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Updated by Joanna James on Mar 12, 2018
Headline for Tips and Techniques of Astrophotography – Navigate the Night Sky
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Joanna James Joanna James
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Tips and Techniques of Astrophotography – Navigate the Night Sky

Learning about the heavens at night, discovering distant nebulas and star clusters are sights to remember. Hence the following tips will update you on the art of astrophotography.

1

What you Need to Get Started

A camera – stating the obvious; it should be one with a manual exposure mode. Any standard SRL camera with a feature called 'Bulb' will do just fine. But if you are all set for getting the latest with manual exposure go ahead. Also equip yourself with a remote control or a shutter release cable that will help you to take photos while the camera is mounted on a stand; this minimizes the shaking effect of the camera.

2

Select the Perfect Spot for a Stunning Capture

The best spot would be one that is in total darkness, other than for light from the stars. Even your backyard would be perfect provided you base yourself in a spot that's away from city lights. Surrounding artificial lights tends to spoil the exposure and dim the effect the light of the stars create. Of course if you really want to get exotic there are fabulous locations across the world such as the fabled Green Mountain of Oman. There the Saiq Plateau home to Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort at an elevation on 2,000 meters offers nothing but gorgeous rugged surroundings and wide expansive sky as your canvas. Here's a tip for those 'travelling astro-photographers' of all the Oman luxury resorts the one on the fabled green mountain is the Middle East's highest elevated five star resort; hence comfort and location for astrophotography does not get any better than this.

3

The Correct Camera Settings

At the start use a lens that has a large aperture; the setting must also be to a high ISO. You could play around with 1,600 and 800 ISO settings. See which delivers the best results; this will vary depending on the setting. Next get acquainted with the RULE of 600. This is a measure to make sure you avoid star trails which is capturing the stars movement as the earth rotates. The rule is simple; divide 600 by the focal length of any the particular lens you are using. For example if it is a 28 divide 600 by 28. The answer is 21.42 this means you can leave your shutter open for a maximum of 21 seconds without capturing the star trail. You should also turn your manual focusing settings to 'ON' in your lens settings and turn it to infinity focus which is the symbol that comes after the numbers at the end of your lens.

4

Finally Taking the Pictures

Set up your tripod and fix the camera up to it and take about 5 consecutive photos of the stars; remember to use the RULE of 600 for the correct exposure time. You should move the camera to a different location only once you are done with that set of exposures. In order to catalogue series of photos taken in different locations, once the last star shot is taken place your hand in front of the camera and take a shot. This black photo will indicate when that series is ended.

5

The Final Edit

Your photos will not have colour in them when viewed for the first time; this needs to be added via PS or any other editing software you use. First stack the images from one series; this is done by super imposing the photos one on top of the other. There is a free software for this called Deep Sky Stacker; check it out. Your final image should be the TIF file which through Photoshop you can brighten up with colours. Editing the curves and angles are all done in Photoshop a skill you will get the hang of with experience. Happy Astrophotography folks!

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