When someone asks me what my hobbies and interests are, I usually have to ask how much time they have available. I could probably go on for a few hours just giving the Cliff Notes version, but I have to scale it way back and only talk about a few of my favorites. Travel, cars and transportation history are my go to interests, but I think topping the list is photography.
So that I can get to the main subject of this post, I’ll give you just a little background info, and if you would like to know more, just leave a question in the comments.
I think I first picked up a camera when I was about 9 or 10, usually taking blurry, out of focus pictures while on vacation with a 35mm point-n-shoot camera. That’s really all I had, along with the disposables, until the early 2000’s when digital cameras were coming on to the scene. Even then, I still used a basic camera just to snap photos of cars, trains and my friends at parties. About 8 years ago, I finally got my first DSLR, a Canon t1i. I shot around for a while, and I began seriously learning the craft with books, website, YouTube and most of all, lots of practice. In 2017, I upgraded my gear, passed the Canon down to my son and started doing coverage for local car shows and many personal projects. While I enjoy my career as a truck driver, I’m always looking for my niche subject and finding ways to make photography a lucrative business that would be sustainable so I can pursue travel full time.
Ok, now that my history is out of the way, one genre of photography I’m fascinated by is astrophotography. Every image I see I want to know how it was captured. I’ve learned some basics, and try to practice when I can. The problem I have had at home is being too close to light pollution from nearby towns and not having many options close by without the added light. So, now when I get a run out west, I take any opportunity I get to try and shoot the stars. Unfortunately I can’t always plan to be out west when the weather is perfect and the moon isn’t out, so I work with what I can get.
If astrophotography is something that interests you, I’ll provide some links below to a few great free resources that you can check out.
- Fro Knows Photo guide to astrophotography.
- Tony Northrop night photography tutorials.
- Digital Photography School intro to astrophotography.
Some tips I want to share that may be in those links;
- Get out to an open field miles away from any city lights, unless you want them as part of your shot. And shoot away from any passing cars that might cast light in your image.
- Wait for cooler temperatures and a dry atmosphere so you don’t end up with a haze in your photo.
- Plan to shoot when there is no moon out. But, the moon can help if you want to light the landscape.
- Get a sturdy tripod, or a way to add some stability to what you have. Most tripods have a hook you can hang a sandbag or even your camera bag from, if the tripod can handle the weight.
- Shoot in RAW if your camera has the capability, or at least the highest quality JPEG. This will make any post processing much easier and cleaner.
- Use a shutter speed in the range of 15-25 seconds. Be careful because if it’s too long you end up with star trails. So experiment with different settings to find what works for you.
- Use manual focus and get things as sharp as possible. If your lens has infinity focusing, use that and adjust accordingly as they can sometimes be slightly off.
- Set your ISO to around 3200.
- Set the aperture to the widest it will go on the lens you’re using.
- And use a shutter release or the cameras self timer.
With some practice, and the willingness to get up at odd times of the night, you can produce some amazing shots of the night sky. As you can see from my images, I still need some practice.