The above shot of the February 20th, 2008 lunar eclipse was taken just with a 70-300mm lens and a tripod – nothing fancy. The first thing you want to do is stop your lens down at least 1 stop to improve the quality of stars and reduce vignetting. The shot you see above was taken on the edge of a green zone, the problem was there was a small town directly south about 10-15km which is where this shot is pointing. As discussed in the star trails section, you can get away with around 30 seconds before trailing is a problem in a wide shot.
Finally, don’t forget to take a series of dark frames for all the exposure settings you used.
If you want to take close ups of sections of the Milky Way or photography other deep sky objects like nebula and galaxies you will need to move onto the Advanced section of this guide.
I have been researching astrophotography for only a week and it has been some what overwhelming. I was told the flat frames MUST be taken at the same ISO and orientation of the camera and with same focus of your object when you took your lights.
The Orion Nebula photo gives people the false sense that this is achievable with a standard dlsr and lens.
I have used a Sigma-DG 50-500mm lens and a Canon 70D and have some excellent pictures of Orion. I getting into astrophotography with a Pentax K3 ii, does anyone had any tips for using in camera sensor tracking? Camera controls and functions in the Canon 1000D (Digital Rebel XS) are accessed via a variety of buttons on the top and back of the camera, as well as a series of software menus that are viewed on the LCD on the back of the camera. To simplify things for novice photographers, camera manufacturers offer a series of automatic modes that pretty much control everything on the camera. It would be a good idea to spend some time with the camera and camera manual familiarizing yourself with various different settings and menu items. ISO - Generally the ISO should be set to 1600 for long-exposure deep-sky astrophotos with older cameras.
Canon Picture Styles and Nikon Picture Controls - Set to Standard or Neutral for Canon, and Standard or Vivid for Nikon. Metering - Generally doesn't matter, but you can try setting it to Spot if you are shooting the Moon or Sun (with proper filtration). Shutter Speed - Set to the correct exposure as determined by examining the histogram, which we will discuss in the next section. Self Timer - If you don't have a remote release, you can use the camera's self-timer to trip the shutter so you don't have to touch the camera, which will help reduce vibrations and possible star trailing. Mirror Lock-Up - For long exposures with a very solid mounting, it probably is not necessary to lock the mirror up before an exposure. File Format: RAW vs JPEG - Most DSLR cameras come with the file format that images are stored in set to JPEG as the default.
If you don't want to go to the trouble of shooting with RAW files, set the JPEG compression to the highest quality setting (largest file size).
RAW Compression - Some cameras offer an in-camera compression for their RAW file formats that is different than the compression used with JPEG files.
You can always resize down to a smaller file size later in software, but if you do it in the camera to the original file, you throw away valuable data and you can never get it back. Long-Exposure Noise Reduction - If you are going to shoot just a couple of long-exposure frames, turn on in-camera long-exposure noise reduction. High ISO Speed Noise Reduction - Like long-exposure noise reduction, if you are going to shoot just a couple of long-exposure frames at a high ISO, turn on High ISO Speed Noise Reduction.
Astrophotography has advanced dramatically in the last 5 years due to the advent of relatively cheap CCD cameras and image-processing software. Serious astrophotographers use apochromatic (APO) refractor telescopes for astrophotography.
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Just showing my ignorance here but, if you’re going to take multiple images and stack them, what’s the purpose of including the ability to shoot up to 15 minutes?
Depending on focal length, the usable exposure time to make a shot where stars look like dots is something between 5 and 60 seconds. You also have to consider that these deep sky images are about capturing individual photons from a very remote light source. There are some nice refractor optics that I’ve seen that are relatively affordable and would be a good match for this kind of stuff from a Korean company called William Optics. Kind of, add in a few software improvements allowing more flexibility for long exposures, and that’s about it. Nikon’s website does provide such details, and the link is provided in the above NR post. Orion Nebula AstrophotographyFrom Alan Brock:I took 102 images at 2 minutes each for the nebula and 40 images at 15 seconds long for the bright core. My suggestion is to use your camera to autofocus on the moon and then set it to manual focus and be careful not to adjust the focus.
In the above shot I was looking forward to taking some milky way shots but the clouds rolled in as you can see. To take a dark frame, put your lens cap on and take pictures using the same settings you did with the lens cap off (only ISO and shutter speed is important).
If you are going to use the stacking method things will go easier if you camera has an intervalometer or you buy a remote shutter cable that can be programmed to take shots at specific intervals such as the Canon TC80N3 or Nikon MC-36. It’s best to stop down at least 2 full stops so you get sharper stars across the whole image.
You can do this in moderately light polluted environments and when the moon is out as well.
Better yet, there is a fantastic little program called Startrails that does this for you and also lets you load in dark frames. With a telephoto lens you can distinguish a lot of them though and what you are presented with is a wall of stars. If you can find your location on a light pollution map (such as the one I linked to at the bottom of page 1) see what shade of color you are in. Had the town been North instead I would have been able to capture more detail in the Milky Way.


In dark locations this is plenty of time to reveal the structure in the Milky Way, especially with a high ISO like 1600 or 3200.
This article breaks it down perfectly and I now have the confidence to purchase equipment and start giving it a try.
However following recommendations I ordered a manfrotto 496RC2 ball head but it doesn’t fit the Polarie as it has a bigger whole for the screw. How do you use these in any software like Deepskystacker or even Photoshop as ARW is not a recognised file? Various different shooting scenarios, such as special settings for sports photography, can be set on the main mode dial on the top of the camera. For short exposures for high-resolution planetary or double-star work, it is a good idea to lock the mirror up before the exposure to reduce camera movement and vibration caused by mirror slap.
The camera's native optical resolution outputs the same number of pixels that the image is taken with. If you are going to shoot multiple frames for stacking and are shooting separate dark frames, then turn it off. A backyard astronomer can now take digital images that rival what the best telescopes produced a decade ago.
Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. I would love to try my hand at this sort of thing so knowing exposure and lens data would be useful. Since you can do that anyway, with various means, it seems like they expect you to be doing it often. So to make very long exposures you need to stack up if you want to keep stars as sharp dots. Which also points out another thing, you need a clock drive mounted on a monster tripod, and a lot of patience. Even though the moon is bright and you can use a fast shutter speed you still need to minimize camera vibrations.
While they would have ruined the shots I planned on taking they arguably enhanced this one.
If you have an older style lens (the ones that usually have an f-stop ring right on the lens) those lenses typically have a hard infinity focus stop so they are the easiest; focus to infinity and you are done.
If you are in moderately dark skies (rural, out of the city) try taking a shot with a 30 second shutter speed and ISO 1600. The most crucial thing is to take them in an environment with the same temperature as your regular pictures since temperature affects the noise.
There are also cheaper third party models on eBay that also work for more camera models (Nikon remotes and Canon remotes). If you let in too little, fainter stars may never get a chance to register on the sensor because they have moved before they were able to expose. The basic idea is instead of taking one single 60 minute exposure you would instead take 60 seperate 1 minute exposures and stack them to make it look like a single continuous star trail. The darker regions in the Milky Way are vast clouds of interstellar dust blocking the light of stars behind them. The best part to photograph is the Sagittarius region (the bottom part of the above picture) which has lots of detail and lots of small bright red nebula.
The Milky Way should be immediately apparent on your rear LCD when you preview the picture. I live in a semi rural enviroment, with fairly dark skies, and there is a house about 150 metres down the road with an illuminated intruder alarm.
We are going to USA in June and will be visiting Pikes Peak, Monument Valley and Yellowstone and hoping for lots of Big Dark Skies on the way. At the moment I am converting every file to TIFF which is time consuming and I don’t know if it gives me the right results. Most are accessed either directly through buttons on the top or back of the camera, or through a series of software menus. Most will only have to be set one, but some, such as the custom white balance setting will be used each time we shoot long-exposure deep-sky astrophotos. You can turn it on to examine your test images by simply pressing the display button on the back of the camera.
Some cameras access this setting with a control on top of the camera and some through a custom setting in a menu. To fit more images on a card, for normal daytime snapshot photography, some people shoot with a lower quality setting that compresses the JPEG files more. This RAW compression will be proprietary and you may only be able to access the file with the manufacturer's software. While hypered-film cameras still have their small niche, the vast majority of astrophotography done today is digital using digital SLR cameras (such as the Canon EOS 60DA) or dedicated CCD cameras, auto-guiders, and CCD image-processing software. Stacking a bunch of short exposures doesn’t guarantee that you captured all the available light. Each image contains noise, but noise is reduced when stacked as it averages the pixels out of what the true color would be. I’d be very happy with a 24 MP sensor in a D800 body with a slight increase in continuous shooting rate and high iso performance over the D810. It’s literally a change to the IR filter (Which 3rd party can even do) and a few tweaks to the OS. Turns out he’d posted a whole bunch of info over on the FredMiranda forum so I contacted him to see if I could share his amazing talents with the planet5D family.
While close ups of the moon are great you can get interesting shots like this with just a telephoto lens. If you don’t have a remote shutter cable to trip you should use the self timer mode on your camera to take shots. If your camera fails to autofocus, put it in live-view mode on your tripod and point it at the brightest star (or moon if available). What this setting does is take a second picture but with the mirror down so no light can hit the sensor.
Using a wide angle lens it takes around 20-30 seconds for trailing to become apparent but with a 300mm lens it happens in less than 5 seconds. In most cases you will want to use ISO 100 or ISO 200 depending on your f-stop and exposure length.
You don’t want to have more than a second in between shots or else the gaps between images will be too large. The constellation Sagittarius is roughly the center point of the galaxy and when you look there you are peering to the middle of our galaxy though most of it is obscured since we are looking at it from the side.
But having the image displayed after every shot will heat the camera up causing more thermal noise.


On some cameras, Bulb may be a separate exposure mode setting, or it may be accessed on the shutter speed dial one click past the 30-second setting.
Some cameras like the 20Da require the shutter to be pressed once to lock the mirror up, and then be pressed again to actually open the shutter. For example, the Canon 1000D offers a native optical resolution of 3888 x 2592 pixels, but also offers lower, interpolated resolutions of 2816 x 1880 pixels and 1936 x 1288 pixels. Disclosure: [NR] is sponsored by companies and affiliate partners that display various advertising banners and links (see our Privacy Policy).
There are 2 methods of taking star trails which means you can take them in virtually any environment except metropolitan. It will end up overexposing not only your sky but also any landscape your happen to have in your shot. You can test out how many stars you will get by taking a shorter exposure of say around 5 minutes. You can use exposures with higher ISOs to gather more stars compared to the single exposure method. Take care to learn exactly how your camera works for this feature, because you could press the shutter thinking you have opened it for a long exposure and go off to do something else, and then come back only to find that all you had done was lock the mirror up and that no exposure had been taken. I’m happy for the astrophotographers, but not pleased that Nikon ignores current Nikon users and wastes time and resources developing niche products like the Nikon Df. You will want to use manual exposure mode for the moon as auto exposure will overexpose it usually. The overexposed part is what you are normally seeing the the dim part is normally cloaked in shadow but with a long exposure you can see the shadowed section of the moon dimly lit by the earth’s reflected light.
If you have a newer model camera you can probably get away with ISO 3200 to double your light.
Then the camera automatically subtracts it from your shot to reduce dark current noise and hot pixels. The only exception being you can sometimes manage shots under 30 minutes if you use ISO 100.
Any trails you see there will be the exact same trails you see on longer exposures, only they will stretch longer.
I tried using my 300mm lens to get the Orion Nebula but it didn’t come out on the Deep Sky Stacker. While I’m at it (and since I had trouble posting multiple images earlier), below is another one. To make it quick, use a high ISO like 3200 and take a 5 or 10 second picture and check the stars. Personally I prefer taking my own dark frames and subtracting them myself as necessary…plus that way I can take multiple dark frames. If you are within ~100 miles of any city or town, forget about doing that hour long exposure you were thinking about – the light pollution will wash out the sky and your stars.
By using that as a baseline you can see if your sky is too bright or too dark, if your landscape is exposed properly, if there is any amp glow, etc. The single exposure method requires a lot of trial and error but if done properly results in some very otherworldly looking images. Amp glow is caused by heat in the camera and usually starts at the edges of the image and gets worse.
This way the rotation of the mount can cancel out the earth’s rotation through the night. However, in spite of precise alignment, there can still be movement based on slight imperfections in the gearing of your mount, slight gust of wind, etc. If it detects any movement in that star, it sends a signal to your mount so it can compensate for this movement and keep your image stable.Next is image capture. You can have them modified specifically for astrophotography, but I’ve found no need to do that. Then software will remove the noise in the image while keeping stars and other detail intact.
Taking completely black images will identify these pixels so they can be subtracted in post. Taking pics of a completely flat, evenly illuminated surface again lets software calibrate and correct these imperfections (as well as dust spots).Finally, there is image processing. It then goes to photoshop where you can spend hours teasing out the little bits of detail while keeping noise in check. That being said, there is no feeling in photography like when a nebula pops up on the camera screen after a successful 8 minute sub-exposure!
I’ve got everything set up to run off a deep cycle marine battery so I can hit the road to a dark sky site in the mountains.
Happy hunting and clear skies!Have you given HLVG plug-in a try?The green is probably from the LP filter. I always use a custom WB off of a gray card with it, but somehow the green still shows through I guess. Good to see others interested in AP; I look forward to seeing your work!Light Pollution Filter: What does it do? Would this help to subdue the city light for a regular night photography?A light pollution filter is a mandatory piece of equipment IMO…even if you are shooting from a dark sky site.
If you are shooting in an area of high light pollution or light from the moon is making the sky bright, it allows you to still photograph your target without the sky washing out too much.
It also makes your camera more sensitive to wavelengths of light found in certain nebulae, such as the red areas in M42 above.Aside from camera gear how much money is involved in such an elaborate set up?As far as budget goes, the sky is the limit.
I tailored my gear to do deep sky imaging (nebula, galaxies, etc) and, IMO, it is the minimum setup for this type of imaging.
For the imaging scope, a good entry scope is an 80mm doublet or triplet refractor; plan on around $900 for this.
Then there are tons of accessories that I consider absolutely necessary: mounting rings, dew control, portable power source, filter, optical field flattener, remote camera shutter. She’d get me something off the list for Christmas, I opened it, and then stashed it in a closet not to be used for a few more years! But I researched what I needed, I had a goal, and slowly worked toward it; it’s not like my intended subjects were going anywhere!



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