As you’re probably aware from the level of hype in your news feed, the Perseid meteor shower is approaching and you should get outside to see it now! Technically in late July, it is already active in our skies, but the reality is that there is a fairly narrow window of high activity only around the peak time. My own experience is that the number of meteors drops off dramatically a day before or after the peak evening.
One of the Holy Grail quests for astrophotographers is the search for dark skies. Few of us are fortunate enough to live in ideal dark skies, but most of us are mobile enough to get to somewhere better than the center of an urban area.
One of the biggest confusions that you might notice as you venture into astrophotography is that photographers and astronomers measure their equipment differently. Photographers tend to refer to their lenses in terms of their focal length, while astronomers refer to their telescopes by the diameter of their opening. Thus, a 75mm f/6 telescope has a focal length of 450mm. Meanwhile, a 75mm camera lens at f/6 has an aperture of 12.5mm. If a photographer is told that someone is shooting a 155mm lens hand-held, it would not raise an eyebrow, but an astronomer told the same thing would be incredulous! I can only barely lift my 155mm telescope onto its mount!
It might seem like a strange thing to reduce the size of stars in a night sky photo, but if you want to better show off deep-sky objects, it can help bring them to the fore. With so many stars in the sky, it can be a bit of a tedious task, however. This great video tutorial will show you three different methods for reducing the size of stars both easily and efficiently.
Astrophotography is by far one of the most specialized genres out there, requiring quite a bit of specific equipment, software, and technique, but capturing things that are unfathomable distances away can be really rewarding. If you are new to the genre or looking to improve your work, check out this awesome video tutorial that answers 10 of the most common questions people have about astrophotography.
If you’ve viewed deep-sky astrophotos (not landscape astrophotos), you may have noticed that extremely long exposures (not counting mosaics) are used. In extreme cases, exposures may run over 12 hours. Unless you have a space telescope, it should be obvious that multiple exposures have been used.
A nighttime landscape shot with the Milky Way over the earth below can be dramatic and eye-catching, but they almost always require two separate exposures for the foreground and the sky to get the best image quality. Once you have your two images, you will need to blend them to create a single final frame, and this great video tutorial will show you how to do it using Photoshop.
If you’ve been shooting (landscape) astrophotos for a while but are relatively new to astronomy, you may be contemplating stepping up to a telescope for your astrophotography. But taking the next step isn’t as simple as getting a longer lens for more magnified views. You should understand the changes in your shooting and equipment that this implies.
Focus stacking is a common technique used by landscape photographers for images in which ultra-deep depth of field and high levels of sharpness are desired. You can use it for nighttime landscapes that incorporate things like the Milky Way as well, though it takes some additional considerations. This excellent video tutorial will show you a workflow for the technique as well as offer some helpful tips to ensure you get the best quality images.
For astrophotographers who use Photoshop, here's some interesting and some good news. A just-released plug-in called APF-R (Absolute Point of Focus) can do wonders for your images. Astrophotographer Christoph Kaltseis has developed APF-R in order to achieve high-resolution, ultra-sharp images that still look natural. As astro-imagers know, trying to sharpen point sources like stars can result in ugly halos and other unwanted artifacts.
Astrophotography is a tricky business, even if you happen to live in the Namib desert. However, if you don't live in such a remote location, you'll likely have struggled with light pollution. In recent years, we have seen a number of filters designed to help with this problem. But do they work?
Did you see the recent solar eclipse? It was quite a stunning sight. If you missed it, take a few minutes to watch this fantastic footage that shows the process of shooting it and the eclipse itself.
The recent addition of an astrophoto time-lapse mode (uncovered by XDA Developers) coming to Google’s camera app on their Pixel line of phones piqued my interest. Not that I think it will replace all of our “real” cameras, but I do have a deep appreciation for the engineering wizardry required to push right up to the physical limits of a tiny sensor and lens. And as an astronomy enthusiast, any developments that might open an appreciation of the night skies to a wider population get me very interested.
Astrophotography is a very challenging genre, requiring specialized equipment, technical knowledge, top-notch technique, and a lot of patience, but it can be tremendously rewarding when it all comes together and you get a stunning image of something that is an unfathomably large distance from our home. If you are new to deep-sky astrophotography, this great video tutorial will show you the basics of getting started with a camera and a telescope.
The Milky Way is the first major landmark after capturing stars in astrophotography, depending on where you are in the world. However, capturing it can be tricky, require some know-how, and the right equipment. So, here are five tips to help you get it right.