Every once in a while, I get the urge to try some astrophotography. There really are some amazing examples on the web, but try as I might, I’m never quite satisfied with my efforts. Either there is too much ambient light (even in Killarney in mid-winter!!) or the image is too grainy for my liking, even with my D800E. I will keep trying, though.
The biggest impediment for me is leaving a nice warm bed and going out into the cool night air at 2am or thereabouts. But, once I’m out, I revel in the quiet and stillness of the night. It’s actually therapeutic and takes me back to the my 4×5 days of slow, methodical set-up, especially in winter.
If you want to pursue astrophotography, Rob Wood over at Lightstalking.com has an excellent tutorial to get you started. There are some particular settings that will help increase your success rate, not the least of which are high ISO, a wide angle lens and, most importantly, getting infinity focus correct. This is difficult to do if you are unfamiliar with working with your lens in the dark, as lenses focussed to the max are not at infinity. Somehow, lens designers have done us the dis-service of being able to focus beyond infinity, if that’s even possible! 😉 Also, don’t forget your headlamp with a red light setting; no sense blinding your night vision with white light.
The other helpful piece of equipment is an iPad or phone with one of the Night Sky apps on it. Again – set it to night mode with red highlights to avoid blinding your night vision. I use Sky Guide and SkyView Lite. Oh, and be sure to check the cloud forecast; I like ClearDarkSky.com.