The night sky holds many wonders that can be captured with the right equipment. Ralph Paonessa who photographs the Milky Way says, “It’s a sad fact of the modern world and ‘Progress’ that most people today can’t walk outside their homes at night and see the Milky Way. There is too much light pollution covering our Earth. But I urge you to find a way to travel to somewhere with dark skies to see and photograph—the Milky Way. You won’t regret it—and it will take your breath away.” Astrophotography places a lot of demand on the stability of your tripod as you could be taking extremely long exposures where the slightest tremor can ruin the shot. With that in mind, we will usually recommend a Series 3 Tripod such as the TVC-33 or a TVC-34L (for additional height). Depending on focal lengths or even longer exposures, a Series 4 Tripod such as the TVC-45 might be the right decision.
Tom Kuali’I who is a novice at photographing deep phenomenon like galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae, uses our TV-33 tripod. “For any type of long exposure photography, a high-quality, sturdy and easy to use tripod is a must…As a fine art landscape photographer, a stable platform for my camera while shooting is as important as the camera set-up.” Photographing the night sky can take you many different places. At times you could be shooting in the snow, ice, sand, or grass. We offer a variety of feet to add to the stability of your tripod such as: rubber, claw, and spike. You can rest assured that no matter where your photography takes you, your tripod will be stable.
With just a tripod and camera you will not be able to orient your camera in the right position to shoot the night sky. At Really Right Stuff we offer six different types of ball heads that range in load capacity from 8.8lbs to 50lbs. A ball head will give you the ability to pan up or down, left and right with ease. This will ensure a smooth transition from one frame to the next. The size of the ball head you will need will be determinate by the size of your lens.
Another important factor to be successful in astrophotography is your camera and camera settings. Using a DSLR camera will allow you to keep the shutter open as long as you need, and you will be able to shoot in RAW format (this is always preferable). To get the right settings for your camera that work for you, you will need to experiment but here are some suggestions: ISO set between 800 and 1600, manual mode, lowest aperture possible, and focus on the brightest star. To set your shutter speed you need to divide 35mm by your camera’s sensor size (mm) if not using a 35mm or full frame camera. With these settings you will be able to get sharp, tack stars.
For taking shots of the Milky Way Ralph suggests, “You’ll need a digital SLR or mirrorless camera—ideally one with good high-ISO performance and low noise. You’ll be taking very long exposures (10-60 seconds), so you’ll need a sturdy tripod and ball head. And you’ll want to use a fast wide-angle lens. Many of my images were shot with a 24mm f/1.4 or 14mm f/2.8 lens. The sky is moving, so you don’t want to expose for “too long” (unless you want star trails). It’s debatable how long is too long—you’ll always get some trailing starts using a tripod, but a little trailing is not noticeable (unless you pixel-peep).
A good starting point is the so-called Rule of 500: Exposure time (seconds)= 500/ Focal length (mm)
So with a 50mm lens you can go 10 sec, but up to 36 sec for 14mm. Remember, these are just starting guidelines, and will vary depending on how you crop and view your images. Experiment and see what works for you.” Tom, while photographing deep phenomenon, uses a star tracking system to get the best images. “With the use of a tracking system, I can now increase the length of exposure without creating star trails. A tracking system must be capable of locking onto Polaris, the North Star, while taking the long exposures necessary to capture the best details and most brilliant colors of the object you have chosen to photograph.” About star trails Tom says. “You will have star trails if the tracking device is not fixed to the position of Polaris.”
Light pollution and camera shake are factors that need to be addressed as well. If you are wanting to shoot the milky way you will need to be as far away from any light sources as possible. Tom says, “Photographers living in Hawai’i are blessed with remote areas at high altitudes that are perfect for photographing the night sky. Remote, high altitude areas provide conditions that are necessary for successful and beautiful nighttime images of the milky way and the moon, including limited or no light-pollution and little atmospheric distortion from manmade pollution or haze.” With these things in mind you will want to be far from any city lights if you are wanting to capture any deep space images. However, to get any shot whether it is the milky way, stars, star trails, etc. you will need to invest in an intervalometer. This allows you to set the shutter speed without having to touch your camera to actually take a picture. This, combined with a sturdy tripod, ensures your camera will not shake and your pictures will be sharp and clear.
Astrophotography can produce amazing images and is well worth the time and energy spent getting these beautiful exposures.
Any further questions, please contact us at: 888-777-5557