Experimenting with astrophotography

This past weekend the wife and I spent time in a cabin out away from the city. The night skies were clear, which meant it was a perfect time to try some astrophotography! I’ve always wanted to do more of this, but it’s rare that I’m away from light pollution, with my camera gear, when the skies are clear. Having all three line up was awesome.

Equipment wise I brought along my Sony a6000 and my GoPro Hero 9 Black. I tried a few shots with the Sony on the first night, however I don’t have a wide enough angle lens to really capture a night sky like I wanted to (something else to add to the shopping list). So I ended up depending on the GoPro. The first night I got a few shots, but mostly I learned a lot about the camera settings and post-processing to really make a good go of it the next night.

Image from the first night with the Sony a6000

The next night I set up the GoPro on a small tripod and set it up to a 30s exposure, auto time lapse photo mode. I then let it run for around 90 minutes. When I brought it back inside I had 150+ shots of the night sky, and I set about the work of post-processing.

I wanted to do two things with these images. First, I wanted to compile them into a video which I’ve linked below. Thanks to my friend Michael of STØLACE for the nice ambient piano music. As I watched the video I realized that at the end we started getting a show of northern lights! At first I thought it was lights from a train nearby, but then we realized that no, it was actually aurora borealis. The motion is a little bit jerkier than I wanted, but I think I can manually set the time lapse intervals to give me more exposures next time. Overall though I’m happy with it.

Watch in full screen for the full effect!

Next, I wanted to create a star trail photo from all the images. It’s a super easy technique to do. You load all the images into their own layer in Photoshop (using the Script->Load Files into Stack option. Then you just select all the layers and change the blend mode to Lighten. The hardest part is waiting for Photoshop to process 150+ image layers. I really brought my MBP to it’s knees with this one. I ended up with a 7GB file and had to save it as a Large Format Photoshop file. In the end though I think the result was amazing.

This was a ton of fun working with with something new in photography that I haven’t done before. I’m really excited to keep trying some more of this in the future. I just need to make sure I’m prepared when I’m out in the middle of nowhere.

Jamison

Beer, running, and geeky things.

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