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Astrophotography - 101: How to get started.

MartinN

Active member
I envy those living in the south with warmer climate. This relates to astrophotography because here in Finland almost the only time to watch the stars is in January and February with crystal clear sky. The problem is that these conditions only appear when it is -15 C or -25 C. This makes my face numb and my fingers, and at least it is not fun enough or comfortable. Usually we have overcast skies from October to January and simply no stars. It's very unusual to see the stars at all and here in southern Finland we don't see the Northern lights. Light pollution is not a big problem, but what to do with overcast skies. My experience of skywatching was from a holiday to the Canary islands with every night giving a spectacular view.
 

dave.gt

Well-known member
Hi Dave,

You're welcome. Hope you find them useful.

Over the years I've found B&H educational stuff to be just that, not thinly-veiled ads.

- Leigh
Leigh,

You are another example of the helpful membership on this forum.

I am now committed (maybe that is a bad choice of words) to Landscape/Astrophotography.:loco:
With a little help from my friends, I may even make a decent image or two by the end of the year.... :thumbup:
 

Leigh

New member
Leigh,

You are another example of the helpful membership on this forum.

I am now committed (maybe that is a bad choice of words) to Landscape/Astrophotography.:loco:
With a little help from my friends, I may even make a decent image or two by the end of the year.... :thumbup:
Thank you, Dave.

Don't get overly optimistic.
I've been shooting for over 60 years, and have yet to make a decent image. :grin:

- Leigh
 

dave.gt

Well-known member
This thread will be updated periodically as time goes on in regard to my own journey into the nocturnal world of photography.:grin:

Gear is presently being re-organized, sorted, sold and acquired. As if that doesn't keep me busy, I have been practicing in the backyard with both the H5D and my 10-yr old Leica X1. Given the constraints at the moment, I am already getting a feel for what has been posted above.

The results so far are narrowing my search for good locations to shoot with Landscspes in the foreground.

Next up is to shoot images and blend them... this will require more hours of reading and videos along with shooting. Thanks, Dante. I didn't need that much sleep anyway.:rolleyes:
 

dave.gt

Well-known member
What to do when the gear is all ready to go, and the clouds set in for days on end?:banghead:

SkyGuider Pro.jpg
 

dave.gt

Well-known member
And thanks to Greg (and Peter Z.).... Without Greg's help, there would not be a possible pathway to Landscape/Astro work.:thumbs::thumbs::thumbs:

SkyGuider Pro 2.jpg
 
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dave.gt

Well-known member
OK, time for a quick update.

So far, I have spent a lot of hours at night over the past several weeks trying to find a dark sky, while learning as much as possible about landscape astrophotography and new gear. Many lessons learned and still I have yet to find adequate dark skies even though we are well south of the megalopolis known as Atlanta.

In the spirit of endeavoring to persevere, I have been working in the back yard and at the soccer field in our neighborhood, just to get a feel for the gear in the dark. At the moment, I am severely restricted by the lack of dark skies within a reasonable distance, and the lack of a shutter release cable because the D850 only goes to 30 seconds. The H5D is much better at long exposures measured in minutes, but, I do not have a wide angle lens for it.

The D850 is amazing in many ways but I have yet to get everything set to properly get the exposures I need. Processing is a whole different matter but the consensus is that I can only do so much with the level of light pollution here.

Ah, well, artistic pursuits should never allow difficulties to stop the creation of something, right?:loco:

The Milky Way is just beginning to rise and is barely visible in my backyard (I decided to embrace the noise for textural character...:ROTFL:):
MW8.jpg

*Note: Jupiter is on the right, and Saturn is to the left, both bright and highly visible.
 

dave.gt

Well-known member
To be perfectly honest, the process of learning Astrophotography is a bit frustrating. It is not really so different from the photographic problem-solving involved with other pursuits, except that there are so many things like the weather, the Moon and the Sun, and light pollution that constrains and affects the creative spirit. There are so many huge factors that cannot be controlled. Patience becomes all important.:)

Putting it all together is proving to be a longer process than I initially thought...still, it is inspiring to see the work of others. Keep sharing your experiences!:thumbs:

*A friend from Sydney sent me this link to some very inspiring work so I would like to share it with everyone here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/martin_heigan/33537599418/in/explore-2019-03-18/
 

dave.gt

Well-known member
Has anyone used a wide angle lens with a Hasselblad H camera for Astrophotography?:)

Having square cropped the image above from a 14mm image, I rather like the magnification and the composition. I am now wondering how the H5D would perform with the widest possible lens I can rent... and framing the image with the square mask.
 

rsinclair

Member
To be perfectly honest, the process of learning Astrophotography is a bit frustrating. It is not really so different from the photographic problem-solving involved with other pursuits, except that there are so many things like the weather, the Moon and the Sun, and light pollution that constrains and affects the creative spirit. There are so many huge factors that cannot be controlled. Patience becomes all important.:)

Putting it all together is proving to be a longer process than I initially thought...still, it is inspiring to see the work of others. Keep sharing your experiences!:thumbs:

*A friend from Sydney sent me this link to some very inspiring work so I would like to share it with everyone here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/martin_heigan/33537599418/in/explore-2019-03-18/
Hi Dave,

With the advancements made in sensors and glass my recent years' experiences in astro-photo work continue to be even more rewarding and hopefully some of my comments from my experiences will help provide some alternative perspectives to reduce your frustrations.... :)

Consider that other than the weather, everything is controllable b/c if the primary subject is the night sky then all of its content at every second are known in advance - I use Sky Safari app on my phone and Mac to figure out what the sky will look like at any time in any location. This really helps with the planning. If the moon or sun are not intended to be a part of your image, then you can know in advance when they won't be around at any location at any time. But sometimes they and even the weather can work to your advantage as shown in the first image below.

In June 2015 the Trinity River that runs through Dallas was nearing peak flood stage due to a full month of rain. I knew it would be levee to levee (which doesn't happen often) and when its like that the section adjacent to downtown offers a nice reflection. I was standing outside in my yard and noted the moon was nearing full. So it became apparent that the river would peak when the moon was full and might make for a nice image. I used Google Earth and Sky Safari to scout possible locations that would include downtown Dallas and the moon. When I arrive at the general area I had chosen, while the sun was setting to my back, I used Sky Safari on my phone to dial in where the moon would rise, this to help me compose. I planned in advance to shoot a pano and used the still lit sky to fire off some tests to get the lens, overlap, and swing determined in advance before it got dark. As the moon rose I watched its path and had to move the tripod a few feet when I realized I could capture it at the apex of the Calatrava-designed bridge. But, I also noted there was a thin layer of high clouds that were beginning to drape the entire scene. While I was concerned about how that might impact the clarity of the moon, for the final print it actually resulted in a stronger image due to the diffused glow of the moon. Had it been crisp and clear it would have been lost in the bridge and confusing with the Reunion Tower ball. The result is a 7-shot single row pano using a P1645, IQ180, S-K 110mm (sorry I don't have the exposure specs on me). The final full size print is 96" wide and hangs in a number of offices and homes around Dallas.

The goal in the second image, which I made in September 2016, was to compile a pano with both sunset and Milky Way. I used the Sky Safari app to help me with the timing relative to the Milky Way, moon and sun, and chose a location that would offer some substance and composition to the foreground. I took shots when the sun was still up to determine my final composition, then once I staked my tripod, around 630pm I shot 7 overlapping images for the first row when the sun was still up but setting and providing the Golden Hour light, then the same series at 730pm after the sun had set and my camera began to see the Milky Way (my naked eyes couldn't), and then 2 series of images at 930pm to again capture the bottom row and another the capture the upper 1/2 of the dark but starry sky. So the final is a 21-shot 2-row pano with 7 images across each row, whichI started planning for weeks in advance and then spent time wandering around Southwestern Colorado looking for the location. I used a Canon 5DSR, 35mm, f1.4 and the exposure specs vary a lot due to the changing light, but the latest/darkest were shot at ISO 800, 8", f1.4.

Sorry for the long post, but its intended to convey (along with examples) that while not everything is controllable, so much is and this opens up the opportunity to be creative :)

Cheers,
Robert

CF007046 Panorama_3B-cn 5-n2_1-PRINT-2b-FINAL.jpg

K1A2972 1_1 copy 3d-n-1-hps-1 7-colr-FINAL-2d3.jpg
 
I normally shoot the milky way with a Nikon d850.
But this weekend tested the Hasselblad X1d and 21mm XCD lens.
This image from Lanikai on Oahu is looking over Waimanalo and Makapuu.
Taken just before sunrise through a fair amount of light pollution so a bit colorful.
This is a four image stack at f/4, 8 seconds, iso 6400.
The starburst in the middle is Jupiter.
Overall, not bad

milky way by joe marquez x1d B0004685.jpg
 

dave.gt

Well-known member
Why is it that when we finally get clear weather, there are other obstacles like Supermoons that take up the whole night?:thumbdown:

It appears that Astrophotography can be as frustrating as herding cats. Except for the fact that you can control cats with a little enticing... not so with the rare Windows of Opportunity for night sky shooting.

My respect deepens for those of you who have patiently mastered the "Art of Astro".:salute:
 

Craig Stocks

Well-known member
Last night I had a brief window of opportunity before the moon was up too high to try using the IQ4150 on my 8" telescope. Here is a single frame of the Pleiades.

An obvious issue is vignetting and image circle size. Normally I use a Sony a7r2 with the scope which crops out most of the vignetting. The IQ4150 gives me more image to work with as well as higher resolution. The IQ4150's live view is not nearly as robust as the Sony's so it's much more difficult to focus. I had to use the Sony for alignment and rough focus and then switch cameras and do a final focus on the brightest star I could find. It does appear that the IQ4150 renders colors differently but I can't really say much else about the comparison based on last night because of the moonlight. I hope to try again tonight when there should be a half hour or so of dark sky before the moon rises.

For those curious about the configuration: SkyWatcher Quatro 200 scope (800mm focal length, f/4 aperture) with a SkyWatcher coma corrector and Canon mount adapter on a Celestron A-VX mount. IQ4150 attached to a Cambo tech camera with the Canon lens adapter. I used a Vello intervalometer and PocketWizard trigger cable to control exposures. This frame is a 30 second exposure at ISO 1600.

Pleiades - IQ4 150MP-19-03-21-P0001785 copy.jpg
 

dave.gt

Well-known member
Last night I had a brief window of opportunity before the moon was up too high to try using the IQ4150 on my 8" telescope. Here is a single frame of the Pleiades.

An obvious issue is vignetting and image circle size. Normally I use a Sony a7r2 with the scope which crops out most of the vignetting. The IQ4150 gives me more image to work with as well as higher resolution. The IQ4150's live view is not nearly as robust as the Sony's so it's much more difficult to focus. I had to use the Sony for alignment and rough focus and then switch cameras and do a final focus on the brightest star I could find. It does appear that the IQ4150 renders colors differently but I can't really say much else about the comparison based on last night because of the moonlight. I hope to try again tonight when there should be a half hour or so of dark sky before the moon rises.

For those curious about the configuration: SkyWatcher Quatro 200 scope (800mm focal length, f/4 aperture) with a SkyWatcher coma corrector and Canon mount adapter on a Celestron A-VX mount. IQ4150 attached to a Cambo tech camera with the Canon lens adapter. I used a Vello intervalometer and PocketWizard trigger cable to control exposures. This frame is a 30 second exposure at ISO 1600.

View attachment 140360
Craig, your images mesmerize me.:)

Thank you for sharing those and I was just thinking about that small window last night before the Moon rise. I may try again this evening.

How in the world do you get those stars to flare line that? Simply beautiful!:thumbup:

Dave
 
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