I’ve been wanting to revisit my passion for Astrophotography for quite a while now… In the past, I’ve taken photos of the stars both with and without the landscape in the foreground, but never felt I’d balanced it quite right or pulled off the effect I was after. This photo ticks most of those boxes, but sadly not all of them…
During the holidays, several of my friends were in town for the Christmas and New Year period, and we spent most of our nights either sitting behind my desk creating stuff, hunting or taking interesting photos. This was one such night, when myself and good friends Ciaran Jack and Nick Stone went on a dedicated astrophotography mission towards Glenorchy. As much as I enjoy spontaneous adventures, I do find it helpful to occasionally plan one’s evenings and have an objective in mind. Of course this planning can be completely derailed when you are all set to go and realize you have no memory cards on you… But never mind!
We spent over an hour framing this photo – running various test exposures using Ciaran’s 60D and my Canon 17-40mm f/4L – but as is the case with all astro photos, once you hit the shutter button all you can do is cross your fingers and hope for the best. This hoping is made worse by the fact that once the exposure is done, you have another hour or so to wait before the camera finishes a dark-frame noise reduction process that doubles the exposure time and damn near kills the battery. So in the future, I plan to carry a second body with me to effectively double my chances of a usable photo. In my experience, the ratio of usable astro photos to ones I throw out is roughly 5 to 1 – and thats a depressing number when you realize how many hours go into shots like this!
I’ve had a bit of trouble getting this photo to look half decent when exported as a JPEG from Lightroom and uploaded directly to Smugmug (where I host my originals for safe keeping). One issue with JPEGs is that they seem incompatible with subtle gradients in a clear blue sky… Normally a condition that is saved for the middle of the day – not 3am as is the case above ;-)
In the end I opted to compromise on the quality and upload the file manually while still keeping the original on Smugmug for safe keeping. You can view it at 100% by clicking here and check out all the goodies in the distant landscape – just a warming, this is a big image file and may take forever to load…
I finished writing this last night… Its rather long, but thats my intention for this new breed of in-depth tutorial that go into elaborate detail. When I was learning this stuff, I made many mistakes through trial and error – mostly because I wasn’t able to find the sort of resources that outlined not only the process but the technical aspects of why you would do one thing and not the other, why you would use this aperture, this ISO, this exposure time.
I do my best to answer all those questions, and share my tips and techniques that result in photos like the one above… To read the tutorial, click the image below. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!