Andromeda in my garden with a 70-200mm and no astro gear whatsoever
Inspired by the image of the Andromeda galaxy Jimmy Zhang posted the other day I decided to give this try. The catch: Jimmy took this with a 300mm/4 and a sky tracker - my longest focal length is 200mm and I don't have a tracker. I was wondering: Can this be done?
There's no way of knowing unless you try, so I gave it a shot (pun not intended).
I have never been particularly interested in the night sky, I know how to shoot the Milky Way, but that's about it. To me, Andromeda is the literal needle in the haystack. With the help of Stellarium I managed to locate Andromeda, it took me hours. You see, the sky wasn't perfectly clear all the time, clouds kept coming and going, covering parts of constellations or whole constellations altogether. If this sounds like Mission Impossible to you, I'd agree.
Oh yeah, almost forgot, I shot this in the garden behind my house. Street lights at
my doorstep? Check.
I ignored all the if's, but's and don'ts and carried on regardless.
I had decided on the settings long before, f=200mm (surprise!), f/2.8, 2s and ISO 1600 seemed my best bet, avoiding star trails. I can still see Earth's rotation in the image, so the 600 rule might work for wide angle Milky Way shots, but I can't say it's anywhere accurate for deep sky photography. I already had added some margin of safety, because 600/200 = 3, not 2, right?
The first batch of frames (~150) went right into the trash bin. I hadn't made sure I had infinity focus. Stars looked dandy on the camera display, but on the PC it was disaster.
So I shot another batch. By that time the clock ticked in on 4am, it was cold and I was tired.
This time I had everything as sharp as can be expected with a wide open zoom lens. Then again, this is the Nikkor 70-200mm/2.8 ED FL VR and I just love the sharpness of this lens.
It took me another couple of hours to get a rough grasp of DSS, I watched a tutorial on deep sky editing in PS, messed around with 32bit TIFFs and about 30 hours after embarking on this mission I actually got a picture.
It doesn't even come close to Jimmy's picture, but still, considering the odds I think it is remarkable. I'm going to invest in a tracker and a telescope soon, the deep sky photography bug got me.