The View Up Here

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Quick ‘N Dirty Astrophotography

Posted by Tom Benedict on 10/09/2013

I ran across an astrophotograph on Flickr that really blew my socks off. I don’t like to post other people’s pictures to my blog without asking, so I’m posting a link to it instead:

It was made out here in the islands, and features a lighthouse, distant lights on Haleakala, and an amazing rendition of the night sky. I’ve always wanted to do wide-angle astrophotography, but I don’t own a tracking mount. To my utter delight, I saw that this photo was made using nothing more than a tripod and a DSLR. “Hey!” I thought, “I can do that!”

That night I drove up Kohala Mountain Road and pulled off about half a mile from the Kohala Mountain Lookout which is unfortunately tree-bound. My pull-off spot gave me a nice unobstructed view of the sky.

I tinkered around with settings and hit on this:

  • 18-55mm kit lens wide open at 18mm (nothing fancy here)
  • Manual exposure mode
  • ISO 1600
  • f/3.5 (as wide as it’ll go… again, nothing fancy here)
  • 30 second exposure

Lo and behold, it worked! But on a crop sensor camera even 18mm isn’t all that wide. Hey, I have a low-tech fix for that! Panorama!

I made 11 exposures and threw them into Autopano Pro. It stitched without a problem, and produced this:

Stars Upon Thars

There are some artifacts in there, but nothing bad. I could be a little more careful about setting a fixed white balance. And with some thought and effort I could probably get a lot more out of it by processing the original photos using RAW workflow. But hey, it worked!

Now all I need to do is find a foreground subject that’s even on par with hawaiiansupaman ‘s lighthouse! Thanks, hawaiiansupaman for showing me the way.

– Tom

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