PHOTOGRAPHING THE STARS
High apertures are very important for this shooting condition since you will be photographing in the dark. A fast lens where it’s maximum aperture is f/2.8 or faster is recommended. To allow more starlight entering the lens from the darkness, a very high aperture setting is required. Lenses with maximum aperture of f/1.4 or f/2.0 are preferred. You could use f/2.8 lens, however you would have to increase the ISO sensitivity a little bit instead of decreasing the shutter speed.
f/1.4 or f/2.0 lenses are recommended , lenses with variable aperture such as f/3.5-5.6 are not recommended due to their low maximum aperture. Low maximum aperture will affect the shutter speed to be slowed down. However, it will require much higher ISO sensitivities than when used with f/2.8 lens. If you do not mind very grainy photographs, you can continue using f/4.0 lens but at very high ISO sensitivity.
Here is a helpful chart of NIKKOR & ZESSIS for the best useable high apertures that are free of chromatic aberration.
Note: Do not use glass filters now, use lens hood.
SLOW SHUTTER SPEEDS:
Choosing the shutter speed will require some experimentation; as long as it does not exceed 20s (seconds) shutter speeds. If using shutter speeds slower than 20’s it will result in small star streaks. It depends entirely on what aperture you set. It depends entirely on what aperture you set. For example, using a f/1.4 lens at f/2.0, it will require shorter shutter speeds. If using a f/2.8 lens at f/4.0, it will require long shutter speeds, however it is not recommended. We will discuss why in the next chapter.
HIGH ISO SENSITIVITIES:
Even with a slow shutter speed at very high aperture setting, the camera will still not get enough light to create a photograph. In order to brighten the photograph, a higher ISO sensitivity is required. Do not be afraid of using higher sensitivities.
When using f/2.8 lens at f/4.0 it will require much slower shutter speeds. The reason why we do not recommend using slower shutter speeds is because it will cause the star to leave streaks. Instead of using slower shutter speeds, simply increase the ISO sensitivity. FIGURE
SUGGESTED EXPOSURE SETTINGS:
Based on our experience, these suggested exposure settings may or may not help you to accomplish the result as desired. Give one or two of the exposure settings a try.
· 4s @ f/1.8, ISO 800 (with f/1.2 lens)
· 5s @ f/2.0, ISO 800 (with f/1.4 lens)
· 10s @ f/4.0, ISO 1600 (with f/1.8 lens)
· 10s @ f/2.8, ISO 800 (with f/2.0 lens)
· 10s @ f/4.0, ISO 1600 (with f/2.8 lens)
· 10s @ f/5.6, ISO 3200 (with f/4.0 lens)
If the photograph is underexposed, slightly lengthen the shutter speed or increase the ISO. If the photograph is overexposed, slightly shorten the shutter speed or decrease the ISO. Remember not to exceed 20s shutter speed and using much higher ISO will add more grain. 887
We will now go in to the shooting and custom setting menu to make tweaks to some of the settings. If your camera does not support one or more features, simply ignore it. Watch this short video for settings
TRIPOD COMBINATION CHOICE:
A quality sturdy tripod legs a head combination is recommended Gitzo or Manfrotto brand tripod legs and heads for their steadiness. We do not recommend using a cheap and low quality tripod because they are not rigid enough to prevent the camera from wobbling the tripod as the shutter mirror raises or drops.
Unfortunately, even with a top of the line tripod legs and head combination, it does not hold the camera perfectly still when triggering. A heavy weight sandbag placed on the top of the camera and lens setup on the same axis with the tripod head is recommended to absorb the vibration that is caused by the camera’s shutter mirror, as it is being raised and dropped. By helping the camera stay still, it will dramatically improve overall sharpness. The sandbag must weight greater than the weight of camera and lens.
The ball head or geared (tilt/pan) head must have a weight capacity that is greater than the weight of camera and lens setup and sandbag.
Before getting started, disable the lens and camera auto focus engine then get the star in focus by simply setting the focus distance for infinity. If your lens has an AF-S focusing engine, it is required to fine tune the focusing distance for infinity. The infinity must be set in middle of the arrow. Otherwise the image will be out of focus.
Picture focus setting
If your lens does not have a focusing panel, Rotate focusing ring all way to the right until you feel the focusing ring almost clicking. Then rotate the focusing ring very little to the left by two or three millimeters.
Once you get your subject in focus, lower the viewfinder cover into position. When doing long exposure, blurriness that is caused by camera shake is more noticeable due to slow shutter speeds. Sharpness is more critical when doing long exposures. There are several ways to trigger camera without resulting in camera shake. For example, using a remote cable in single shot, self timer, and mirror up then let the camera sit untouched for 30s or using a remote cable in mirror up. Either way you prefer to trigger the camera, a sandbag is recommended.
· REMOTE CABLE
· SELF TIMER
· MIRROR UP WITHOUT REMOTE
· MIRROR UP WITH REMOTE
This is a tutorial discussing the basics of photographing non-star-trails stars and meteor showers.
There are different parts of this tutorial
Part 1: Stars
· High apertures
· Slow shutter speeds
· High ISO sensitivities
· Suggested exposure settings
· Menu settings
· Tripod combination choice
Part 2: MeteorShowers
Finding a good location could be very challenging to find the darkest spot to photograph stars and meteor showers. The location must have as few lights as possible for near to no light pollution. For instance at least an hour away from the nearest city, town, National park, small island, or in the middle of the desert etc
Photographing on elevated areas near city, town such as on top of mountain will not help due to light pollution.
What is light pollution? It is where the night sky is brightened by street lights and or any other light source. Location with near to no light pollution is where there is hardly any streetlight and or any other bright light sources.
Timing is as important as finding a good location. However, we cannot give the most accurate timing since it is different around the globe. The main key of timing is to go out and shoot on new moon nights. On new moon nights the best timing to photograph the stars and meteor showers is two hours after sunset or before sunrise. This time period will deliver the maximum blackness to the sky, brightened out the stars and meteor showers.
If you wish to have a little blue added to the sky you can start photographing around 45-60 minutes after the sunset or before sunrise. There will be some experimentation needed to get the desires result. Expect some slightly overexposed or underexposed photographs.
To photograph a meteor shower, the camera setup is very similar, however, it will require lowest ISO sensitivity and longer shutter speeds in Bulb (B). a remote cable is very important requirement in this case because you will be using shutter speeds as slow as 5-10 minutes, depending on the lens maximum aperture.
Set for the lowest base ISO sensitivity. Do not use low ISO boost of Lo-1.0, Lo-0.7, and Lo-0.3 because they can result in lower contrast. If your camera has actual ISO 100, 125, 160 feel free to use them. We recommend using ISO 200.
Leave the aperture at the highest useable aperture then set the shutter speed for bulb (B). The time length may require some experimentation. At least 5 minutes may or may not have success. If the photograph remain pitch black, extend by another 5 minutes and so on. We do not recommend using shutter speeds longer than 30 munities because the sensor will become overheated, resulting in very grainy photographs. If you wish to use shutter speeds longer than 30 mutinies, please use 35mm film SLR with a roll of film that has a low ASA sensitivity such as ASA 50, 64,100. Doing a thirty minutes or longer exposure with 35mm film will result in very clean photographs.
NOTE: do not be alarmed, there will be some star trails. Meteor showers trails are ones that are perpendicular to star trails.
You can use triggering method that uses a remote cable as discussed earlier HERE. When triggering, simply depress the remote’s shutter release button then lock it down by a knob or switch. It is recommended to have a stopwatch on hand, so it can tell you when it is time to unlock and let go the remote’s shutter release button. If you are using a Nikon, MC-36, it has a built in timer and it is not necessary to have a stop watch on hand.