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 Post subject: Stars
PostPosted: December 30th, 2014, 10:12 am 
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As was suggested over on another Forum section I figured I'd start a thread about "stars". I'd love to hear some other folks tricks and suggestions for getting their shots!

This shot was taken in the Mew Lake Airfield in Algonquin. I use Starstax for my star trail images. I blend together a bunch (usually 100-200) thirty second exposures and then Starstax blends them all into one. For this shot I did a separate exposure for the tent:
Image

This was something I tried last year for the first time. I took four vertical shots and stitched them horizontally (poor mans ultra wide angle ;). I like to try to get some type of point of interest in my star shots aside from the stars. Just my personal taste
Image

One thing I learned was that there is actually a formula that you can use to determine the shutter speed you should use in order to capture crisp star images. For my 24-70 mm lens on a full frame camera, that shutter speed is about 20 seconds (at 24mm). This captures stars without any movement. Here is a link that explains that formula: http://www.davidkingham.com/blog/2012/11/how-to-avoid-star-trails.
Here's another image taken in Algonquin last winter:
Image

This is that iconic Pine tree located in Killbear Provincial Park:
Image

One thing I always struggled with was focusing on the stars. I used to set my lens to infinity and hope for the best. However I always found the stars to be a little out of focus. Another trick I learned was to switch my lens to manual focus and turn on Live View (Nikon) on my LCD. Then zoom into one of the stars on the LCD (which appear to be just a small pixel of light on the LCD) and then manually focus the lens until the star is crisp looking. Then exit out of Live View mode and take the pic. I've found this works much better at getting crisp stars
Image

Like I mentioned I would love to hear and see other peoples star pics and hear what they find works for them!

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 Post subject: Re: Stars
PostPosted: December 30th, 2014, 10:26 am 
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Steve that David Kingham link was really useful as my cameras are 1.6 crop..

Must remember 13 is the lucky number for me at 24 mm.

Gorgeous shots BTW!


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 Post subject: Re: Stars
PostPosted: December 30th, 2014, 11:28 am 
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Very, very beautiful shots!!!


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 Post subject: Re: Stars
PostPosted: December 30th, 2014, 6:01 pm 
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Joined: September 27th, 2008, 12:41 am
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You know, after seeing your star pics I really don't want to post any of my own.


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 Post subject: Re: Stars
PostPosted: December 30th, 2014, 6:09 pm 
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Thanks Steve!
Answers a lot of questions.
:thumbup:
Jeff

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 Post subject: Re: Stars
PostPosted: December 30th, 2014, 8:42 pm 
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Mihun09 wrote:
You know, after seeing your star pics I really don't want to post any of my own.



I get that and in some ways I feel the same but friendly critique always allows us to grow.

I am having more trouble opening the door to -20 and walking outside. What a wuss am I.

Steve how do you deal with a buttinski moon?


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 Post subject: Re: Stars
PostPosted: December 31st, 2014, 12:14 am 
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Absolutely! It's always good to share knowledge and experiences....it's how we grow :) I look back at the first images I took and I can't stand them now. And I look at other photographers websites and pictures and aspire to get to their levels one day. To me that's the beauty of photography (as in other art forms)...there's always room to grow and improve.

littleredcanoe, what's a "buttinksi moon"?

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 Post subject: Re: Stars
PostPosted: December 31st, 2014, 12:16 am 
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Mihun09 in regards to your question from the other post, I've heard of people wrapping their lenses in those hand warmer things to keep dew from forming on them. I wonder if that would help in those cold temps for your camera as well?

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 Post subject: Re: Stars
PostPosted: December 31st, 2014, 7:58 am 
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I used to shoot a lot of star trails photo's back in my film days. Easy stuff, point the camera where ya want, open the shutter and wait. Pretty cool stuff too. I'll try to dig out an old one from albums. I did lightning and mostly sunsets etc but eventually had to stop due to developing costs. I basically put a SLR down for 15 years and went all P&S digital.

After yet another fuzzy moose picture I finally started shopping for a DSLR. I've been a Canon fan my entire life but at the store they felt clunky and cheap. For me, spending $750 on a camera is a huge chunk of money and actually WAS my entire savings. The Nikon cameras felt much better so I spent said life savings on a D3100 with 18-55 and 55-200 package. $750 for the set didn't end it, then there was $150 for a Pelican and another $150 for Lightroom 5. Likely not much for most people but a huge investment for me. I would like more lenses and such, but until I win the lottery it will need to wait, unless there are others on this forum wishing to start a lens swapping program or what not.

Anyway, the camera is way more complex than I had hoped. I'm not stupid but there is too much gadgetry for my liking thus the camera rarely comes out of the case. Being Winter it would be a great time to learn it, but I get frustrated.

Anyway, a couple months after I bought the new camera I set up in the backyard to shoot some stars. The brightness in the photo's is due to ambient light from neighbouring street lamps and the tank farm out by the highway. Shorter time exposures due to constantly fighting off mosquito's.

I never really noticed before the stars furthest from the north star are not in focus.

Image

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Stars
PostPosted: December 31st, 2014, 8:52 am 
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Steve E wrote:

littleredcanoe, what's a "buttinksi moon"?


a moon that has the sky all lit up so you see maybe three stars.. I live in a dark area.

I suppose I ought to pay attention to moonrise :rofl:


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 Post subject: Re: Stars
PostPosted: January 1st, 2015, 3:39 am 
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Mihun09 wrote:
I never really noticed before the stars furthest from the north star are not in focus.
No, that doesn't sound right. All stars are effectively point sources at infinite distance. If one star is in focus then they all should be. I can't tell on my monitor but if there is a difference then it's an artifact of the atmosphere, the lens, the camera itself, or the process.
More likely it's 'cause all the light from Polaris is concentrated in one bright spot, but for the "moving" stars that same amount of light is spread out in a dimmer line, which making them look less focused.

Off-topic, but what's a "tank farm"?


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 Post subject: Re: Stars
PostPosted: January 1st, 2015, 8:27 am 
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Krusty

Co-op Petroleum tank farm. About 1km behind the house, 16 vertical storage tanks with diesel, unleaded, furnace fuel, etc, situated on the outskirts of town. The glow fills my room at night.

Picture shot through the bathroom window. It's cold outside!

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 Post subject: Re: Stars
PostPosted: January 1st, 2015, 8:33 am 
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So Steve, your photo's are compilations of a many images which you then blend together Vs going out and shooting what you see in one shot.

In the distant past I have done double exposures with print/slide film, such as take a underexposed shot of one thing, don't advance the film then blend in another shot, or try. Certainly easier in this day and age and photography is much less expensive than the film days. I can shoot all I want and just delete what I don't like.

Using the screen on the camera to focus on one star won't work for me, I use the viewfinder simply because the image on the little bitty screen is too small even with my glasses on. I cannot even focus a day time shot with the screen due to this issue.


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 Post subject: Re: Stars
PostPosted: January 1st, 2015, 12:02 pm 
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Ya the star trail images are a series of 30 second exposures. Basically you load them all into this program (I use Starstax) and it automatically blends them together and outputs into a single file (i.e. the star trail image above). It's personal preference but I prefer this way over one long shot for a couple reasons:
1. I've screwed up long exposures in the past due to improper settings or environmental issues. It's kind of frustrating doing an hour + exposure only to realize I messed it up
2. I've had issues in the past with heat being generated from the sensor on long exposures. This results in a purple haze in the image like in the following image (601 second exposure)
Image
3. I've found noise can become an issue for longer exposures as well
4. It's easier to remove things like an airplane passing through the scene when you have multiple 30 second exposures as you can simply leave that frame out. The Starstax software has a gap filling technology that does a pretty decent job of removing the gaps between stars as a result of the time it takes to actuate the shutter between shots and also when removing a full frame of the sequence.

It can be tricky using the LCD to focus on a star. I don't think they are really made for that but I find by zooming right in on a pixel of light (which I never even realized were the stars on my LCD they are just so small and faint) it works well. The little pixel then fills the entire LCD when zoomed in (zoomed on the LCD not the actual lens itself) and then I just fine tune the focus until the star becomes as crisp as I can get it. I'm not sure if that works on every LCD though so it's probably camera dependent

In regards to a moon that lights the whole sky, I honestly don't shoot in those conditions as the results aren't what I'm looking for. It does amaze me though how much your camera sensor can pick up vs what you see with your naked eye. I've taken a shot of a sky where I couldn't see much and was shocked at how many stars were in the image. High ISO and fast lenses really help with this.

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 Post subject: Re: Stars
PostPosted: January 1st, 2015, 4:24 pm 
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I was fortunate enough to participate in a workshop hosted by Mr. Elms with Randy Mitson. I gained a lot of confidence by applying what I learned there with in the field experimentation afterwards. I still have a lot of brain farts in the field but am learning a lot more by trying various ways to capture the same scene. As Steve mentioned the hardest part for me is getting a crisp image.

Image

Great tips Steve and thanks for the link above for determining the formula to obtain crisper images.

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