When shooting the stars becomes a passion you can’t resist, why not learn more about the professional way to do it?
Today, a new branch of photography known as astrophotography has emerged, which combines technology, art, and science and gives us a whole new world of fabulous images.
Night Photography and Astronomy
Most of us tend to use our cameras exclusively in the daytime and rarely venture to take night shots, especially of the sky. When we do, the results are often disappointing, as the camera rarely records exactly what the human eye has seen. While larger and brighter objects like the moon and some planets may be visible, stars, nebulae, and distant galaxies remain elusive. But today, the sky’s literally the limit, with better processes, proficiency, and expertise.
In fact, advances in photography techniques, cameras, and equipment have fueled knowledge of astronomy. Long-term exposure and other such capabilities have led to the development of more sophisticated and specialized optical telescopes etc.
As an enthusiastic beginner, you can start taking pictures of the moon, planets, and constellations with almost any kind of good digital camera and a decent tripod. You certainly don’t need to break the bank initially when you get started on astrophotography.
Spend time sky-watching. Become familiar with the different effects you get at different times, starting from early twilight to late dawn.
Once you come to know your way around your chosen patch of sky, think of capturing it on film.
As you become more confident, you can start investing in cameras with more advanced features.
What You Need
Begin with the basics. Most amateur photographers already have many of this equipment, but ensure that they’re strong and of good quality.
Tripod: A robust, steady, strong and simple tripod is really your best friend. It needs to be tough enough to hold your camera still for hours on end without the slightest wobble. So don’t go for cheap.
Manual mode camera: Since you need perfect control over exposure time, an SRL camera with the Bulb feature would be great. Full-frame cameras with RAW format are also fine.
Remote shutter release: Shaking is an absolute no-no. So get a remote-control or shutter-release cable to eliminate the jitters. Affordable after-market shutter releases are available.
Lens: If you have a wide-angle, non-zoom lens, you’re all set. Use a lens with aperture range f/2.8 – f/4
Dark nights: This seems obvious but it’s not easy to get a pitch-dark night unless you’re a country-dweller. Get away from the city lights and pick a clear night. The current phase of the moon, weather and orientation are equally critical.
Now, all it takes is technique and practice. Remember that the earth is a moving object among a host of other moving objects. Long-exposure techniques have to be mastered.
With this, you can get some brilliant, abstract, star-trail pictures, but if you want to capture the stars as we see them, you need shorter exposure times with a wide-angle lens.
- Select the right spot
- Adjust your camera settings to a high ISO. Fit the right lens.
- Use the 600 Rule (divide 600 by the focal length of your lens) to avoid star-trail.
- Put the lens in manual mode and turn it to infinity-focus.
- Set the camera on tripod.
- Shoot consecutively without moving the camera.
- You’ll need editing software to bring up the colors.
Conclusion: You’ll revel in this captivating hobby! Start right and you’ll soon find yourself enjoying those “Starry starry nights!”
Rakib Hasan is a professional photographer and freelance (photo editing and photography) writer.