Photo-Take-Outter Friday #4 – Star photography

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Star photography and northern light hunting is a favourite hobby of ours. I love long exposure shots (and that feeling when you hold your breath and wait to see what the photo will look like). Here are a few of my favourite images, and what I did to get them:

To avoid repetition: all of these photos are taken using a Canon 7D, tripod mounted and using a remote release to make sure

  • that I didn’t move the camera at all, even just to press the shutter button, and
  • that I had the ability to lock the shutter down for extended periods

Nobel, Ontario – just north of Parry Sound.

Star Photography Tips

This shot got me freshly pressed – thanks wordpress! I lied earlier about all of them using tripods – believe it or not this was dashboard mounted instead. By mounted I mean propped up using mittens and knitting. It was so windy that I didn’t think the camera could be still long enough, and yes, I am shooting through the windshield.

  • Exposure time: 20 minutes
  • ISO: I’m using an ISO of 100 – anything higher and the shot would have blown out over such a long period.
  • Lens: Tokina 12-24, f4.0 wide angle
  • f-stop: Wide open baby! As it should always be for long exposure star shots. On my lens this meant f4.0
  • White Balance: Set to auto – there was a slight glow on the horizon from aurora and I didn’t want to compromise that.
  • Camera Mode: BULB. Bulb means that the shutter is open as long as you have your finger on the shutter button, or as long as you have your remote locked. On other models you go to MANUAL and roll right on past the 30 second shutter mark, the next increment will just say ‘bulb’.
  • Post Production: Almost none – the stars were so clear already, and there was no noise thanks to the 100 ISO. I used a high pass filter just to pop the stars a bit more and that was it.

Tobermory, Ontario

Star Photography Tips

For this shot I had the luxury of being in a beautiful B&B living room with a huge picture window facing west. The camera is on a tripod and shooting through glass. When you shoot through glass always make sure nothing on your camera is causing a reflection – in this case I had to use a toque to cover up the red shutter lamp on the back.

  • Exposure time: 20 minutes
  • ISO: I’m using an ISO of 100 – anything higher and the shot would have blown out over such a long period.
  • Lens: Tokina 12-24, f4.0 wide angle
  • f-stop: I squeezed it down to f6.0 for this one, because I knew I was going for a long exposure and I didn’t want the shot to overexpose.
  • White Balance: Set to tungsten. I was trying to compromise for the lights of a house near me and the result was this gorgeous blue.
  • Camera Mode: BULB.
  • Post Production: None. I was absolutely delighted when I saw the shot🙂

Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

tips on star photography

This shot is a 3 photo vertical stitch of the Milky Way. It was beautifully clear that night and I had to get as much into one photo as I could. This was taken from the grounds of Fort Anne.

  • Exposure time: 3 shots at 20 seconds each. Because I was stitching afterwards I didn’t want the stars to ‘streak’.
  • ISO: 500 – I needed to get them as bright as I could without needing a really long shutter
  • Lens: Canon 24mm f2.8 prime
  • f-stop: f2.8, again because they were such short shots.
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Camera Mode: Manual
  • Post Production: 3 photo vertical stitch (no tricks needed for the stitch, photoshops default was perfect) Noise reduction was also needed because of the ISO 500.

Hopefully that was useful to aspiring star photographers out there – if you take your own star pics and feel like sharing I’d love to see them🙂