EOS R as a nightscape camera

Started Aug 11, 2019 | Discussions thread
OP Astrophotographer 10 Forum Pro • Posts: 13,798
Re: EOS R as a nightscape camera

Joe Reynolds wrote:

Greg, could you describe your actual step by step process to produce the image.

1. I setup my tripod and Fornax Lightrack ii tracker using smartphone apps. I use a free compass and set the phone next to the mount and adjust it until its pointing 180 degrees south. (I am in Australia). Northern Hemisphere you would adjust it until due north (actual north not magnetic north).

2. I set the angle of the tracker to my exact latitude in my case 34.5 degrees. I use a smartphone digital inclinometer laid on top of the mount and adjust it until its angled at 34.5 degrees. The tracker is set to south (southern hemisphere - it defaults to north on power up).

3. I set the camera:

RAW, FV mode, manual focus, touch shutter activated, single exposure, ISO3200, 30 seconds F1.8 to 2.2 (I think these were F1.8). Sigma Art 14mm F1.8 lens. I use a 2 second delay and electronic first curtain shutter to minimise vibrations.

4. I focus the lens. I set the evf/lcd to magnify 10X and pick a bright star. I look through the EVF or LCD (EVF is better as you can see the star more clearly) and rack the focus back and forth so I can see where the star is sharpest. Be careful not to touch the focus ring again.

I take a 30 second exposure and check using magnified view to see the stars are sharp and in focus.

5. I take a few shots to get the framing right. Its hard to see the scene beforehand so this is trial and error. I get it so its framing the scene well. Usually I would use an L angle and set the camera on its side (portrait mode) to get some landscape with every sky shot. Not always possible when the Milky Way is high up in the sky like it was in this image).

6. You can set the bulb timer up to take 6 x 30 second shots if you want. Otherwise I stand there and wait for it to take the shot then take the next etc. You could use an intervalometer also especially if you want to take longer than 30 seconds. Bulb timer allows you to do longer than 30 seconds - yeah Canon!.

7. I move the camera along and take the next series. I prefer to do 3  images across and 2 up with a 14mm lens. Make note of a star in the LCD image and move the camera watching where that star goes as a guide. You want about 1/3rd overlap as a minimum.

I have also used a panorama head and not sure if it helped or not I'll have to take more and see. They do tend to go off because the tracker is constantly moving.

I also use the electronic level to level the camera as its not that clear at night sometimes if the camera is unlevel and this helps to make sure the panorama does not have gaps in it.

8. I move across the sky and take the rest of the images.

9. Later I open them in LR. I process one to taste and then apply the settings to all. This works most of the time but some frames seem too bright so some judgement there.

10. I export and stack the 6-8 subexposures using the free pgm Sequator and check the freeze ground option and mask the sky areas. I export the stacked image and repeat for the other subexposures until all are processed.

11. I then use a panorama stitching program to stitch the 6 stacked images together.

I use either Photoshop (unreliable), Microsoft ICE (reliable) or PTGui (somewhat reliable but often more work).

12. Final colour and cropping in Photoshop.

You can take it further and take untracked long exposures of the landscape element with only a bit of sky and then the sky with only a bit of landscape. So tracked sky shots and untracked landscape shots and blend them together in Photoshop.

See lonelyspeck.com.au for tutorials on exactly how to do that plus much the same as above.

You really need a decent dark site and a mostly clear night. A bit of cloud adds interest though so it doesn't have to be totally clear but light polluted or a bright moon will suppress the results.


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