Starry Nights Experiment Part 1

Last night was my first attempts at any level of astrophotography. I have always been amazed by images from outer space. When I was a kid, my dad would get out a telescope and we would get to see rings of Saturn, craters on the Moon and the bands of clouds around Jupiter. And as a college student, I remember how amazing the images were out of the Hubble telescope, even without its contact lens. So as luck would have it, we were finishing up some sunset images out here in the Palouse and my friend Mike wanted to do some crazy long time-lapse work with the stars. So, we stayed well after sunset and I eventually gave in and started my own adventure into astrophotography.

Having photographed the moon a lot over the years, I new the that motion blur would be an issue with the stars, and that the amount of ambient light from the moon could either help or be a big pain in the ass. Finding an exposure relationship that would keep the stars as pinpoint as possible and the ambient light under control is an ongoing bit of trial and error. While shooting last night with the D700, I was able to try out ISO ranges from 200-6400 and shutter speeds from 4″ to 30″ at f/stop 2.8 or 4. As expected there was a lot of noise at the upper ISO values and longer shutter speeds, but I was able to find some settings (ISO 1600 at 20″ set a f/2.8) that worked out really well for creating a mood I liked.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I have been playing with a Fuji X100 camera. As I was shooting last night, I thought I would setup the camera on the tripod and see what it could produce. Most of the people who have issues with this camera do agree on at least one thing. For its size, this camera does produce great images. So I was optimistic that I could produce some interesting work. I have to say that I was completely blown away by the quality of the images. Not only was I amazed by the image capture, but I left the internal noise reduction settings on and they worked better than I expected as well. It was really easy to setup f/2.0,  6″, at ISO 3200. As with the D700 things about 6400 got a little crazy and while I have some images that worked as low at ISO 800 at 20″ I don’t think I found a great sweet sport for this camera yet. I need to play around a lot more with these settings to get a better idea of what this cameras can produce in these darker settings.

We are heading back out tonight to shoot some of the old building in Oakdales and then doing more shooting from one of the buttes in the area. Hopefully the high vantage point and a really wide angle lens along with yesterday’s practice will produce some better images.

more to follow.

Images take with Nikon D700 14-24mm f./2.8 lens with Lexar media and a Fuji X100 camera with Sandisk media.

August 6, 2011

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