Wide Field Astrophotography

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).

mt thielsen -1 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.

3 thoughts on “Wide Field Astrophotography”

  1. I live in the UK, near a city so I get a fair amount of light pollution. I’d like to how much of the above image your eyes saw compared to the long exposure, especially of the “milky parts”. I’m great at star trails but can’t get the sort of shots that you’ve got there.


    1. Richard – good questions. This image was taken at around 7000 ft in a wilderness area with clear skies. The Milky Way was visible – but the long exposure was able to capture more detail than we could see. Hope that helps. -Jones


  2. At least I’m not doing something wrong at home.
    I’ll have to find somewhere a little less polluted as I’m determined to get a great shot like yours.


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