Taking pictures of the stars

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by beala, Aug 14, 2009.

  1. beala

    beala Member

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    I'm going on a camping trip next week, and am pretty excited to try and get some pictures of the stars. I was inspired by these wonderful pictures of the recent meteor shower: http://blog.flickr.net/en/2009/08/13/perseid-showers/

    Anyway, I was just wondering if anyone could give me some aperture/shutter speed combos for capturing the stars on 200ISO b&w film. I'll be up in the Rocky Mountains far from light pollution. It's my first time trying this, so I'm expecting to do quite a bit of bracketing, but I was just looking for some ball park numbers. Should I bracket around 2 minute or 20 minutes? I plan on using a tripod and shutter release cable, of course.

    I was looking at The Ultimate Exposure Chart and according to that I'm at an EV of -4 to -6 which means a 4minute exposure at f/4 and an 8 min at f/5.6. Does that sound about right?

    Any tips on bracketing or nighttime star photography in general? Thanks bunches!
     
  2. thisismyname09

    thisismyname09 Member

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  3. beala

    beala Member

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    Thanks for pointing this out to me! It's pretty interesting, but it looks like I'm in for quite a long exposure. At 100 seconds, the datasheet recommends lengthening the exposure 18x! Is this unusually long? I'm thinking I might have to stop by the camera store and pick up some 1600 speed film if I plan on sleeping at all during this trip! Any recommendations on film without such a significant reciprocity failure?
     
  4. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Don't bother with any of the super-fast films if combating reciprocity failure is your goal. They have the worst reciprocity during long exposures of any film. T-Max 100, Fuji Across, or Fuji Provia, T64, and Astia have amazing reciprocity characteristics, and all of them are actually faster than 400 films in long exposures. Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but there is a reason that most star photography is not done on 400 and faster films.
     
  5. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    well, first you have to stake out Hollywood restaurant with other papara....oh, you meant...never mind.

    Seriously, if you don't want to deal with reciprocity, try Fuji Acros film. I am not sure how long you can expose Acros without compensating for reciprocity failure, but I have done 8 minute exposures based on a metered reading of how much light was left in the sky, and got good negatives.
     
  6. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    If you want star trails, you want long exposures. The Earth rotates at 15º/hour so if you aim at the North Pole, you will get 15º of arc. If you aim at the Zenith [no not the television, straight overhead], you will get some arc but it will be fairly flat. If you can, leave the shutter open at a small f/stop [f/11 or f/16] for an hour or two.

    It would be a good idea to use a stable tripod, too.

    Steve
     
  7. Tim Gray

    Tim Gray Member

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    I recently shot a couple star shots (first time ever). I used Fuji T64, a 28mm lens at f/2.0, and anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 mins. I bracketed of course.

    Some of the slower films are actually faster once you get much above 30 seconds or so due to reciprocity.
     
  8. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i may have the star wrong but if you point to polaris
    ( north star/end of the handle of the little dipper )
    all the stars will make concentric circles around IT ...
    polaris doens't rotate ...

    have fun!

    john
     
  9. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Actually, Polaris in not exactly at the North Pole so it will make a small circle if you could photograph it for twenty-four hours.

    Canopus in the Southern hemisphere is further off from the South Pole IIRC and would make a larger, circle again, if you could photograph it for twenty-four hours. FYI: at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory interplanetary spacecraft missions, like Voyager and Galileo, uses Canopus for celestial navigation and attitude control.

    Steve
     
  10. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Steve,

    Wouldn't f/11 or f/16 be too tiny an aperture for this?
     
  11. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    It has been years since I tried this, so yes it may be too small an opening. I was thinking about the ambient light causing the background [trees, etc] becoming too bright.

    Steve
     
  12. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    2F/2F,

    You are right. From the FotoSharp "Day & Night Exposure Guide" - www.FotoSharp.com

    "Star Trails - Use a tripod with fast film (ISO 200 or faster) and a wide aperture. With landscape or foreground subject in the scene, determine the desired exposure for the landscape or foreground using an aperture that allows an exposure of 20 minutes or longer. For circular trails, aim your camera at the North Star and expose the film for 20 minutes to several hours."
    Steve
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 14, 2009
  13. calceman

    calceman Member

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    Forget about reciprocity failure, since your shots will be at least 30mns.
    The smallest aperture, the less stars you will get (only the brightests). No need for small aperture (smaller than f/8) since you dont need depth of field either.
    Also, you will not overexpose in your case (away from city lights) so you can focus at infinity and set aperture at f/5.6 to 8 for at least 30mns for a bit of trailing. Then before going to bed, open the shutter and wake up before dawn (then for safety leave smaller aperture if you oversleep).
    Best time for this is full moon, when you actually capture landscape as well.
     
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  15. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Yes, but keep the moon out of the field of view to avoid a burned out white blur. Also be aware that if the Moon passes close to the camera lens longitudinal axis, then the Moon may cause flares in the photograph.

    Stev
     
  16. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    The way I understand it, the aperture determines how many stars of each intensity are captured. The wider apertures show more of the fainter stars on the film, and the more you stop down, the more of the faint ones get cut out.

    But I do not know at what apertures you also start to lose the brighter stars.

    I have also heard, but not tested, that the angle of view affects this by showing more or less of the sky, which can gain density due to fog/haze and obscure some stars. Thus it is more important to have a wider aperture on a wider lens, to allow the stars to better appear to "burn through" the fog/haze on the picture.

    I have only shot star trails a few times. Only a few scenes have inspired me to do so. I used f/4 - f/8 and a 100-speed film in a Mamiya M645 with a 55mm lens and all-night exposures. Pix came out OK. F/5.6 seemed to be the best for the conditions at the time. Film was Fuji Reala, which is not the best as far as reciprocity, but also not the worst.

    I set up my shot, put the lens cap on, took the camera off the tripod, removed the quick release plate, opened the shutter on B, removed the battery, put the quick release plate back on (hopefully aligning it the same exact way), put the camera back on the tripod, and then removed the lens cap.

    I don't know if this was necessary, but I assumed that since the camera has an electronic shutter, that it would be burning through the battery if the camera was left open on B.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 14, 2009
  17. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    The wider the field of view the more impressive the photograph becomes. I do not remember the details of my early work to recall the "burn through" factor [Whether or not it exists.].

    Steve
     
  18. beala

    beala Member

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    Thanks guys, this is some really great advice! A few questions, though.

    Wait. Now I'm confused. Doesn't the reciprocity failure come into effect when the exposure gets long (eg 30 min exposures)?
    Cool idea! Whether I do this or not will depend on how much I trust my campsite neighbor not to steal my camera!
    Ahh good point. So, from what I gather, it's not really possible to over expose the stars. What I have to watch out for is overexposing the landscape and the moon (if it crosses through the picture).
    I'm using a fully mechanical camera (except for the meter), so this shouldn't be a problem. I'm guessing that an all night exposure probably isn't too good for the components though (would springs, etc get stretched out?).
    Good idea. I'll have to take a star chart and get somewhat familiar with the sky so I can plan out my star trails.

    In any case, it sounds like I'll have to use all this as a starting point for some test rolls I'll be shooting over the next few nights. They'll be in the city, but hopefully it'll give me a little closer idea of how the reciprocity failure, etc will affect my film (Fomapan 200).

    Thanks guys!
     
  19. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Wirelessly posted (BBBold: BlackBerry9000/4.6.0.167 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/102 UP.Link/6.3.0.0.0)

    Go to www.stellariumMcom and download the free software. It's detailed and awesome. Just got it myself.
     
  20. Larry.Manuel

    Larry.Manuel Member

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  21. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    It sure does.
    But you're no longer trying to use an exposure meter and figure out how you have to deviate from what it says to get a good exposure.
    Exposure times are based on experience and are often paired (though perhaps not explicitly) with advice about what film is less or more suited for the purpose.
    It is a hit and miss affair, but without the "miss" part: you always get a result.
     
  22. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Chris,

    Can't find it when i go to where you go to when you put a "." where the "M" is in the link above.
    Can you point me in the right direction? Thanks!
     
  23. calceman

    calceman Member

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  24. jcorll

    jcorll Member

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    I am bumping this up.
    2F/2F said that he uses a 55mm. Would a 135mm be pushing the limit a little? I have tried getting Star trails before on my Nikon using a 50mm at f/16 for 25 mins. I don't know if I might have bumped the tripod or pressed the shutter too hard but when I developed the film, the picture came out black. (No I didn't leave the lens cap on!) I have a 28mm wide angle, I assume that would be sufficient to use. Or would it change the exposure time at all? I am hooked on this and want to learn more!
     
  25. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    Nightfly can help us all out with this!
     
  26. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Never use f:16 for star shots. When everything's at practically infinity, you certainly don't need the DOF. 2F/2F was right in saying that aperture is the key, but it's absolute aperture that counts with point sources like stars, that is the measured diameter of the aperture, not the ratio of aperture to focal length. Shooting with a 3.125 mm diameter aperture (50mm @ f:16) on any lens will get you pretty much nothing every time. Shoot at full aperture or stopped down only a stop or so. Stars will quickly tell you about your lens aberrations. Use the lens appropriate for what field of view you want, but longer and faster lenses have much larger aperture diameters, and so gather more starlight much more quickly than wider angle lenses. The best book on this stuff is Robert Reeves, Wide-Field Astrophotography. He has an older book out for film, and a newer one for digital. Get the one on film if you're shooting film. You'll save yourself a lot of time and discouragement and get better a lot faster with this book. Random internet advice and suppositions aren't the way to go.

    Lee