I'll be going to the mountains/D800E/nightsky photography advice request

Started Feb 12, 2013 | Questions thread
Astrophotographer 10 Veteran Member • Posts: 9,979
Re: Star trails, exposure, focus and noise considerations

I've used my D800E extensively for exactly what you are planning.

You can do darks and flats etc if you want but that is more for deep sky imaging with telescopes not a widefield nightscape. Darks would be relevant in summer rather than winter when the sensor is noisier from the extra heat in summer.

So I set up the camera like this:

1. White balance to 4200K, I usually turn green/magenta down -1.

2. Picture style Vivid or Landscape.

3. Shoot in RAW.

4. 30 seconds ISO 6400 (not 2000, way too slow) Long exposure noise reduction on (not entirely needed as LR4 gets rid of colour noise very very well).

5. Mirror lock up, tripod and use a remote or self timer.


6. Set it at 14mm, 24mm is starting to get a bit long focal length for 30 seconds - its on the edge. Longer than that and you need tracking for 30 seconds.

7. Focusing: find bright star and set ISO6400 and magnify and manually zoom. Turn off AF on body. Its fairly easy to do. Usually 14-24 focuses a bit before infinity.

Time Lapse. The internal time lapse only works in jpeg so no worry about RAW there. It doesn't seem hard on storage. It outputs a .mov file. Its an aweome feature of the camera.

I use 30 second exposures, 10 second gap, long exposure noise reduction off, vivid, image review off (you don'twant to drain the battery), I use a DSTE grip with EL18 battery and that gives plenty of battery life. A single camera EL15 battery is flat after about 3-4 hours so that's not long enough but its a start.

http://www.pbase.com/gregbradley/image/148519875 Milky Way

http://www.pbase.com/gregbradley/image/148689521 comet

http://www.pbase.com/gregbradley/image/146073997 Milky Way all sky

Gee whiz, I just gave away all my tricks! (nah I gotta coupla more!).

Star trails. I haven't done one with the D800 yet but 15 minute subr exposures say 30 seconds apart using the interval timer and images set to RAW would be one way. I did a set of star trails once with a Canon 20D and basically did a 4 hour exposure and it worked nicely. ISO would be lower and at a guess I would say ISO400 to 800 would be enough. You may need an intervalometer as I doubt the internal firmware will allow a 15 minute exposure. Gee why don't camera makers allow you to do long exposures without intervalometers??


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