Multi-row Milky Way Panorama - Shooting Workflow

Started 2 months ago | Discussions thread
OP indigoshrine Forum Member • Posts: 75
Re: Multi-row Milky Way Panorama - Shooting Workflow

EricTheAstroJunkie wrote:

Having done an absolute ton of tracked MW Panoramas, many with over 40 exposures and up to 135mm focal length, I will tell you right off the bat....don't attempt this with a ballhead, you will have an absolute nightmare of a time trying to do frame to frame movements, you will struggle to get the right overlap in both the X and Y axis, you will struggle to properly frame each shot. Just...don't do it, ballheads are complete junk when it comes to doing complex nightscape panoramas and IMO anyone that recommends them should be ignored. Get a 2 or 3-way panorama head which will allow for more precise control over frame to frame movements. Using a geared head on a more robust tracker is something I have done a bit of, they offer the most fine control, but the most weight. Using an indexing rotator is great for getting perfect overlap on your horizontal frames, definitely recommend incorporating one. This is a great pano head:


Appreciate the input. I never planned to shoot panos long term with just a ballhead. The DYI panorama rig with a dedicated pano head, leveling base, indexing rotator ... had already been put together in mind (similar parts than which you suggested, it is in the thread nighthiker linked in the previous post) and I was just about to pull the trigger, when I learned about the Benro Polaris which is a geared head. So I have put the DYI rig on hold and am waiting for the delivery. I know you are very skeptical about the Polaris and I myself have some doubts, but am willing to risk it for now. If that solution doesn't work out, it's back to DYI.

What I am struggling with is the fact the Polaris' shipping is scheduled for July (realistically, with further likely delay it will not play any role for this MW season). So it's either ballhead-only panos and considering it training sessions for this whole MW season or getting DYI parts after all. I am still tending towards the first as budget is low and I do not want to buy twice - but losing out on a whole MW season is tough as well ... maybe there's a better compromise in just finding very cheap panoheads/click rotators for one-season usage and subsequent backup.

50% overlap between frames is overkill, I do 20%, if the lens you are using has bad distortion and bad coma correction I'd do up to 33%, but never more than that. I generally stop my lens down 1 stop, it just depends on the quality of your lens. The Voigt 50mm APO is fantastic, you shouldn't need to stop it down past f2.2 (I use it at f2.2, it's an amazing lens, f2.8 offers a round aperture though with no diffraction spikes fwiw).

I surely hope it is a fantastic lens, after all you pointed me to it (indirectly) when posting this about the Voigtlander 65mm APO

I actually shoot it wide open because it is very good even at F2.0, but will test at F2.2 too.

Figuring out how to utilize your time to accomplish the sky portion in a way that meets your composition goals is the hard part. You may find that you are trying to frame the MW over a certain foreground object and you only have a limited window for accomplishing that, executing your foreground before or after your sky is a choice that has to be made in order to give you the best chance of getting your sky done. You may find that there are clouds and you need to wait for them to clear, so you do the foreground during that time, you may find that clouds are rapidly clearing and you need to stop the foreground imaging to do the sky in a clear window of time. I ALWAYS do my foreground as close in time to my sky as possible so as to ensure even illumination from foreground to sky. I see a lot of tracked panoramas that look somewhere between downright awful and "amateurish" because they shoot the foreground at a time substantially different from their sky, then in editing it looks very unbalanced because the illumination is wildly different. If you want a natural looking final image, take your foreground and sky shots in sequence, either foreground first and then sky or vice-versa, with no time delay between.

Agree. That is one other reason why I hardly go to a scene early on and take exposures of foreground in twilight - making it look natural after blending with sky is a huge challenge and I do not feel confident enough in my skills yet, so this is maybe something I'll look into more in the farer future. As mentioned earlier in this thread, I also do not like the fact how it limits me to one composition. So for the time being, it will be mostly starlit foreground only.

I usually start higher in the sky and do my ROWS first, that ensures better tracking accuracy (when you have your camera/lens pointed high in the sky you'll find it more difficult to properly weight balance, thus tracking will suffer with longer exposures). Sometimes I'll start lower/at the horizon if I'm trying to frame the core in a specific way with some foreground element. Always do your exposures in a row like sequence, so A1 through A4, then B1 through B4, etc. This ensures when you get to the portion that will include some foreground there will be fewer stitching artifacts as stars become visible above the horizon. You want to minimize the time between horizontal exposures, IMO this is crucial to achieving the least number of stitching issues.

I read somewhere (how's that for being precise about your sources?) that you should shoot zig zag (e.g. A1 - A4, then B4 to B1 etc.) in order to minimize the movement while realigning the camera for the next panel and also save a bit more on time during readjustment as the 'path' to next panel is shorter. But it makes sense to me to shoot in row sequence; especially with uneven light fall-off to one side, row sequence will probably give a more natural look. I will adapt row sequence shooting for my next try.

Your exposure time is just going to depend on your camera and lens settings as well as your background brightness, just get a histogram with a peak 1/3rd off the left edge. Obviously the foreground needs to be done with the tracker off, I usually just open up the lens to maximum aperture and shoot at the same ISO and exposure length.

There's no reason to re-shoot your whole mosaic for the foreground, just include the foreground with minimal sky. Likewise for the sky, just include a little bit of the foreground.

I can talk about this stuff forever, I've done it for many years now, been lucky enough to speak at conferences and podcasts/interviews about it all. You can see some of my bigger panos here:

I have actually seen a recording of one of these conferences before. Your panoramas are certainly a great reference. These are exactly the kind of results I want to achieve, but this will be - if ever - probably several more years down the road.

Anyway, thanks for all the feedback! Some good thoughts I will utilize into my workflow.

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