How to shoot desert with many stars in the sky?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Evgeny, Aug 7, 2008.

  1. Evgeny

    Evgeny Member

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    Hi,

    I want to shoot a desert landscape with many starts on the sky. This is a night photography, in a very dark area.

    I have:

    1. Contax 645.
    2. Manfrotto photo tripod.
    3. Mechanical cable release for long exposures.
    4. Nikon flash to light the desert. (not for stars :D )

    Which Contax 645 lens do you recommend for night landscapes/stars photography?
    1. 35mm f3.5 - 28 seconds exposure max without tracking the stars.
    2. 55mm f3.5 - 18 seconds exposure max without tracking the stars.
    3. 80mm f2 - 12 seconds exposure max without tracking the stars.
    4. 140mm f2.8 - 7 seconds exposure max without tracking the stars.

    Which film do you recommend for such night work? I have 120 films
    1. Ilford PAN F PLUS (ISO 50).
    2. Kodak TMX (T-MAX PRO ISO 100).
    3. Kodak TXP (TRI-X PAN PR ISO 320).
    4. Fujifilm ASTIA 100-F (ISO 100).
    5. Fujifilm VELVIA RVP (ISO 50).
    6. Kodak PORTRA 160VC (ISO 160).

    What else I must to know?
    Any "how to" is very welcome!
    Thank
     
  2. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I'm only guessing here, but I would suggest starting with the fastest lens: The 80mm f:2. A 12 second exposure should give discernible stars without trails, although I would be tempted to do at least one very long exposure complete with star trails?

    So your flash output very likely has to be reduced not to overload the film completely - I don't know the guide number of your flash, but assuming it to be a "strong normal" 28 or so you should get correct exposure at 14m at f:2 and ISO 100 film. Manual exposure and calculating from real (not stated) gide number is the only way to do it here, I'm afraid.

    film?

    If you can, try with B&W (TMX) first then learn from the results of that before your next try with colour. If not, jump into the deep end with Astia.

    Since stars are very small, fast film is not an advantage: The coarser grain tends to mask smaller/fainter stars. Too slow film is not so great either, since you want as many stars as possible. For the same reasons reversal film may not be best, although I'm sure some will disagree, maybe it's just that I've never liked Velvia?
     
  3. Evgeny

    Evgeny Member

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    Ole, thank.
    I think to try Astia 100F, because it can be exposed up to 8 minutes, while max recommended exposure for Vilvia 50 is 30 seconds (FujiFilm pdf docs).
     
  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Misrach I think used car headlights to paint the desert. You can paint with a flashgun, walking around giving multiple exposures.

    It's quite easy,I done similar in a mine.

    Ian
     
  5. Paul.A

    Paul.A Member

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    [​IMG]

    This was shot on Velvia 100 with Pentax 645 IIn with 45-85 mm lens. The exposure was 1 hour at f4.5 (wide open). The foreground lighting came from the house.

    [​IMG]

    Again shot on the Pentax with the same lens. Film stock was Ilford Delta 100 , exposure was 45 minutes wide open. Film developed in D76, printed on Ilford FB warm tone and selenium toned.

    Experiment. This not an exact science and requires a lot of experimentation to get what appeals to your aesthetic. Both the above shots were experimental and I hoping in the next day or so to get out and do some more learning from my past experience.
     
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  6. Evgeny

    Evgeny Member

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    Thanks for sharing!
     
  7. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Take a look at this one:

    http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap070508.html

    Beautiful, but digitally enhanced. It does not say whether the original was digital, but I suspect it was. This or better could be done with film. I've seen it!

    PE
     
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  8. Evgeny

    Evgeny Member

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    Oh, my God! This is superb!
     
  9. Krockmitaine

    Krockmitaine Member

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    Hello PE
    I would really love to have a few pointers on how to achieve this technique on film, no star tracks and the night sky filled with the Milky Way visible. I will experiment with the rest :D
    I saw on a magazine that this couldn't be done on film :rolleyes:

    Marc
     
  10. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    It can be done on film, but it is difficult. It also takes many exposures and high speed film along with split grade printing, and that is ALL I know about it.

    I have seen pictures similar to this done by Kodak's experts in available light photography. IDK if there are any publications but their names are Don Gorman and Pete Chiesa.

    PE
     
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  11. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    Perhaps NASA (think deep pockets filled with tax $$) may have used some sort of mount that compensates for the earth's rotation during each exposure??
     
  12. Glenn M

    Glenn M Member

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    A couple of notes on night shooting with film:

    a) I would suggest Provia (gives a blue/purple biased image), Fuji T64 Tunsten, (gives a blue-biased image) or Kodak 64T tungsten (gives a blue/black biased image) as better alternatives than Astia or Velvia films. These films, to my eye, gives more "natural" looking night-color renditions.

    b) The only way to capture stars as points of light would be to use extremely high-ISO settings (as on digi-cams), or... to make a bunch of short single exposures on the same frame of film. This also multiplies the number of "stars" in an image.

    This is most likely how the Death Valley image was created (multiple images on same film or sensor)... note they mention it's comprised of 30-different images.
     
  13. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Any good telescope comes with such a mount! They are rather inexpensive and very good quality. The telescope and mount can be purchased for under $1500 US in most cases. I have not looked recently, but you might try Celestron for some examples.

    People often get a distorted view of what is going on with tax $$. Sorry, on this one it is an el-cheapo.

    OTOH, shuttle toilet seats cost a fortune. And, don't get hit with one during re-entry (In joke for "dead like me" watchers)

    PE
     
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  15. Evgeny

    Evgeny Member

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    With a telescope motor they must separately shoot the starts, and then separately shoot non-moving landscape with a lens.
     
  16. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Yes, you must create a mask that represents the skyline that will move during the shot. Then photograph the stars with a moving mount to prevent circular patterns.

    PE
     
  17. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    If you are using long shutter speeds, not B (brief time)that is mechanical in your camera, make sure you take a spare camera battery.
     
  18. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    "B" stands for Bulb, as in the rubber pneumatic device people squeezed to release the shutter.
    The shutter would stay open for as long as pressure was high, i.e. as long as the bulb was kept squeezed.

    That in contrast to time, a.k.a. "T", in which the shutter is opened and remains open without needing prolonged or further action.

    But yes: find a mechanical camera to do many long exposures, or stock up on batteries.
     
  19. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    If you are looking for something like the NASA/Death Valley shot:

    o Track the stars - this means the stars stay still and the horizon goes all streaky

    o Take another picture without tracking: stable horizon, streaky stars

    o Combine the two

    An older technique is to use a mat-box of a faux-horizon that rotates with the camera as it
    tracks the stars.

    You can get more info on the astro fora. For good milky-way images you will need a special
    filter that lets through the hydrogen lines and blocks everything else. The best film to use
    is hyper sensitized Technical Pan because it has extended red sensitivity where the hydrogen
    doth glow. High speed Ektachrome is also well thought of for astro pictures, as is using Tech
    Pan with separation filters. Note on separation filters: the colors used for the filters quite often
    aren't red, blue and green and often the image isn't limited to just 3 filtered images. The output
    from each of the filters is colored and combined for 'aesthetic' effect, not semblance to any
    reality perceived by human eye. The technique is used by NASA to generate Hubble eye candy.
     
  20. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    It is possible, and also probable, the NASA/DV image was done with the simple expedient of using a $100,000 supercooled sensor that was otherwise surplus to requirements (why buy 1 for $100,000 when you can get ten for only $1,500,000 - your tax dollars at work). This being APUG the ground rules, and most budgets, forbid such a solution.
     
  21. konakoa

    konakoa Member

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    I do some astrophotograhy on a pretty regular basis.

    The biggest factor you'll need to consider is the local light pollution. That alone will determine the limit of your exposure time. If the desert is truly dark (many miles from any cities) consider yourself very lucky!

    My experience has been that lenses (especially wide angle lenses) record stars much better when stopped down one or two stops.

    Fast film isn't necessarily the best choice. The key factors in astrophotography are the red sensitivity and the reciprocity characteristics. A current film that's excellent for stars is Kodak E200 color transparency film. I really like this film for stars in my medium format camera. I've also had moderate success with Kodak Tmax 100 film.

    If you want star trails, all you need to do is mount your camera on your tripod and lock the shutter open. Exposures can be from 30 seconds to several hours if need be. Again, the amount of local light pollution will determine how long you can leave the shutter open. Bracket your shots if time allows.

    The amount the stars will trail will depend on the portion of the sky you have the camera pointed at, the focal length of the lens, and the exposure time. Wide angles generally won't trail much unless exposures are considerably long. A long telephoto could do it in as little as a minute.

    If you don't want star trails, your camera will need to track the night sky. For this a simple telescope with a electronic tracking mount will do. It doesn't have to be expensive with "GOTO" or GPS functions. I use a style called a german equatorial mount. This style is easily adaptable and I use it for 35mm, medium format and 4x5 large format cameras; for my purposes it works very well solely as a camera platform.
     
  22. Evgeny

    Evgeny Member

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    Danny, I will shoot in dark Israeli desert called Negev. I think a 20-30 seconds exposures will be Ok.

    I sold all my telescopes. I'm familiar with equatorial mount, I know that EQ must be aligned to the North in order to track stars without small hand corrections. A GPS know about North, a full automatic GPS device has the advantage over EQ in my opinion.

    BTW, Contax 645 doesn't drain batteries in the Bulb mode similar to mechanical cameras.
     
  23. philsweeney

    philsweeney Member

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    Compliments on the second image, I think its great!
     
  24. poutnik

    poutnik Member

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    In one of the past LensWork issues (I think #53 or around that) has an interview and presentations of work of Neil Folberg. His work called Celestial Nights is done with 2 exposures, one for the sky with a telescope and tracking, the other for the ground.
     
  25. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    My experience is that you will get noticeable star trails if you expose for longer than that. Of course this may or may not be a problem.

    With a full moon and film around 200-400 ASA, the same exposure may be adequate for a nicely illuminated landscape. So as a first cut, I would try a fast film under a full moon with exposure from 15-30 seconds, wide open; look at the results and adjust according to what you see.

    This is a religious argument for visual observers, but for photography, GPS doesn't solve the problem by itself---you still need an equatorial mount aligned to north to track the movement of the sky without causing apparent rotation of the visual field.

    -NT
     
  26. Evgeny

    Evgeny Member

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    Jiri, does Neil double expose the same frame or merge two different images?