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12-12-2013, 04:48 PM   #1
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Himalaya - how to take photos of the stars

I'm heading to Nepal next weekend. I will take the k-5, 18-135mm, 35mm f/2.4 and 15mm f/4. I have never successfully shot the stars. I know I will likely to see beautiful stars near the Himalaya while I'm there. Just wondering if anyone has any tips/tricks/techniques of how to go about it with these 3 lenses that I have... Day time snowy mountain photo technique appreciated too.

12-12-2013, 05:34 PM   #2
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Hey! So it depends on what you are going for. Are you going for just regular pics with stars in them or star trails. If you want to "freeze" the stars, the wider the lens the better. The greater the focal length the harder it is to freeze them. For instance, at 10mm you can get away with about 30 sec exposure without seeing movement in the stars. With 35mm at 30sec you will noticeably see how star trails have begun to form. Also if you are trying to freeze them, the approach I have is first to find the right exposure for the scene. Bump up your iso, wide open and slow shutter. Take a pic. Look at the histogram. Try to get it to balance. After you have a balanced histogram it is time to dial things down. Bring down the ISO first since grain is a million times worse at night than during the day. Bring that down ISO200 at the most. For every stop of iso that you take down, make sure you add "in your mind" a stop of light to your shutter (you are trying to slow it down so that the exposure still remains balanced). After you are all done if you still have some wiggle room (for instance say you are at shutter speed at 4 seconds) you could start closing down the aperture. Similarly for every stop of aperture you need to slow the shutter by one stop (keeping in mind what is the threshold which still keeps the stars fixed in the sky). You want to close down the aperture in order to improve sharpness and add depth of field. This is not always possible, as often star photos end up being taken wide open (or near wide open) as closing too much results in shutter speeds which are too long to "freeze stars". I hope i am being clear enough! Shooting in the dark is its own special kind of animal!
12-12-2013, 05:53 PM   #3
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everything oxidized said.
But I think you can't bring iso down to 200, or maybe he meant iso2000.
There is a guy who won the star challenge last week use the kit lens at 18mm f3.5 manage to get milky way in the sky.
Start with iso3200, and 30 sec, then dial down from there. I believe the light pollution is minimal there so I think you can get away with lower iso.

most importantly, bring a tripod.
I would also set the WB to daylight, remove any filters, test out your lens infinity focus location when it is still bright (some lens go past the infinity sign), and make a mark (or tape it). Turn off AF.
use remote to activate shutter, if not set it to 2 sec delay.

Maybe also a good idea to do a practice this weekend.
12-12-2013, 06:05 PM   #4
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how long will you be there in nepal?

12-12-2013, 06:35 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by LFLee Quote
everything oxidized said.
But I think you can't bring iso down to 200, or maybe he meant iso2000.
There is a guy who won the star challenge last week use the kit lens at 18mm f3.5 manage to get milky way in the sky.
Start with iso3200, and 30 sec, then dial down from there. I believe the light pollution is minimal there so I think you can get away with lower iso.

most importantly, bring a tripod.
I would also set the WB to daylight, remove any filters, test out your lens infinity focus location when it is still bright (some lens go past the infinity sign), and make a mark (or tape it). Turn off AF.
use remote to activate shutter, if not set it to 2 sec delay.

Maybe also a good idea to do a practice this weekend.
You are right, I stand corrected. I am just used to doing more star trails and for me getting the ISO down is not an issue. But it does depend on the atmospheric conditions at the time. For instance a full moon means that you may be able to bring the ISO down more than usual (but also fewer stars will be visible). This is one thing you could check ahead of time - look at the moon cycles.
12-12-2013, 06:52 PM   #6
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Stars are point sources so aperture does not play a role in correct exposure, only ISO and shutter speed. Use as wide and as fast lens you can get and use it wide open.


One thing to remember is that the infinity point of many lenses is not necessarily at the infinity mark hard stop. It also changes with temperature. Best way to find out is to focus on something very far with enough light, like the moon, and note where the lens is at its sharpest. That will be your infinity point.
12-12-2013, 06:54 PM   #7
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I will be in Nepal for 2 weeks.

Full Moon will occur on 17-18 December. I will be near the mountains from 24 December to 3 January.

I don't know whether I can do a test this weekend. I'm in Sydney and it'll be raining / cloudy.

12-12-2013, 06:56 PM   #8
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Sorry... what is infinity point?

The temperature will be well below freezing............ -_-b
12-12-2013, 07:41 PM   #9
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Infinity point is where you set the focus ring so your lens is focused at infinity. All old lenses and some new ones (usually the more expensive) have distance scales with an infinity mark at one end. Some lenses (especially telephotos) allow focusing past the infinity mark to allow for temperature expansion.

With autofocus lenses, the distance scale is for the most part irrelevant, that's why is omitted from cheaper lenses.

Many lenses are perfectly calibrated to focus at infinity when their focusing ring is at the far end,but others are not. With normal distances and with smaller apertures where there is plenty of DOF, this is usually not an issue.

When photographing stars and using the lens wide open, correct focusing is necessary and cannot use autofocus, so you need to know where the true infinity marker on the lens is to get the sharpest possible image.
12-12-2013, 08:09 PM - 1 Like   #10
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@junototoro - I urge you to check out Elia Saikaly videos and articles. He is a young Lebanese/Canadian adventurer who has summited Mt Everest twice. He has come home with some breathtaking videos and stills. Here is a link to one article with direct relevance to your question:

Elia Saikaly: How I Made a Time-Lapse Film of Mount Everest [VIDEO]

Jack

Last edited by jbinpg; 12-12-2013 at 09:32 PM.
12-12-2013, 08:31 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by demp10 Quote
Stars are point sources so aperture does not play a role in correct exposure, only ISO and shutter speed. Use as wide and as fast lens you can get and use it wide open.


One thing to remember is that the infinity point of many lenses is not necessarily at the infinity mark hard stop. It also changes with temperature. Best way to find out is to focus on something very far with enough light, like the moon, and note where the lens is at its sharpest. That will be your infinity point.
stopping down a stop does help as a lot of the really fast glass will create noticeable coma distortion with the stars wide open. But I suppose if your not printing poster size you probably won't notice it to much.
12-12-2013, 09:42 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by jbinpg Quote
@junototoro - I urge you to check out Elia Saikaly videos and articles. He is a young Lebanese/Canadian adventurer who has summited Mt Everest twice. He has come home with some breathtaking videos and stills. Here is a link to one article with direct relevance to your question:

Elia Saikaly: How I Made a Time-Lapse Film of Mount Everest [VIDEO]

Jack
The video is so beautiful I want to cry!
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