Astrophotography

Night sky and Milky Way over George Lake, Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario, CanadaEvery 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.

Night Sky over Bark Lake, Halliburton, Ontario, Canada 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.

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3 comments

  1. Robert Melnyk says:

    Well done Terry. I think as photographers at any level we should try as many elements of photography as we can. Some may catch our interest and some are a learning experience, It may not be our thing but the learning will likely will spill over into our other photography interests, it’s all connected. I’ve tried astrophotography several times, found it interesting and my results ‘interesting’. I was with a group of others who were very experienced and produced outstanding images. And yes, we always do it on the coldest night when the air is still. I remember one of our group who was thrilled he captured a satellite crossing the night sky, only to find out it was an airplane – oops. But is was a great shot.

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