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Ceph and Cass

Very first widefield nightscapes

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post-22255-0-40323600-1373882029_thumb.jpost-22255-0-94274200-1373882031_thumb.jpost-22255-0-73417500-1373882036_thumb.jpost-22255-0-94223000-1373882100_thumb.jHello everyone,

I got a Canon 1100D a little while ago. I took my very first images of the night sky last week. I wasn't really expecting to capture anything at all, so in that sense I'm quite pleased. This was mainly a chance for me to have a little play with the settings and just try some things out and see what worked and what didn't.

The images are all 30 second exposures, with a variety of ISO settings, using the standard 18-55 mm kit lens. It was about 2 in the morning, which is about as dark as I think it gets.

I have heard of focussing to infinity, but I'm not sure I really understand it, and I don't think some of my pics were in focus - and those that are were probably more luck than judgement. When I was looking through the viewfinder I couldn't see anything at all no matter which way I turned the focus (although I was at a slightly jaunty angle trying to look through). I am using a tripod, but its quite a lightweight one - I really can't afford to spend out any more at the moment, so I'm using it on its shortest setting and weighing it down so that it is at its most stable.

Images shot in RAW, but converted to jpeg so that I can upload them for viewing here. I took about 20, but I've only put up the ones that seemed either the best, or that actually showed something - I've totally ignored the blurry messes, or where the light levels were totally wrong.

I have no experience in this area at all, so I'd really appreciate any advice on how to improve my pictures. I did start to have a bit of a play with the RAW images in Canon's photo editing software, but as I don't really know what I'm doing, I was mainly just messing around with the various sliders to see what effects they had, and adjusting them according to what made the image appear most aesthetically pleasing!

I did find that (some) of the images captured far more stars (assuming they are stars, not dust or flies!) than I could actually see - I had been trying to take pictures of a constellation (eg. Cassiopeia) so that I could actually pick some features out of it, but I can't make out anything like that (other than the fairly obvious saucepan one). I do wonder whether this is a similar issue to finding objects with the scope though - as I couldn't really make anything out in the viewfinder, it was a bit of guesswork as to whether I was pointing at the right part of the sky.

Oh, and excuse the washing line in one of the pictures. That won't be there next time!



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Helen, off to a good start there... you need to make sure you get your focus as accurate as possible.. .the first image is very out of focus. You'll have to focus by hand though, there's nothing really to focus on (unless you can see the moon, which does work very nicely for getting your lens focused). As you have the 1100d, you should have liveview, if the moon isn't available, then locate a bright star, activate liveview, set to ISO1600, with a 30s exposure and find that star. Zoom in on the star as much as liveview will allow and tweak the focus gently (making sure the lens is set to manual focus) until the star becomes the smallest dot you can manage.

The long exposure of the camera will always reveal more than you can see...

Have a look at as a starting point...

Just one word of caution... astro photography can get quite addictive ;)

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Good start.. I've got lots of images with lines like that across them from when I was starting out (telephone cables in my case).. nothing to worry about at this stage.

Excellent advice by jgs001 on focussing, assuming you get focus more or less sorted.. one other point that will bite you very soon.

If your camera isn't tracking the stars, you will be astonished at how quickly the stars move. To pick up faint stars you need to keep the light from those stars focussed onto one point on your camera sensor. With a short focal length like you're using, the stars won't move much over 10 seconds or so, but after 30 seconds you will have tiny streaks rather than dots (you'll need to experiment) this means you're no longer getting deeper shots as the star light is spread. Several people here have gone a long way by stacking (adding together several shots, each aligned in the computer to undo the star movement) several 10second or so images to get a deeper image. The other route is to allow the stars to trail by taking REALLY long shots, or adding together lots of shorter shots and you get some very pretty star trails.

it's all good fun.. if a little addictive.


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Thank you all for your advice and encouragement. Excellent tips about getting the focus, I shall have a play around with it.

And my remote arrived today so that I can do long exposures and star trails (fingers crossed). Exciting stuff. I'll have a look at something like Deep Sky Stacker as well.

Thanks. Just got to wait for a nice clear sky when I haven't got to get up ridiculously early the next day.

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For star trails, once focused, set the camera to continuous shooting, 30s exposures, ISO800, point it at your target region of sky, using the remote, just lock the shutter button (the camera will just shoot a continuous sequence of 30s shots). then use startrails (from startrails.de) to combine them into a startrails image. The startrails software only handles jpg's, so either set to shoot jpg (not raw) or raw+jpg, but you'll need a larger card for that.

Good luck.

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