We’ve just spent a few days in the high-country of Victoria, up in the mountains and Alpine National Parks.
I’ve recently invested in a new camera the Fuji Xt-3 which I love for its old-school looks, incredible image quality and a huge quantity of dials, which have helped me to learn manual photography for the first time.
One thing that is very noticeable about being so far out of Melbourne is how little light pollution there is. Despite it being only a few days from a full moon the stars were very clear, so I wondered how difficult it was to do some astrophotography.
Turns out I had the right kit too!
What you need is a lens which has a good wide aperture and I’d recently picked up a second-hand Samyang (also know as Rokinon in some parts of the world) 12mm F2.0. I’d wanted a wide-angle lens for its landscape capabilities, but it turned out it was also going to be perfect for astrophotography duties.
A tripod is also needed, as there is no way to hand-hold a camera for this period of time without shaking. My Neewer tripod is stable and light carbon-fibre, and worked perfectly for the job.
I found an excellent post on fstoppers.com…
…in which the author actually uses the Samyang 12mm lens and recommends it, bonus!
So the settings I was aiming for were:
- Aperture as wide as possible (so f2 for this lens)
- ISO 3,200 or lower
- Shutter speed somewhere between 5 seconds and 20 depending on the light
The shutter speed I had to work out on my X-T3, these things are all a learning experience. I had to switch the shutter speed dial to the ‘T’ setting, which then allowed me to dial in the shutter speed I wanted.
PRO TIP: I got this tip from an actual pro on Youtube. To prevent camera shake, set a self-timer of 2 or 3 seconds (most cameras have a short one then the standard 10 second). When you take the shot it will pause for 2 seconds allowing you to step away so the camera is more stable. I do this with all my landscape shots on a tripod now.
Astrophotography Attempt One
OK, so I fucked up.
It might sound odd that I got the settings wrong, but please be kind!
I’ve only been playing around with a camera on manual mode for a couple of months. I have got a grasp of the basics, but for something like this I was referring to notes, notes which I had left on my phone inside the house.
I had closed down the aperture rather than opening it! So instead of shooting at f2 I was at f22, meaning I had to compensate with an ISO of 4000 and a shutter speed of 50 seconds (yes you read that right, 50 seconds!).
The photo below I went with 30 seconds but had to compensate with a huge ISO of 8000 meaning lots of distortion.
I didn’t realise what was going wrong until I got back to my computer and by then it was too late to have another go for risk of waking the entire family.
Despite the mistake they weren’t a complete disaster to I resolved to have another go the following night.
Astrophotography Attempt Two
Things went better on night two.
Whilst the photo above is far from perfect, the big issue here is the moon. It doesn’t look far off daylight and this is with a shutter speed of only 6.5 seconds and the ISO down at 2,500. It’s amazing the difference the aperture made.
Time to turn the camera around and see what I could get with the moon behind me.
I got the ISO down to 500 with this one, and had the shutter speed at 8 seconds.
The definition on the stars here was so much better. I was shooting in RAW so able to bring up some of the clarity and sharpness in Capture One afterwards, but it really didn’t need too much editing at all.
Whilst it was good, I still felt the composition was lacking so I went back for another try.
This final shot is my favourite of the lot.
It is much more than just a photo of the stars as it incorporates the tree and fence in the foreground.
The stars are still a little lost due to the brightness of the moon, but as a first attempt at astrophotography I’m happy!
This was my first attempt at astrophotography, and I’m pretty happy with the results.
I’ll be having another go next time I get somewhere without the light pollution of Melbourne, so will keep you all posted on my efforts.
There is something really cool about photos of the stars. Even an average photo can be incredibly striking and given not many people really do them, it’s a niche I’d like to have some more attempts at.
If you’re interesting in any more of my photos check me out on Instagram @TheSabbaticalGuide.