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Night Photography – Milky Way and windmills

Last night I went out with Jason Odell in a class about night photography.  Jason’s classes are lots of fun, so we ended up at the windmill site outside Liimon, CO, where he encouraged us to shoot star trails and the Milky Way.  He came out with a technique for shooting star trails where you don’t have to invest in an external  multifunction remote.  Of course I have the Nikon MC-36A but his suggestion had less background light, so to my eye it looked better.  He suggested shooting 30 second intervals, which most cameras can do with a simple remote and setting the camera to continuous high. Then you will need to import these into a layered workflow.  Adobe Photoshop, and On1’s Perfect Photo Suite would work for this.  If you want to use Phase One’s Capture One Pro, you are limited to 16 layers so using the multifunction remote  would be better.  There’s also a new tool Affinity Photo for Mac that can deal with many layers, but I haven’t got much experience with that too.

One of the things I wanted to do last night was experiment with star stacking, so shots of the Milky Way were what I was concentrating on.

Milky Way at Windmill site

Milky Way at Windmill site

If you stack multiple shots, and adjust them for motion of the earth, you can reduce the noise. The key is to mask out the ground, so you don’t get multiple images of the sky. The tool I used here was StarryNightStacker which runs on the Mac. Mike Berensen has another technique that you can use with photoshop by it self, but it takes a bit longer.

Here I took 5 pictures at F/2.8 and 25 seconds.  I was using my Rokinon 14 mm manual focus lens.  The really nice thing about that lens, is infinity is at the stop, so the problems of focusing in the dark are decreased.  Being a wide angle lens, I ran the shots through DXO Optics to remove the geometric distortion.

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