Disclaimer: I have only been seriously taking photos with a DSLR/mirrorless camera for a few years now, and am nowhere near an expert. This post is to document a bit of my learning process.
I have been keen to try astrophotography for a while now, but was always put off by the apparent need for fantastic (read: expensive) equipment like trackers, high-end glass and massive sensor cameras. On a recent trip to Jindabyne, with keen support from my brother, we decided to throw caution to the wind, and see what my humble pancake and APSC sensor could do.
Taking photos of the night sky
My first attempt
We stopped at the top of a hill in Jindabyne, a spot that was reasonably free of light pollution in one direction, and set up the camera. There were a few basics that I looked up beforehand, which were essentially:
- manually focus to get the stars as ‘pinprick’ small as possible
- have your lens wide open (lowest F value) to maximise light
- try and get a good shot with the lowest ISO you can, without letting the stars start trailing.
This last point brings up the ‘Rule of 500’, which in hindsight I should have paid more attention to.
All pictures were taken with my Fujifilm X-T30 and the Fujifilm 27mm pancake lens. The lens definitely isn’t the best Fuji has to offer in terms of astro lenses, but it’s what I always have on my camera, so it’s what I shot with.
The raw photo
After playing around a little bit with my camera, we got a decent picture with the stars, a tree and a bit of artful cloud cover. This shot was taken at ISO 3200 and f/2.8, with a 30 second exposure.
It’s obviously not the best photo, the stars aren’t very sharp and it’s a bit noisy, but I thought I’d see what I could do with it in post.
There are plenty of tutorials and guides on astrophotography editing online, so I read/watched a few before diving in.
To start, even a small adjustment to the basics does a lot. I pushed the exposure and contrast up a little, and took the whites up and the blacks down, which got me to an imagine with a little more drama.
The tree looks pretty good here (in my opinion), so to avoid messing with it I applied a mask on the to focus on editing the sky only (something I’d never done with the usual travel/street/landscape photos I had taken before).
With this mask on, I pushed up the dehaze slider a little, which brought out the individual stars. From here, it was simply a matter of bumping up the exposure and contrast a little, and dropping the blacks and shadows to make the star system and its colour come out (without looking completely fake).
With this (admittedly limited editing), I ended up with the following picture.
I’m quite proud of my first attempt at photographing and editing the stars. I might revisit this post in the future with some more info. First steps are to try:
- getting better focus on the stars
- multiple exposures to bring out the foreground in a natural way
- multiple exposures to reduce the noise in the sky.