Photographing Neowise with 600mm lens

Started 3 months ago | Questions thread
Bill Ferris
Bill Ferris Veteran Member • Posts: 5,689
Re: 700mm example



I do not have a dark location, though I am at least on the far north side of Phoenix, looking north. It's bright enough that I typically cannot find Neowise without binoculars, and with an F8 lens it's so dark in the viewfinder that I've taken to taking shots of areas of the sky to find the comet.

I do indeed have a 70-200 F2.8, rarely used. I'll probably try that tonight, along with a 300F4. Clouds permitting as they seem to have moved in last night. In fact I took the RRS ACRA-Swiss foot off of my 70-200 to use on the 500pf.

At 70mm f/2.8, you may wish to experiment with a composition placing a Saguaro (or a hillside of them) in the foreground with the comet in the background. That would fill the frame and allow use of that lens's faster aperture. A 2-4 second exposure may do the trick. If you focus on Jupiter or a bright star, compose a shot with the comet, make an exposure, then - without changing the composition - reset focus on a cactus for a second shot, a composite of those two images could look pretty cool.

At any rate, I would encourage you to experiment with different compositions and settings, frequently checking your shots. Given the level of light pollution you're dealing with, it'll be a fine balance between a shot that's blown out and one that captures the comet in good detail against a (somewhat) dark sky.

Once you get to a combination of settings giving an appearance you like, if there's room to increase exposure time to 2-4 seconds and lower the ISO, I would encourage that. I wouldn't be too concerned about star trails. The stars aren't the subject; the comet is. If you're able to get better detail around the coma and in the dust tail at 4 seconds, make a set using that shutter speed. You've got time and, if the comet is impressive, who's going to give a fig about slightly elongated stars?

As for stacking software, I'm all for it, as long as I can get it free (or nearly free). This is the only subject I would use it for. I am still using Lightroom CLassic 6.14, which I notice has no lens profile for my new 500PF either.

There are free apps. I don't have much experience with them, though; not enough to make a recommendation.

What is the feeling on this forum for a maximum shutter speed to use when shooting at 700mm? I can remember shooting a meteor shower years ago using a 10.5DX fisheye and getting away with 30-second shots. Looks more like 1/2 second is maybe not too slow, but looking closely at 1-second shots I'm still seeing motion.

In my opinion, this is a situation in which limiting exposure times to shutter speeds allowing for pinpoint stars is giving priority to the wrong element. The photo is of the comet; not the stars. If a longer exposure delivers an image of the comet that's more impressive, nobody's going to be paying attention to the stars.

You'll have the time to experiment with different settings. Make a set at O.5-second ISO 12800, another at 1-second ISO 6400, and others at 2-seconds ISO 3200 and 4-seconds ISO 1600. Allow yourself the first 15-30 minutes as fun time to narrow your options to a composition and settings that look best to you. Then rock & roll for the next 30 on that shot.

Fingers crossed for clear skies in the Valley.

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Bill Ferris Photography
Flagstaff, AZ

 Bill Ferris's gear list:Bill Ferris's gear list
Nikon D610 Fujifilm X-T20 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm F4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Tamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD +3 more
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