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Night photography - starry skys

I'd love to be able to take some photos of the night sky but dont know how.
11 years ago, March 9th 2008 No: 1 Msg: #29471  
I've seen plenty of good pics of starry skys, some just the sky and some with mountains or buildings in, and would love to have a go myself. We tried this weekend while camping at the beach, but they didnt come out too well. Can someone please give us a few hints. We have a digital, not a SLR but it does have manual settings (bit limited, but not too bad). What sort of speed / aperture etc should we try? I'd like to take some with the stars clear and some showing their movement, long streaks of light across the sky. We get some awesome views of the milky way, we'd love to capture that too.

So, help please! Ideal settings... if the digi cant manage it, then I'll just have to get a roll of film and some batteries and resurrect the old SLR.

Thanks. Reply to this

11 years ago, March 9th 2008 No: 2 Msg: #29505  
Night pictures, specially starry skies are very difficult to take because you need some equipment. With a camera that allows full manual control you can capture not only the stars but even the movement of the stars in some cases. the basic equipment needed is:

1) A Tripod
2) A camera that has a "bulb" setting ( a setting where the shutter can be opened manually and held open for as long as the user wants)
3) A remote camera release that allows control over the "bulb" shutter release.

Once you have these basic things, you find yourself a dark area to photograph, set up your tripod with your camera on it and use the wired or wireless shutter release to hold open the shutter for long period of time to get the desired effect. Usually your aperture should be set towards the sharpest end of your lenses apertures (usually in the f/8 through f/11 range). It takes some experimentation to get the shutter length you want. Some of the more expensive shutter releases actually have timers on then so you don't have to clock it yourself.

They say that around 3-5 minutes will capture the stars and that around ten minutes starts to get the "star streaks" effect. I've never actually shot stars myself but have the intention of doing some of that some time in the future.

Hope that helps,

Mike T. Reply to this

11 years ago, March 10th 2008 No: 3 Msg: #29530  
Even though you're not discussing deep-sky photography, I think the tips provided at Sky and Telescope Magazine might be of interest to you, particularly the image gallery where photographers share what equipment and settings they used to take their photos. It's always inspired me.

Mike already pointed out the basic's, although the only one you absolutely have to have is the manual shutter release but if you don't have the others you'll be stuck with decent but not great. Case in point, we took this photo here with a flat surface and steady hand (a tripod and remote control make life so much easier) with the shutter open about a minute. You can just start to make out stars (the prominent dot in the sky is most likely a planet). You'll always want to be aware of external sources of light, not only the obvious (streetlamps, fires, whathaveyou) but also the phases of the moon. Reply to this

11 years ago, March 10th 2008 No: 4 Msg: #29532  
Thanks, thats great advice. I'm going to get some batteries and film for the SLR as the newer digi doesnt go beyond 60s shutter speed. Although, the ones we took on the weekend werent too bad with 60s. I'll have a play around with aperture too. Reply to this

11 years ago, March 10th 2008 No: 5 Msg: #29585  
Keep in mind too that longer exposures take up more space on your memory card. Like Stephanie and Andras said, external light sources can throw the photo off (white balance and exposure). Manual focus is best--auto focus systems just don't work as well for night photography.

If you can track down an exposure card, they are helpful--you can get an idea of what exposures and apertures to use for different light sources, effects and ISO. This is especially important if you are shooting film. You can buy the exposure guides, like this one, or find them on the Internet. They are usually copyrighted, which is why I won't link to them from here, but I do know you can find downloadable, printable ones online 😉. Reply to this

11 years ago, April 2nd 2008 No: 6 Msg: #31445  
set your ISO to its most sensitive setting and the aperture to its widest. 30 seconds is actually not that bad for stars if you use the most sensitive ISO and large aperture. This photo was taken in 2003 with a point and shoot Olympus c-3020 with the above parameters in mind and a 16 second exposure while balanced on my car: http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=1326958.

In order to not have to use an expensive remote control shutter release you can set the timer to release... press the button and let the camera settle and 5 seconds later it will snap with no movement from pressing the shutter.

Any shutter speeds over 45 seconds and star trailing will become a lot more obvious, to get past this you need a very expensive and fancy tripod that can compensate for the earths rotation. I have no experience with that! 😊

Other star shots Ive taken with better cameras and tripods. None were taken with a shutter longer than 30 seconds!

Reply to this

11 years ago, April 24th 2008 No: 7 Msg: #33498  
N Posts: 6
You have beautiful pictures Stephen Paul. Reply to this

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