Astrophotography Attempt #1

I am not an expert.  If you have been keeping up with this blog or my tweets this is quite obvious.  I’m just a curious woman who likes to try new things.  That being said I would like to share with all other amateur photographers out there my experience and mistakes attempting astrophotography.

Astrophotography are photographs taken of the night sky and celestial bodies.  For instance, I believe the Hubble Space Telescope is the definitive astrophotographers camera.  Sure it’s helping us start to understand the limitless mysterious of our universe but most of us see the beautiful images that comes from that telescope.

Since I do not have Hubble to focus into deep space for my images I have to settle for what I have.  It takes patience, it takes time, and it takes confidence and faith in your equipment.

For the first images I have EVER taken of the night sky in any capacity, I think they came out pretty damn good!  Here are a few good tips that I’m pretty sure are obvious but I learned them through tutorials and trial and error.

  • Always use a stable tripod!  A thin aluminum tripod might not be stable enough for astrophotography and even a slight budge knocks your camera off kilter.
  • The first time will NEVER be perfect!  You’re still learning and you have to embrace the fact that you are probably only going to get a few decent photos out of a few hours.  That being said, practice different setting to see which works best for your camera.
  • Try to work on solid ground.  Cobblestones, grass and dirt, or uneven pavers are tricking because all you have to do is step on a stone near one of the legs and you’ll throw off the whole shot.
  • Be prepared to wait a while for these images to process.  You’ll have only a few second window (if you’re not trying to photograph star trails) to get a shot and it takes about a minute to a minute and a half to actually take the images through process.
  • Keep your shutter speed slow but not so slow that you catch star trail (again, only if that is what you’re going for).  The Earth moves…fast!  I took a series of images at only 25 seconds and I caught star trail AND a sequence of rotation from the sky.  That’s how fast the Earth moves!
  • If you don’t have a remote release, work with your timer.  I strapped tie wraps around my camera on the tripod so I couldn’t easily push it around.
  • For the first try, I would suggest running it until your battery dies and then see what you have so the next time you can switch up your game plan.  The battery will die fairly quickly since you’re leaving the shutter open and the processing takes a minute.
  • Once you do have your photos in the computer you will have to stack and tweak them to bring out their colors and reduce noise.
  • If you are shooting with a simple point and shoot…don’t be disappointed you didn’t get a crisp clear images of the Milky Way.  Better quality DSLR’s with better lenses are far more suitable for this task. However, you can get some wonderful images of the starry sky and maybe catch some meteors.
  • You are trying to catch images of light that has passed through light years of space and then the layers of our atmosphere so chances are your images will look blurry and grainy.

As for my 35mm that I shot, according to the clerk I only had three good shots from the roll.  The only reason this is disappointing is that I can go into Lightroom 5 and adjust the shots, but since she couldn’t see them…she discarded them!  I was hoping I could find them on my digital copy but it was not to be.  The ones I did get were adjusted and turned out actually very similar to the ones taken with the HX9V.  If I could encourage all of you to do this one thing: Never throw any of your images out!  Even if they look dull or overexposed there may still be a chance to salvage them!

Here! I’ll show you the before and after Lightroom!

Here are the finished results!

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