milky way, as well as the maths involved in making a decision. I found it really edifying... hopefully you will, too. (and as a result I now have two Rokinon lenses in my wishlist at B&H)

    http://petapixel.com/2014/01/29/picking-great-lens-milky-way-photography/