Bottom line – I think astrophotography is cool. I dig images from the astronomer / photographer folks that have the big telescopes and filters and take the time to stack a bunch of long exposure frames of deep sky objects (e.g. here).
Me? I’m just a photographer. When I look at the sky, it’s less about constellations and more about images. And in my light and fast style of shooting – wide field images fit the bill.
The definition of wide field astrophotography is broad – but I simplify it to mostly common camera + lens systems. It may incorporate tracking (motorized) mounts – but it’s not necessary. I happen to favor wider lenses that allow me to add foreground. Stabilization (e.g. tripod, rock, crumpled hat) is essential and a remote shutter release will help with long exposures (e.g. star trails).
This image of the Milky Way above Mt Thielsen was taken from our camp last summer (which I wrote about here and here). And, in a rare instance of full disclosure (maybe too much information), here’s mostly how and where the image was recorded:
- Image Date: 22 August 2008
- Time: 10:22PM Pacific Daylight Savings Time
- Observing Location: from Thielsen Creek facing south towards Mt Thielsen (Oregon, USA)
- UTM: 576201E, 4779028N
- Sky Conditions: clear
- Camera: 20D
- Lens: Canon 24mm f/2.8
- Aperture: f/2.8
- Exposure Time: 30 seconds
- ISO Equivalent: 3200
- Other: Joby Gorillapod SLR (folded kinda funky to get camera in “portrait” position), in-camera noise reduction, additional noise suppression with Noise Ninja, minor exposure adjustments with Adobe LR2.
- Comments: bright spot Jupiter?
Also, note that 30 seconds was long enough to see some star streaks. I would have liked for a shorter exposure – but the lens was only f/2.8 and I had already tapped the ISO equivalent on the 20D to 3200.
There are a lot of resources to help with astrophotography on the web – along with folks with much more sophisticated techniques for wide field astrophotography. Some places to start include Sky and Telescope Magazine’s astrophotography page and Wikipedia.