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03-31-2014, 11:57 AM   #1
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Astrophotography - asking for a friend

A friend of mine in Australia recently bought a Pentax camera (don't know the model yet), but she is trying to learn techniques for shooting the night sky to use the pictures in a book. The book is not directly about astrophotography, but she needs the celestial images. I told her to get connected to this forum, but she's in a bit of a rush so I thought I would help her out by asking for her. I passed on some beginner astrophotography & night sky web site links, but any advice from here would be appreciated. (I don't do astrophotography, so I'm not much help.) A portion of her email is below:


"I finally got a good camera! Its a Pentax dslr and I'm going over the manual to learn how to do star shots at night. I have a few weeks to get the shots I need for the book so the stress is on! I read the same sentence 5 times and still don't get it, lol...I'm trying to use my telescope stand as a tripod too."


Last edited by OrangeKx; 03-31-2014 at 12:08 PM. Reason: Typo & added text
03-31-2014, 12:15 PM   #2
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I did some last night using my K-01 full spectrum, F 50 f/1.7, and my tripod sicne i have very dark skies at my place. I got pretty good results on that setup doing 5 second exposures, f/4.5, and set on interval shooting for 100 shots. I then used Deep Sky Stacker, whcih is free to stack them. You can play around with exposures and focal lengths, but remember, the longer FL you go the less exposure time you will want to use or else you will see movement.
03-31-2014, 12:22 PM   #3
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Is she talking about landscape shots with the Milky Way/stars in the sky?

If so, here is a link to a decent tutorial: From Prep Work to Post-Processing: An In-Depth Star Photography Tutorial

If she is talking about more "serious" astrophotography than that, I guess I would ask if it is important that she be the photographer of said images? If not, then you can use astrophotography that has been placed in the "public domain", like can be found in the NASA links on this page: Finding and using public domain photographs. Or see this page: The Skinny on Using NASA Images. Even for public domain images she will want to provide an image credit.

Hope this helps. "Astrophotography" is a big subject and there are different ways to do it with a DSLR (attached to a telescope, wide lens, longer lens, etc.) so if this isn't helpful enough then it might be helpful to know what SORT of astrophotography she is intending. I would suggest that anything more than the widefield Milky Way sort of shot might take longer than a few weeks to master.
03-31-2014, 01:34 PM   #4
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Astro landscapes, wide field astro photography or deep space?

03-31-2014, 06:57 PM   #5
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She's shooting with a K-x DSLR. Thanks for the replies so far, wish I could answer some of the questions.
03-31-2014, 08:27 PM   #6
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It sounds like she is under a lot of production pressure. I don't think that she will be too successful in capturing some really excellent production quality shots - especially with a new camera, going in cold with out a lot (or some experience). Have her take a look at these threads...The images get substantially better as the threads goes on. There are quite a lot that are absolutely outstanding.

There is also a Forum Social Group for Astro..Perhaps some folks may be inclined to help her out...


03-31-2014, 09:14 PM   #7
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The K-x with it's Sony sensor would be a fine camera for astrophotography. She will need to put the camera in M mode and make sure her ISO is not on "Auto". Set the ISO to 800 or 1600 and try some 15 second exposures with the lens wide open (or 1/2 stop down from wide open), preferably aimed at the Milky Way. If she doesn't know where the Milky Way is and she has a smart phone, get a free planetarium app. You point it at the sky and it tells you what you are looking at. SkyKey is a free Meade app for iOS and SkEye is a good one for Android.

See if that sort of thing is what she's looking for. If she has her histogram turned on, she wants to see the peak waaaay to the left (but not running off the left hand side).

Set the camera for RAW+. You'll see something decent in the JPEGs, but there is a lot more info that you can pull out of the RAW file.
03-31-2014, 09:20 PM   #8
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One could argue if you need an app on your phone to find the Milky Way then it is either not dark enough or you're not far enough away from the city. In either case you're not going to get the better results. Otherwise, its pretty easy to see it with your eyes.

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