I’ve been on a few trips lately, so I will be posting about those soon. In the meantime, I want to discuss astrophotography. Space is something I have been fascinated with for a while. My parents used to wake me up in the middle of the night to see comets and meteor showers, and most people can agree that space images are breathtaking. I have only recently begun to experiment with photographing the night sky. After overcoming the challenges of DC light pollution, I realized quickly that it is challenging to shoot with a long enough shutter speed to get starlight without getting star trails. While star trails can be cool, they don’t allow for those incredible galaxy images that remind you of your place in the universe.
I experimented a bit with a tripod mounted camera and long exposures and came up with these two images:
I have read that with a wide angle you can keep stars sharp for 20 seconds, and with a 50mm it drops down to 10 seconds. These are shot with a 50mm lens at 2500 ISO f2.8 for 13 seconds and 20 seconds, respectively. They’re alright, but not crystal clear. So I have been investigating star tracking camera mounts.
You can buy a fancy star tracking mount, but they cost a pretty penny- I’ve seen them starting around $400. However, there are several good DIY versions that can be made for under $20. The most common I’ve seen is called a “barn door” and it’s usually made of wood, like this one. However, I feel this would be totally unrealistic to travel with, so I am looking at building this one, as seen on Thingiverse. The idea being that, either manually or by motor, you change the angle of the camera as the earth rotates to “track” the stars. I plan to build and will post a follow up, with results, here.
You can get even fancier and get a telescope mount for your camera and photograph planets, but for now, I’ll stick with wide angle images. If you’re interested in astrophotography, check out some of the “The World at Night” galleries and check with your local astronomy clubs and observatories for dark zones where you will minimize light pollution. I am also going to shamelessly plug National Geographic here, because they have great updates on the Starstruck Blog on night sky events that might be cool to photograph, or at least witness. Let me know if you find some cool hacks for DIY barn doors or if you capture some beautiful star images!