Astrophotography

Astrophotography is simply a specialized type of photography which involves taking pictures of astronomical bodies, as well as celestial events, and even large areas of the night sky

The question often arises as to what type of equipment may be ideal for Astrophotography. In most cases as is the case with regular photography, the equipment is not half as important as the skill of the photographer even though in the area of Astrophotography, equipment might matter just a little bit more than in the case of conventional photography.

Here are some of the equipment needed to start:

  1. A camera which has a manual exposure mode, (Most SRL cameras come with the feature in another name “bulb”)
  2. To avoid shaking the camera when taking pictures, you need a remote control or shutter release.

Next step is selecting a spot to take your picture

As a general rule of thumb, the darker the place, the better. Stay away from city lights and other sources of light emanating from your surroundings s they pollute the image

Next is the Camera settings

Firstly, you must try to use lenses with large aperture, an example of this would be the Sigma 28 mm lens at f/3.5, The set your camera on a high ISO, I believe 1,600 and 800 ISO should generally give desirable results

Now to avoid capturing the movement of the starts as the earth rotates, i.e the star’s trail, you must make use of the rule of 600.

All you have to do is Divide 600 by the focal length of your camera lens. For example, the focal length of my lens is 28, thus we have 600/28 = 21.42 with this setting, the shutter could be left open for as long as 20 seconds without capturing ant star trails.

Finally, set your lens to manual focus and turn the knob to infinity.

Now, the main part, taking the pictures…

Take at least 6 consecutive shots at the stars after setting up your camera on the tripod using the rule of 600 (the correct exposure time). Make sure to not alter the settings or move the camera until you are done with that set of pictures.

Finally edit the images

Most times, you will probably not see any colours in your image. Do not be disappointed, this is a normal occurrence. All you need to do is tune up these colours on your photo editing software.

First stack the images, by that I mean superimpose all images belonging to one series. (i.e the five consecutive pictures taken without moving the tripod or changing any settings)

There are applications which make this possible, a typical example would be the Deep Sky Stacher, and it’s free too. (Use the default settings on the app)

Your final image will be a TIF file which you may use to bring up the colours in your photo editing software.

Finally, open your large TIFF file in your photo editing software and edit levels and curves, you can decide as well to edit the blue, red and green colours to enable a more visible nebula.

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