Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Astrophotography part 1- equipment

Have you ever tried to take photographs of night sky ?

You will need certain equipment to get some decent results. I don't mean using a telescope just your camera

1. Tripod
2. Cable release or preferably a Timer remote for longer exposures
3. SLR camera
4 .Wide angle lens
5. Lots of good clear nights
6. Patience
7 Warm clothing
8.Lack of wind

A solid tripod and preferably one with a hook on the centre column so you can hand a bag to help stablise it even further. Try to set it up on a solid surface and not on grass and if possible a sheltered area away from wind.

Cable release
Most camera setting will allow you to go down to a 30 second shot. What you need to do is to use a cable release to minimise the vibration, better still use a timer remote which allows you to set long exposure for up to 99 hours and number of photos to 399. I use the TC-2 for the Nikon D7000

As noise is a major problem when taking long exposures it is best to use a DSLR, the best but most expensive is a full frame camera but I usually get reasonable photos from a DSLR DX (cropped sensor camera such as the Nikon D300, D7000 and even the new D7100. It also has a good range of ISO settings and a good processor

Wide angle lens
You need as much light in the camera as possible, so a fast lens is preferred. I use the Tokina 11-16 mm f2.8 lens, which isn't the fastest but is very sharp when using it full opened. You will have to close most lenses down to say f/5.6 to get a sharp photo

Clear Night
This is the most frustrating, you can have all your equipment ready, but then you have no clear nights for days on end. Then when you do you are usually committed to something else. as Shetland is near the coast the weather systems seem to move quickly overhead, so although it may be cloudy now it could be clear in an hour. You will need a decent gap in the clouds to get some long exposures.As the nights are loner in Shetland you will have more chance of a decent spell.

Yes have lots of this, you will be stood about alot when you have set up the camera, so why not take your ipod with you to pass the time

Warm clothing
Its surprising how many people don't go out prepared, its going to be at least a few hours outside and the last thing you want is to be cold, you loose concentration and the will to be outside, so wrap up warm and take a hot drink with you.

Lack of wind
Shetland is not normally a good place for still weather, well it does happen some times. But you can find a sheltered spot and use a weight on the end of your tripod to help. Once you start a sequence of photos then it could be rattling them off for an hour solid. You could also use yourself as a wind break, if you position your self right.

You will need at least one , try a head torch will will free up your hands. You will need one to set up the focus and one to move about. A Red cover is better and you want your eyes to adapt to the darkness

Try to plan your shoot ahead and do a recce during the day to see whether things are. You don't want telephone wires crossing through the photo and if possible find an interesting object for the foreground such as an old croft or some large rocks or go near the sea

In the next blog we will talk about how to take the photos.

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