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12-05-2009, 08:06 PM   #1
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Poor Night Shots, what am I doing wrong?

So, we booted on out towards Northam last night to catch some dark skies...

Found a nice bit just off the road, stunning skies - bit of cloud, lots of stars, a few trees at the edge of the area for some silhouettes...

set up the tripod, and kicked up the k-x - we tried the 'night shot scene' to see if it managed anything - the autofocus went nuts, and wouldn't take the shot (no real surprise).

I dropped into Manual exposure mode, and tried ISO-100, 2 seconds... completely black (guessed that).

10 seconds - still black,
30 seconds - got a single star

Started upping the ISO, at 3200, 30 seconds, still only 1 star.

switched on the extended range ISO, and upped ISO to 12800, and gave it 30 seconds... and got this rather noisy uninspiring shot:

Thing is, my little compact (a Sony cybershot) can manage to capture more stars (still pretty poor, but better) at ISO 3200, and a 1 second exposure..

What am I missing? One of the things I had hoped would be better with a dSLR was the ability to capture better starfields..

at the moment, I'm more confused than disappointed - why are the images so dark, even with high ISO and long exposure times?

12-05-2009, 08:39 PM   #2
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Star captures are terribly tricky and simply having a DSLR isn't going to make them come out better. There is a technique to this type of photography that I'm not very familiar with. Perhaps someone else can enlighten us.
12-05-2009, 10:54 PM   #3
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Try using bulb mode
12-05-2009, 11:06 PM   #4
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Invest in a lightmeter that will give a long time exposure up to a few hours,{eg.gossen lunasix 3}.That way you can get long time exposures beyond 30 sec,while still shooting at 100 iso.Ofcourse you will be shooting in manual mode in B setting.

12-06-2009, 07:05 AM   #5
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You don't need a lightmeter to photograph star trails. Just set your camera to bulb, F;5.6 to f:8, ISO 100 or 200, and a locking remote. Then you have to expose for as long as you want to record the star trails that you want. Just remember that, with noise reduction on, the camera will take the same time as the exposure to process it. If you have any light source around, it will likely show up on your pictures, and might even obliterate the star trails. Upping the ISO is not the solution, time is.
12-06-2009, 07:23 AM   #6
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Theo, something's not quite right with needing to go to ISO 3200-12800 for a 30 sec exposure just to get a star to show up.

30 secs is probably the limit of capturing a star without having an obvious trail to it.
If that's what you're after, use Yves's suggested settings - they're quite universal actually - and ensure the aperture is widened before you decide to bump ISO.

You should have no troubles getting stars recording in the sky (as long as light pollution is reasonably low) at f/5.6 with ISO 200-400 as long as the exposure time is adequate (at least 30 secs.

Try this and post your results.
12-06-2009, 08:01 AM   #7
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Better luck tonight..

Turns out I had a pretty fundamental misunderstanding of how to set the aperture. Did I mention that this is my first SLR?

All of last night's disastrous shots were at f22. Hardly a surprise that there was less light in there than down a well at midnight.

Tonight, we headed out to the boonies when it was still light, and selected a good spot - couple of nice trees, good visibility towards good constellations (basically, Orion).

Mounted up the camera, used the last of the light to sort out focus to the far sky, threw the aperture as wide as she would go (f3.5 on the stock lens, a DAL 18-55), dropped the ISO down to 100 and started working up from 10 second snaps.

Tweaked around with the varying effects of ISO and exposure time, and got some brilliant results.

Turns out I can take her to ISO 800 without seeing an appreciable level of noise - it's there if you zoom in past 100%, but not that bad. At ISO 200, I'm clean of noise, and got some absolutely gorgeous starfields.

Best picture of the night was pointed back towards the city - we had some mid level cloud drift across over the course of the evening, which was illuminated from the underside by the glow of the city in the distance (about 55km away).

I'm very, very happy with how this turned out.

12-06-2009, 08:51 AM   #8
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Glad to see it worked out.
12-06-2009, 04:38 PM   #9
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I like your night shots Good job!

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