Required Gear/equipment for Low Light Photography

I re-looked at this article – because I realised there were some equipment or suggested equipment missing from my original list. I wanted to expand as well on some of the equipment needed. (Plus I got a little bit side-tracked, and included a different subject as well into the original article. 

1.1       Overview

The following article will show you: what is the essential and required equipment to take photographs of the night time sky. This article focuses on DSLR required equipment and not telescopes..

1.2       Essential Equipment

The first step in taking great astrophotography photographs is to obtain the correct gear and software. The following table indicates the required gear and software with a short description of each: 

1.3       Required Gear

The first step in taking great lightning photographs is to obtain the correct gear and software. The following indicates the required gear and software with a short description of each:

1.3.1         A DSLR Camera

You will need a DSLR camera with Manual capability.

Manual capability will allow you to set the ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Ensure that your camera can operate in low light, and that it has adequate noise filters and ability to handle high ISO values. I personally prefer using Canon cameras. 

You must be able to set the following on your digital camera:
·         ISO,
·         Aperture,
·         Shutter speed,
·         Noise Reduction,
·         White Balance,
·         Delay, and
·         Continuous shooting 

1.3.2         A Wide angle Lens

You will require as well a good lens with the ability to set it to manual focus. Manual focus is required because the camera will not have the ability to focus automatically, and you would use manual focus to focus your star to pinpoint sharpness. It would be good if your lens has the ability to have fast-aperture wide-angle lens (ideally in the f/1.4 – f/2.8 max aperture range). I like to shoot in the 18mm range, and any lower mm range would be brilliant, as you would like to shoot as much as possible of the stars.

Obviously if you want greater quality photos then you should use a prime lens. I have two which I use with great success: 24 mm pancake lens and a 50mm nifty fifty lens. The reason why I use a lot my 18mm lens it to show the audience that low-light photography can be done with any kind of lens.

A lot of people believe that you should take low-light photography with a wide aperture (low f for example f/1.8) but in my articles I’ve demonstrated as well that if you find your “sweet spot” in the middle ranges then you still can have awesome photos.  

1.3.3         A Sturdy Tripod

You would require a sturdy tripod due to you shooting long exposures. Ensure as well that your tripod which will not shake when there is some wind.

Ensure as well that your tri-pod’s head can rotate horizontal and vertical. This will enable you to take landscape or portrait photographs.

Check as we how you mounted your camera onto the Tri-Pod. You may need to change batteries during your photography session, and if the tri-pod mount is situated in front of the battery door then you will have to move the camera’s direction, and trust be you will never get the exact same direction of your camera again. When you mount your camera onto the tri-pod mount: leave space open for you to open the battery door. 

I have 2 tri-pods, I use the first a sturdy tri-pod when shooting close to home, and have a travel-tripod. The travel tripod is lighter so that it does not take too much space in my suitcase – but it is sturdy enough that it does not oscillate in the wind.
 

1.3.4         A remote camera trigger

You would use the remote camera trigger to trigger your shutter without you touching the camera (avoiding camera shake), and to control the exposure time (ranging from a couple of seconds to a couple of hours). There are three devices which you can use:
·         Cable Release,
·         Intervalometer, and
·         McGyver style fix 

1.3.4.1           Forgot it – what now

TIP: If you’ve forgotten your remote trigger or cable release then you can do one of three things:
1.       Put your finger on the shutter for one hour – ouch
2.       Take an elastic band and an eraser (rubber) and rig the eraser on top of the shutter button
3.       Take masking tape and a small round rock and rig it on top of the shutter button
These solutions are not elegant but it works. 

1.3.5         Flashlight

Ensure that you take along a good flashlight and headlamp. You will require the headlamp to see where you are going and to see the back of the camera when setting up. The lamp will as well be used to perform focusing your camera at low-light conditions.

1.3.6         Extra Batteries

Always take extra batteries with you, as taking photos over a long time period will drain your owner, and it will be a pity if you have to stop shooting because you do not have enough power with you. (No – red bull will not give your camera extra power :-))

You can acquire as well a battery pack to assist you, so that you do not have to change batteries yourself. The battery packs usually contain two batteries. 

1.3.7         Extra Memory Cards

Always take along an extra memory card, especially if you shoot in RAW mode. Raw mode always eats up a lot of storage space, so it is better to have extra memory cards in your repository. 

1.3.8         Chair

To have something to sit-on during the process – I would suggest using a light chair which you can carry everywhere. 

1.3.9         Patience

You would require a lot of patience capturing the perfect shot 

1.4       Conclusion

This section showed you what is the required equipment to take photographs of the stars. Some of the equipment can be quite expensive, thus be patient and obtain all these items slowly, and always watch for specials.

 
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