Category Archives: Starry

How to photograph a Milky Way Star/Meteor-Shower

A Milky Way Star/Meteor-Shower is created when you photograph the Milky-Way, and halfway through the photograph you start to turn the lens. It creates then an effect that simulates a Meteor Shower coming from the Milky-Way. The trick is not to bump your camera, as this will cause your image to become fuzzy.

This section will show you how to photograph the Milky Way Star/Meteor-Shower with the use of a tri-pod, your DSLR camera, a cable release and some patience. Do not be despaired if you don’t get this right the first time, as it will take a couple of test photos to get a nice crisp photograph.
STEP 1: Get Ready and  
STEP 2: Set the settings – Refer to the next page for the settings
STEP 3: Point your camee to the Milky-Way and Take a Test Photo
1.       The first step would be to set your camera to the following settings: ISO = 3200, Shutter Speed = 30 Seconds and Aperture f/4.5
2.    Press your cable release, and take the photograph
3.    Leave the camera for 12 seconds, and then slowly start to zoom in your lens from 18mm till about 35mm. Try to minimize the camera shake(turn the lenses very slowly and do not shake the camera)
4.    When the photo is finished then look at it in playback
In Playback make sure that all the stars have pinpoint accuracy. If they are not very sharp then re-focus your lens until the ultimate sharpness can be obtained. If your photo is sharp then sit back and admire your first photograph.
STEP 4: Take your photograph
 

Photographing Jupiter and Moons with a DSLR

In June 2016 I set out to capture Jupiter and its moons. This proved quite tricky as Jupiter in relation to the earth moves quite quickly. The following section will show you how to photograph Jupiter and its four primary Jupiter Moons.

Step 1: Getting Started

The following steps show you how to get ready:

1.    Wait for the sun to set

2.    Make sure you have a fully charged battery, with a spare battery,
3.    Mount your camera onto your tripod, and Connect your cable-release to the camera
STEP 2: Set the settings – Refer to the next page for the settings
STEP 3: Take a Test Photo

In Playback make sure that all the stars have pinpoint accuracy. If they are not very sharp then re-focus your lens until the ultimate sharpness can be obtained. If your photo is sharp then sit back and admire your first photograph.

STEP 4: Taking the photographs
STEP 5: Download it to a PC and enjoy it!
 

Settings

White Balance:  Change the white balance to daylight. Daylight will produce the closest colour range to your visible perception. I usually shoot in tungsten but Daylight setting will capture the “true” colour of Jupiter nicely.
Aperture: I would recommend setting your lens to the maximum aperture it can go to e.g. f/6.3 so that the maximum amount of light and colour can be captured by your camera.
Shutter speed: 1/60. I found that this fast shutter speed enables the camera to capture the fast moving planet the best. You can possibly use 1/50 or 1/80 as well but this will not produce the same results.
Zoom: Set your camera to its maximum zoom. I have a Tamron 150-600mm and took the Jupiter photo sequence with this lens.
ISO: Set the ISO to 12800. The high ISO will assist your camera to capture as much as possible light and colour from the Jupiter image.
Stability: Jupiter moves extremely quickly in relation to the earth, thus you must ensure your tripod is stable. Ensure as well that you constantly re-frame your image to include Jupiter, as it will move quickly out of the field of view of your camera.

Photographing Mars with a DSLR

Between May 28th and June 3rd 2016 Mars were the closest to earth since 2005 at a distance of 75.3 million kilometres away from Earth. Mars orbits the sun as well on an elliptical path which takes 687 days to complete, and it’s the different elliptical path of Mars and Earth which takes them in close proximity once every couple of years (approximately 15-17 years). The next “close” encounter with Mars will be in July 2018. Look up at the night sky during this period and look for the brightest red star in the night sky. This article focuses on how I photographed Mars and what settings you can use to photograph this amazing phenomenon.

Step 1: Getting Started

The following steps show you how to get ready:

1.    Wait for the sun to set,
2.    Make sure you have a fully charged battery, with a spare battery, as capturing Mars on continuous mode takes a lot of power from your camera,
3.    Mount your camera onto your tripod, and Connect your cable-release to the camera
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Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1VMikhail Chubarets in the Ukraine made this chart. This chart was composed with images from a telescope, and I’ve included this for indicative purposes only. BUT this article will focus on how to photograph Mars with a DSL camera.

<![endif]–>STEP 2: Set the settings – Refer to the next page for the settings

STEP 3: Take a Test Photo
In Playback make sure that all the stars have pinpoint accuracy. If they are not very sharp then re-focus your lens until the ultimate sharpness can be obtained. If your photo is sharp then sit back and admire your first photograph.

STEP 4: Taking the photographs
STEP 5: Stack your Mars photos and enjoy it

Settings

White Balance:  Change the white balance to daylight. Daylight will produce the closest colour range to your visible perception. I usually shoot in tungsten but Daylight setting will capture the “true” colour of mars nicely.
Aperture: I would recommend setting your lens to the maximum aperture it can go to e.g. f/5 so that the maximum amount of light and colour can be captured by your camera.
Shutter speed: 1/60. I found that this fast shutter speed enables the camera to capture the fast moving planet the best. You can possibly use 1/50 or 1/80 as well but this will not produce the same results.
Zoom: Set your camera to its maximum zoom. I have a Tamron 150-600mm and took the Mars photo sequence with this lens.
ISO: Set the ISO to 12800. The high ISO will assist your camera to capture as much as possible light and colour from the mars image.
Stability: Mars moves extremely quickly in relation to the earth, thus you must ensure your tripod is stable. Ensure as well that you constantly re-frame your image to include mars, as it will move quickly out of the field of view of your camera.
Amount of Photos: I took 400 photos of Mars to create the composite image, but it is usually better to even take more of the photos of Mars to gain more detail in your composite image.

Compiling the image

Download AutoStackert from the following website: http://www.autostakkert.com/
AutoStackert allows you to stack multiple photos including planets to create a clear and sharper image.
Step 1: Open AutoStackert
Step 2: Click on Open Files, and select your first batch of mars photos. (In the open files dialog ensure that you’ve selected “image files” at the bottom of the screen)
Tip: I process the files in chunks of 25, because of my processing power of my PC. Thus if you take 400 photos as I did then repeat all these steps in chunks of 25.
Step 3: Set the image stabilization Radio Button to: Planet (COG)
Step 4: Set quality estimator to Edge
Step 5: Click on Analyse
Step 6: Type 001 into the prefix edit box. (002 to 999 for the next photos)
Step 7: Set the zoom to 40% (this will use less memory)
Step 8: Select the AP size to 200
Step 9: Scroll on the right hand side to the planet, and click ONCE in the middle of the Planet. This will set the primary focus of alignment, so that the application knows what to look for.
Step 10: Click on Stack button, and let the program finish.
AutoStakcert will automatically create the result in the folder structure.
Step 11: When you’ve processed all the batches (each block of 25) then select all the output files and stack them all together to get one complete image.
Step 12: You can now open this image in GIMP and modify the Contras, Brightness, Sharpness and Reduction of noise to your liking. The biggest thing is to crop your final image so that you can view MARS a lot better from close-up.

Phases of the Moon

Overview

The moon has different phases, and has different effects on the lightning of your scene. The moon is a great source of Light Pollution in your scene, but this depends as well what kind of photo you want to take. The moon orbits the Earth in approximately 29 days, and follows the Earth in an ecliptic orbit, and so it sometimes closer or further away from the Earth.
 

Primary Phases of the Moon

 
There are three additional phenomenon’s which have an impact on your night time photo: Blue Moon (when there are two full moons in one month), Super Moon (when the moon is the closest to Earth in its elliptical orbit, Red Moon (Blood Moon – rare phenomenon) 

Why is this important?

If you take StarTrail or Star Circle photographs then you want as dark as possible night time scenes, but this is useful as well when you want to photograph the moon. Moonlit scenes can create some dramatic effects in your photographs, and thus I would suggest that you plan according to the phases of the moon.

 
 
 

How to do a Night Time Panorama Photo

Overview

This guide will show you in easy steps how to stich photos together which you have taken from the night sky. I take a sequence of photos moving from left to right with 33% overlap of each; with the standard camera settings for Star Freeze (please refer to the related article). After I’ve taken the photos then I use an automatic stitching program to put the photos together.

Software to Use

Microsoft ICE: Software which provides automatic stitching – and it’s for free: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/projects/ice/

Step by Step How to Guide

Step 1: Start Microsoft Image Composite Editor
Step 2: And click on new Panorama from Images
Step 3: Select the files you want to stitch together
Step 4: Click on Next
Step 5: And select “Transverse Mercator” on right hand side
Step 6: Click on Next
Step 7: Select Autocomplete (to crop the correct frame)
Step 8: Save Image and enjoy it

How do you do: Light Painting

I would recommend to perform light-painting on one of your photographs. Light painting is the technique where you control the amount of light entering the camera which are emanating from an external source like a flashlight.

The major benefits is light painting is that you can add depth and control the shadows in ypur photographs. You control as well where in your scene the light must be pointed and what must be illuminated in your scene  that you have an photograph in which the foreground is perfectly exposed. If you do not use light painting thn your foreground will look black with no details, and if you overdo light painiting then everything comes out white, the trick is to practice to get te right amount of light.

1.1.1          Technique

I would suggest to carefully lighting the scene. You can do this by diffusing the light by standing far away from your subject, and flashing the light over the subject from different angles. Be careful of using too much or too little light. If you use too much light then your scene will be too white and harsh and when you use too little light your foreground scene will be too dark. Be careful of using too much light from the back of your camera as this will create a too harsh scene with too much light, but rather try and light your scene from the sides, and other angles.  Use matches as well to create a warmer feeling to your photograph, and do not stand too close to your subject, rather stand further away. Do not use a too bright light as this will easily cause overexposure. Be careful not to shine light from both sides as this will create fuzzy shadows. Use a white and red light for effects.

Direction
Painting Time
Keep Moving:
45 degrees to left OR right side do NOT shine light head on.
Paint no more than 10 seconds in 30 seconds photo.
Keep your lights moving like a paintbrush over the scene
Test Test Test
Indirect lighting:
Distance
Always take test photo and evaluate exposure
Shine through hand, matches or from sides. Bounce light off other surfaces
Not too close, around 10 meters behind scene
Don’t Overexpose
Not on Lens
Speed
Don’t shine the light source too long on your scene.
Don’t shine the light on your lens as this will cause flares.
Paint light slowly over scene (no longer than 2 second illumination at a time).

1.1.2          Light Painting Sources

Flashlight
Matches
Hand
You can use a torch to highlight your foreground landscape when you start taking your photograph.
Strike matches every 5-10 seconds in a 30 second photo to create a warm looking photo
Shine a light through your hand to diffuse some of the harsh light onto your scene

How to find the Milky Way Core

Overview

The most visible part of the Milky Way is the center of our galaxy where the most amounts of stars occurs. The galaxy center can easily be found via the application Planit! or by using your eyes. It is usually very good to plan for your shot using PlanIt! to ensure that you have the correct date and time to where the Milky Way center is going to be at any given time or at a specific date. 

 

Planning your photograph in PlanIt!

Follow the following step-by step guide to plan for the position of the Milky Way
1.       Open PlanIt! For Photographers On your mobile phone
2.       Open the Ephemeris features menu and select the Milky Way Centre
3.       Click on the icon to center on your current location
4.       Select the backgrounds menu option and select the Viewfinder (VR) option
5.       Adjust you time to the time you want to photograph
6.       Select your focal length
7.       Rotate the degrees at the bottom until you can see the Milky Way
8.     Lastly – find now the correct degrees to which the Milky Way is located