TAKING IMAGES OF OBJECTS IN THE NIGHT SKY
Some great objects can be seen and imaged in the night sky! If you are unsure what to start with check out our Sky Notes page and see what can be viewed this month!
You need to consider how dark your skies are, from our area around Manchester we have a lot of Light Pollution. We have some dark sky maps on our website here to help you plan this.
Don't forget to upload your images to the Facebook group and we will add them to the member images section of the website to showcase them!
DSLR camera (so you can manually change the settings) but a decent point and shoot camera should work too
A tripod to keep the camera steady (for long exposure photography this is a must otherwise the image will be blurred)
Things to check before heading out:
Battery is charged
Memory card is in the camera (yes, seems obvious but we have made this error before)!
Now set the camera on the tripod and change the setting to Manual shooting.
The first thing you need to do is get a good focus. The best way to do this is to zoom right out with the lens to get a wide view (don’t forget to take automatic focus and flash off), point the camera at the brightest star you can see. Use the live view LCD screen as it is easier to see. Hopefully now you should see the star on the screen, if you can’t see the star try increasing the ISO to around 1600 and the shutter speed to around 15seconds. Once you have the star onscreen use the zoom button on the camera (on a Canon this is to the top right on the back of the camera body) and zoom in as much as you can on the star (don’t zoom in with the lens as you want to focus the camera without changing this). Once zoomed in you should then focus the star by manually turning the end of the lens, be careful not to turn the whole lens, just the end of it, holding the main body of the lens whilst doing this so it doesn't move can help.
Now find the object you want to get a picture of, point the camera towards it. Make sure you zoom in on the object first (or leave this if you are taking a wide field shot) then follow the steps above again just to make sure you are focussed on the object. Again, you may need to change your ISO and Shutter speed if you have zoomed in.
Now you are focused in, it is a good time to take some test shots and get your settings right. You may have to change the settings a few times as every one’s levels of light pollution will be different. Also, keep in mind that if it hasn’t been dark for long, the higher exposure and shutter speed will give a rather bright image! So ..... Set ISO to about 800 and change the shutter speed to around 10 seconds. Take a test shot and view the results. If the image looks too bright reduce the ISO. Also, consider that the more you increase the shutter speed the more likely it is that you will start getting blurred images and star trails start to appear! It is best to change the ISO and shutter speed until you are happy with the quality of the image. If you don’t have a remote shutter release button it can be a good idea to put a 2 second delay before a picture is taken to avoid the camera wobbling when the shutter is released.
Don’t be disappointed if you got get the image you planned. Try again another night, and practice focusing and using the camera to take pictures of the stars and night sky!
Some great articles and help guides across the internet:
Good Luck and please don’t forget to share your images on the Facebook group page, we would love to see them. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, there are no stupid questions and we are a friendly bunch!