Beginner Shooting the stars...

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#1
I'm just looking for some advice - I've just bought my Tamron lens (17-50 f2.8) so that I could hopefully take some photos of the stars, it's basically all I can afford at the moment but I like it, it seems like a nice lens. I live in a very light saturated area and it's cloudy tonight so I couldn't really test it out, but I had a quick go in the back garden when the clouds cleared. There were two things that I was uncertain about:

1. I took a 20 second photo (I wasn't bothered about start trails), largest aperture at ISO 6400 - there was kind of some stars there when I checked but it was very dark and I could only really see some vague star dots when I zoomed in on the resulting image.
2. I took another one at 6 minutes to just see how much light would get in (a fair bit) and see how long the star trails were and it was all just a bit of a mess. (better results with my standard lens but I understand why). When I stopped the exposure though my camera (Canon EOS 100D) said 'BUSY' for absolutely ages - about 5 minutes. It didn't do this with my other lenses. Do you think this is because of the data that my camera was trying to process or do you think it was because of my memory card? I just really have a standard SDHC 32GB SanDisk card.

Any pointers are, as always, very much appreciated :)
 
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#2
In your camera settings have you turned off noise reduction? If this hasn't been turned off it will take twice as long to write it to the card. Check and see if it is activated, if it is turn it off and try. I'm sure someone more knowledgable will perhaps have some better ideas.
 
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#3
In your camera settings have you turned off noise reduction? If this hasn't been turned off it will take twice as long to write it to the card. Check and see if it is activated, if it is turn it off and try. I'm sure someone more knowledgable will perhaps have some better ideas.
I'll take a look - that's not something I'm used to tinkering with - thank you.
 
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#4
In your camera settings have you turned off noise reduction? If this hasn't been turned off it will take twice as long to write it to the card. Check and see if it is activated, if it is turn it off and try. I'm sure someone more knowledgable will perhaps have some better ideas.
It was set to 'auto' - I've just turned it off.
 
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Thanks. I've read loads of them and I thought I was following them to the letter, which is why I need a bit of extra help I think. I've even tried to find a course that maybe I could join in with but they're few and far between because you can't really plan for a clear night.
 
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#7
I live in a very light saturated area and it's cloudy tonight so I couldn't really test it out, but I had a quick go in the back garden
This is your answer I think Justine. When I take star shots I use my kit lens and the settings are usually lens set at 18mm, f3.5, 20 seconds, ISO 3200, so your set up will be fine.

If you get to a darker site I'm sure you will get a decent shot. This was taken a couple of nights ago with the above settings.

Dave

MW3.jpg
 
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#8
This is your answer I think Justine. When I take star shots I use my kit lens and the settings are usually lens set at 18mm, f3.5, 20 seconds, ISO 3200, so your set up will be fine.

If you get to a darker site I'm sure you will get a decent shot. This was taken a couple of nights ago with the above settings.

Dave

View attachment 74857

Thanks Dave- I would have been chuffed with that, it's lovely. It's set to be a clearer night tonight so I'll go out again. In terms of light pollution- I can't really get away from it, tonight I'll go to the sea and point my camera out- it's the only place that isn't overly saturated.
 
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#9
image.jpeg
It was set to 'auto' - I've just turned it off.
Glad the info was useful:) I've not tried taking shots of the Milky Way yet, that is my next venture.

I went out into the back garden the other night on the spur of the moment, saw it was clear skies and thought I'd give star trails a go. I probably scared the neighbours wandering about in my Jim jams with a head torch on The foreground isn't very interesting but i just wanted to give it a go.
 
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#10
View attachment 74876

Glad the info was useful:) I've not tried taking shots of the Milky Way yet, that is my next venture.

I went out into the back garden the other night on the spur of the moment, saw it was clear skies and thought I'd give star trails a go. I probably scared the neighbours wandering about in my Jim jams with a head torch on The foreground isn't very interesting but i just wanted to give it a go.

That's lovely though, I wish my tests would work out like that! Did you take lots of interval images for that and then bund them together?
 
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#13
I have used the same lens as you for wide field astro photography on a 550D. I have had stars and the brightest DSOs (deep sky objects - clusters, galaxies, nebulae) recording at f2.8, 400iso at about 25sec. Look at my flickr site. I've showed the brightest constellations quite well at 10 sec or so with my kit 18-135 lens at 135 (hence the short exposure), so that would be f5.6. I can't remember the iso but it would have been fairly high. You do have to do a fair bit of tweaking in post to bring out the best, however when you went out how many stars could you see? If you've just stepped out of the house and your eyes are not dark adapted it's not easy to see thin cloud. Also light pollution will wipe out the stars however long an exposure you use. As has been said, you need to get away from 'skyglow'. The long exposure noise reduction you've now turned off helps cancel out the noise generated by the chip. For a single exposure it's not vital but you may see little bright red, blue and green dots that when zoomed in are square (if they're round they're stars). It's simple enough to clone them out. It's more critcal if you're doing multiple exposures on a tracking mount and stacking them as you'll get red green and blue dotted lines but don't worry about that yet. The old 350D I use attached to a telescope will only do the NR at exposures over 30s, so yours may be the same. The 550D will do it for any exposure should I tell it to.
 
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#14
I have used the same lens as you for wide field astro photography on a 550D.
That gives me some comfort Jan, I really appreciate you giving me the information but I'm still struggling, it's like some sort of dark art!! I went out last night to the sea front (I live on the Wirral so can't get away from the light) - I pointed my camera out to the stars above the sea - opened the apeture, ISO around 3200 and gave it 18 seconds, the result was a very red noisy looking photo with no stars on at all, I kept dropping the ISO down and eventually ended up at 100! I got stars! Not lots, just the brightest ones. Then I decided to have a go at star trails - I did 30 seconds, just got stars, no trails, and I kept raising the exposure by 10 seconds, nothing.

I could see loads of stars in the sky but just couldn't get them on film. I'm at a bit of a loss. I'm going to go back out and have another go tonight but it's a bit disheartening because I was really looking forward to it.
 
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#15
100iso is a bit low. Did you look at all your shots on a pc or just on the camera back? I found the bright red looks much worse on the camera screen and some I was inclined to delete proved usable. At 17mm you'll need quite a long exposure to get really noticable trailing. I don't know how long as I don't do star traile. I'm always aiming to eliminate any trailing at all. Keep trying. You'll get there. It's all trial and error, but mostly error. Make sure you're shooting RAW so you have the maximum data available and anything half decent needs a fair bit of processing.
 
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#16
I pointed my camera out to the stars above the sea - opened the apeture, ISO around 3200 and gave it 18 seconds, the result was a very red noisy looking photo with no stars on at all
That sounds like light pollution to me. If I'm in a light polluted area the background of my star shots looks a sickly orange colour. Camera sensors are very good at picking up light pollution even if it isn't too apparent to the eye.

A 30 second exposure is not long enough to get significant star trails. That exposure will produce some trailing but the trails will be tiny. The Earth rotates about 15 degrees per hour so in 30 seconds the stars appear to have hardly moved at all. To get noticeable trails much longer exposures are needed - probably 30 minutes at least. Having the camera shutter open for 30 minutes(or even longer) could drain the battery and also might overheat the sensor.

The way around this is to do what Maggie52 did in the shot in post 9, above - a lot shorter exposure shots stacked together using software. As mentioned the above was a combination of 75 shots each of 30 seconds, which is equivalent about 37 minutes. In that time the rotation of the Earth becomes evident and gives trails.

Dave

BTW The Starstax software used to stack star trail photos is free - http://www.markus-enzweiler.de/software/software.html
 
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#17
That sounds like light pollution to me. If I'm in a light polluted area the background of my star shots looks a sickly orange colour. Camera sensors are very good at picking up light pollution even if it isn't too apparent to the eye.

A 30 second exposure is not long enough to get significant star trails. That exposure will produce some trailing but the trails will be tiny. The Earth rotates about 15 degrees per hour so in 30 seconds the stars appear to have hardly moved at all. To get noticeable trails much longer exposures are needed - probably 30 minutes at least. Having the camera shutter open for 30 minutes(or even longer) could drain the battery and also might overheat the sensor.

The way around this is to do what Maggie52 did in the shot in post 9, above - a lot shorter exposure shots stacked together using software. As mentioned the above was a combination of 75 shots each of 30 seconds, which is equivalent about 37 minutes. In that time the rotation of the Earth becomes evident and gives trails.

Dave

BTW The Starstax software used to stack star trail photos is free - http://www.markus-enzweiler.de/software/software.html
Can Starstax process .CR2 images?
 

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#18
Can Starstax process .CR2 images?
No. From the Starstax FAQ:
Q: Why can't StarStaX read my Canon/Nikon/Sony etc. raw camera files ?
A: Raw development is a highly non-trivial problem. While a simple raw plug-in could be included rather easily into StarStaX, it's quality would certainly not be on par with available commercial and open-source products (Aperture, Lightroom, RawTherapee, etc.). That's why there won't be any raw support in StarStaX in the near future.
http://www.markus-enzweiler.de/StarStaX/StarStaX.html#faq
 
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#19
Does the op drive? Get into the countryside! Peak District .......
dark skies there
 
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#20
Can Starstax process .CR2 images?
I guess cr2 is Canon data in which case no it can't. Starstax isn't written to work on 'raw' files (too many different types for the author to mess about with on a hobby project I imagine). Just bulk convert (using the same settings for all of the group) to jpg before stacking

Though there is a lot of light pollution out on Cheshire's appendix star trail photos are still possible. Taking a large number of photos and stacking them, preferably onto an image taken from the same spot earlier in the evening (ie. still some blue light in the sky and far less orange streetlight) is the way to go.
Aperture wide open and manual focus at infinity minus a small tweak (for most lenses), ISO fairly high (how high depends on the camera - on my D300's I rarely took photos above ISO 800 but on my 7200 and 750 I'll use up to 3200...other people are happier to go much higher), and time based on the focal length of the lens.
A decent foreground facing out to sea will also help - the concrete breakwaters round from New Borington/Leasowe or perhaps the boardwalk things further round at West Kirby (I've seen reasonable photos of trails from there and Hoylake)

If you are worried about sensor noise (I wouldn't be if stacking unless you have already seen hot pixels from your camera) you can use a black image (take a photo with the lens cap on) and use this with the stacking software so it can find hot spots.....but that's advanced stuff for later!

Fairly sure our member, Matt, @MWHCVT , has written about star trails, and maybe even a tutorial, on here before (maybe in the meets section as well as other sections) and I'm surprised he's not popped into this thread.
 
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#21
I shoot stars in jpeg anyway
 
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#23
depends which side of the wirral you live ,but if your on the dee estuary side and your on the marsh edge point your camera towards hilbre island then upwards there shouldn't be any light pollution from that direction at all its open sea ,let me know what time your out there and i'll pop into the front garden and give you a wave ,i can see the whole wirral from my welsh hilltop perch :banana::banana::banana:
 

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#24
I guess cr2 is Canon data in which case no it can't. Starstax isn't written to work on 'raw' files (too many different types for the author to mess about with on a hobby project I imagine). Just bulk convert (using the same settings for all of the group) to jpg before stacking

Though there is a lot of light pollution out on Cheshire's appendix star trail photos are still possible. Taking a large number of photos and stacking them, preferably onto an image taken from the same spot earlier in the evening (ie. still some blue light in the sky and far less orange streetlight) is the way to go.
Aperture wide open and manual focus at infinity minus a small tweak (for most lenses), ISO fairly high (how high depends on the camera - on my D300's I rarely took photos above ISO 800 but on my 7200 and 750 I'll use up to 3200...other people are happier to go much higher), and time based on the focal length of the lens.
A decent foreground facing out to sea will also help - the concrete breakwaters round from New Borington/Leasowe or perhaps the boardwalk things further round at West Kirby (I've seen reasonable photos of trails from there and Hoylake)

If you are worried about sensor noise (I wouldn't be if stacking unless you have already seen hot pixels from your camera) you can use a black image (take a photo with the lens cap on) and use this with the stacking software so it can find hot spots.....but that's advanced stuff for later!

Fairly sure our member, Matt, @MWHCVT , has written about star trails, and maybe even a tutorial, on here before (maybe in the meets section as well as other sections) and I'm surprised he's not popped into this thread.
I've not been around a lot of late..short answer is starstax will take pretty much any image format, however a RAW file is not strictly an image file so no it will not take a RAW

As to advice, in my signature you'll find a link to my star trails tutorial reading that will give you a good start and I'm more than happy to answer any question that may arise from it, when it comes to shooting stars the advice is the same as for star trails, although the processing is different as you want to be more selective in the frames you merge into a stack
 
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#26
Or closer, not as dark but not half bad if you have your back to Liverfool, would be over towards the Clwydian hills
If I look away from the Liverpool Direction then I'm looking towards Wales - unfortunately I'm looking towards a particularly bright part of Wales.
 
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#27
depends which side of the wirral you live ,but if your on the dee estuary side and your on the marsh edge point your camera towards hilbre island then upwards there shouldn't be any light pollution from that direction at all its open sea ,let me know what time your out there and i'll pop into the front garden and give you a wave ,i can see the whole wirral from my welsh hilltop perch :banana::banana::banana:
Ha! I'm there most nights at the moment, I only live in Meols. There's been something very bright in Wales for the last few nights, looks almost like a stadium light...and then of course there's the windfarms!
 
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#28
I've not been around a lot of late..short answer is starstax will take pretty much any image format, however a RAW file is not strictly an image file so no it will not take a RAW

As to advice, in my signature you'll find a link to my star trails tutorial reading that will give you a good start and I'm more than happy to answer any question that may arise from it, when it comes to shooting stars the advice is the same as for star trails, although the processing is different as you want to be more selective in the frames you merge into a stack
That's really kind of you Matthew, thank you. I'm very new to any sort of post photo processing and usually don't bother but I really, really want to take this photo - I'll keep plugging away, at the moment though it's an uphill battle.
 
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#29
That's really kind of you Matthew, thank you. I'm very new to any sort of post photo processing and usually don't bother but I really, really want to take this photo - I'll keep plugging away, at the moment though it's an uphill battle.
It was Matt's tutorial and his help that got me interested in having a go. He explains it really well, you should definetely look it up.
Good luck:)
 
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#30
It was Matt's tutorial and his help that got me interested in having a go. He explains it really well, you should definetely look it up.
Good luck:)
I read it tonight, it was really interesting. I really think that it was the light pollution causing the problems now.
 
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#31
I'm off for a few days near Darlington at the end of the month, I'm sure I'll find some there!
If you're in the Darlington area check out Saltburn. It's one of my favourite places... there's a lovely beach, a pier, a water powered cliff lift (with a fish and chip shop at the bottom) and a cliff :D
 
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#32
If I look away from the Liverpool Direction then I'm looking towards Wales - unfortunately I'm looking towards a particularly bright part of Wales.
I meant if you travel ...not look at the hills (though they are perfectly reasonable hills to look at).

From Meols you'd want to be looking more NNW rather than directly over the top of Hoylake.

Keep your exposure time as low as possible rather than the more usual way of having the exposure as long as your focal length allows.

Consider using the light pollution as part of your image. There is a local photographer, Jon Hall, who had some good examples of this. IIRC taken at Thurstaston Common in the wee hours which balanced the glow with some dark foreground. He might have a website.
 

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#33
That's really kind of you Matthew, thank you. I'm very new to any sort of post photo processing and usually don't bother but I really, really want to take this photo - I'll keep plugging away, at the moment though it's an uphill battle.
Post processing really is part of it, especially with star trails and more over stuff like the milky way most of the exceptionally photos of that have usually gone through fairly reigourous PP but it's easy enough to learn and perfect with a little practice
 
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#34
Post processing really is part of it, especially with star trails and more over stuff like the milky way most of the exceptionally photos of that have usually gone through fairly reigourous PP but it's easy enough to learn and perfect with a little practice
Thanks - I think I'm avoiding post processing because I'm really still learning my way around a camera- I can only absorb so much at a time. :)

I'm glad I found my way on to this forum, there are some very kind people here.
 
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#35
I meant if you travel ...not look at the hills (though they are perfectly reasonable hills to look at).

From Meols you'd want to be looking more NNW rather than directly over the top of Hoylake.

Keep your exposure time as low as possible rather than the more usual way of having the exposure as long as your focal length allows.

Consider using the light pollution as part of your image. There is a local photographer, Jon Hall, who had some good examples of this. IIRC taken at Thurstaston Common in the wee hours which balanced the glow with some dark foreground. He might have a website.

Thanks - good advice as always.
 
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#39
Wow - I'll put one on my 'aim for list' - this is hands down the most expensive hobby I've had but it's strangely addictive! (y)
 
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