Thursday, 23 March 2017

Superb Aurora 21 3 17

The 21 3 17 proved to be one of the best Aurora's we have seen coming to Shetland. First a clear night, that's been a rarity recently and the prospect of a good Aurora tempted us to visit Bigton.

A rare sight in the UK, a pink Aurora (For a short time)

The colours on the night were amazing, anything from various shades of green, purple, pink, even a bit of blue

From the off the Aurora was very active with pulsating pillars and lighter green curtains moving rapidly across the sky

reaching above the green curtains large purple pillars all moving very fast. All these captured at 1- 2 seconds at ISO 6400

I left after 2 hours after it seem to be calming down as it reached 11 pm, but this one will stay in our memories for many years to come. March has proved to be a good month to see Aurora's

More photos to come once i have had time to process them

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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Tingwall Light Pollution

Tingwall can be very good for seeing the Aurora but it also suffers from light pollution, which is especially evident when cloud forms

The first two are looking north and east showing light pollution from Lerwick

The 4 photos below are looking south picking up light pollution from Scalloway

You can still see Orion from half way up Tingwall valley

Further north at Brae and Sullom the light pollution is very bad.

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Thursday, 16 March 2017

Tingwall earlier in month

 Finally after some time i have processed some photos from an Aurora at Tingwall at the beginning of the month. These were all taken with a Sony A7s and a 24mm lens a great combination

Detail in this full frame camera seems a lot better even though it only has a 12 Mp sensor.

All taken at ISO 3200 F/2 these are a lot cleaner images than most of the other full frame cameras. The Sony A7s ability of handling high ISO makes it the ideal camera for night photography. I am still waiting to push it to its limits and hope to post images here soon.

With its wide open vistas Tingwall is an ideal location, looking north from the boat house. For the second time in a couple of months an otter came out on the jetty beside me and jumped straight back in the loch surprising both of us.

Its surprising how busy this road is but the headlights can add an extra dimension when they light up the houses at the north end. 

I have just developed a  new NIGHTSCAPES Photography course for  Shetland Adult Education , this will take place Monday 9.30 - 12.30- 6 sessions x 3 hours starting end of October 2017 covering equipment, planning, Milky way, stars, Orion, Moon, Aurora, Processing, dealing with noise and some other areas. Send me a message if you are interested in attending this course in Shetland

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Please take a look at my other blogs
shetland  - out time in Shetland - Shetland widlife

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Quendale at Night

Following on from my last blog, i managed to get out the other night despite the strong winds. This time down to Quendale.

Using the same combination of the Sony A7s & the Samyang 24 mm F1.4 lens i spent most of the time photographing the old house just beyond the farm. I stopped the lens down to F2 where it is sharper and again shot at 13 seconds using ISO 3200.

Light pollution from Sumburgh airport was very evident - south east of the farm and also Lerwick to the north.

Very pleased with this combination, seems a sharp lens, just make sure you get a good copy.

Don't forget to join Shetland Aurora Hunter on facebook

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Sony A7s & Samyang 24mm f1.4 lens review

Anyone interested in astrophotography will at sometime look at the Sony A7s and Samyang 24 mm f1.4 lens. This review is not as comprehensive as many you can find but i did a lot of research while i was saving up and i would say around 99% of the people seem very happy with the A7s

Taking the full frame Sony A7s first, it is THE best low light camera on the market today, with exceptional ISO performance.  As it only has a 12.2 mp sensor some people may be put off demanding a higher resolution of a 24mp camera, however for astro work the 12.2 mp sensor has larger pixels so it collects more light than the higher rated cameras.

People get convinced that they need more megapixels, yet one this size can do all everything  most photographer require. I often did 36 x 30 canvas from the Nikon D300s 12.1 mp camera and they all came out superb. Most people may never do anything other than web size so will never get the benefit of a high mp sensor.

                                                                                  Venus and Mars just above

Most DSLR cameras can use up to ISO 1600 and with noise reduction will get a good photo, unless you can afford a Nikon D3/4/5.

The Sony A7s can handle ISO shots up to ISO 25200 with little noise evident. But acceptable results at the highest setting of  ISO 409,500. No other camera can achieve these results  and it is a mirror-less camera so no vibrations.

Its smaller than my other DSLR cameras but fits well in the hand. The battery  only allows for around 390 photos , less than half of the Nikon D610, but you get two batteries with the camera, in my case i also got another one free in the package offered by Bristol cameras

I chose the A7s rather than the A7s II because the main improvements have been to the video side and vibration reduction, neither are required for the astro work i do, so don't warrant paying the extra £700 for the up grade.

After what seems ages, the sky finally cleared for a few hours and the curse of buying new equipment lifted. I decided to go down to Perrie Spiggie which looks west and has some nice stacks in the bay. Also you can park close by and it was sheltered from the westerly wind.

Although the moon was about 1/2 full it did provide some lighting to the landscape, helped by a little light painting. All these photos on this blog were taken at 13 seconds, F2 at ISO 3200. Very impressed when the came up on the screen which tilts and later on the computer. Images needed little processing

Working with the camera in dark conditions have been reasonably easy and menu button accessible for zooming, while the ISO is changed on the dial. Checking the histogram is important and this is automatically shown when the image is taken.

Regarding the Samyang 24 mm F1.4, it is a superb lens. I checked to see whether any soft areas were evident but was satisfied with tests done on the lens chart and with the stars in this test. Unlike the Samyang 14mm F2.8 which i had to send back three times before i got a good copy the 24 mm lens has less problems according to various forums.

                                                                               Orion looking good as usual

Conclusion: I am very happy with the Sony A7s and 24 mm Samyang lens, results so far are very encouraging with low noise levels. I am looking forward to testing the full range of ISO levels once we get darker skies

                                                            Venus very bright on right hand side