MW Panoramas: Optimizing time for foreground images

Started 9 months ago | Discussions thread
Interceptor121 Veteran Member • Posts: 8,682
Re: MW Panoramas: Optimizing time for foreground images

indigoshrine wrote:

I am mostly shooting tracked MW panoramas and have started using longer focal lengths (85mm) end of last season. While the increased detail is definitely an upgrade, one of the challenges is how to deal with foregrounds.

For the sky I typically take about 5x5 rows/columns, so I need at least 1 foreground row @5 panels. At that long FL though, this takes forever since the DoF is quite shallow. I have tried different approaches (see below), but in general always end up losing about an hour for the foreground alone. Since the MW core is only visible for a few hours even in peak season, I'd much rather dedicate more of that valuable time to the sky images. So I am wondering if there are any methods to optimize foreground imaging?

What I have tried so far:

  • Long single exposure per panel, e.g. F5.6 5 mins, focused on hyperfocal distance for max DoF. in-camera NR activated (works quite well against hotpixels) but doubles exposure time, e.g. 5 min x 2 x 5 panels = 50 minutes. This seems the fastest but it is still slow, F5.6 is still too shallow and close objects are soft.
  • Wider aperture like F2.8, no in-camera NR and focus stack. At 85mm F2.8 though, I need at the very least 4 steps (and even that is taking huge compromises) to somewhat cover good focus across the frame. --> 3 min x 4 steps x 5 panels = 60 minutes

Comparing both methods, I guess focus stacking is delivering the better results. But I am stretching it with 3 min and the hotpixels. Ideally in-camera NR is activated but then I double the exposure time.

What I am considering to try next:

  • Take foreground before MW core rises to free up more time for sky panels during 'core time'.
    Concern: Usually I take sky first, then just switch off tracker and do foreground right away. This ensures sky and foreground are shot from exactly the same camera position and fit well. If the foreground is shot first, it will mean polar alignment still needs to be done before starting with the sky and it will introduce at least a slight camera repositioning - potentially even a tripod movement. Not sure if that is negligible or not, happy to hear from other users' experiences.
  • Reuse the same foreground for multiple sky panoramas shot at that night
    Concern: same as above, plus limits composition to that very location.

Comments and advice welcome!

First of all the foreground is made of shadows and therefore needs a couple of stops more exposure. The issue is that depending where you are this means you will have many more hot pixels to deal with

In addition depending where you are you may end up sacrificing time when you can actually shoot the milky way to do your foreground

So my solution is to shoot the foreground at twilight. I take shots during all twilight periods either before or after the exposures this means you will get away on a single shot and you will not have hot pixels to contend with. You do need to work on post processing to adjust the brightness down the foreground should always be darker than the Milky way this is not as difficult as it seems

On a negative the period is relatively short and you may still not make it however you can try next day to just do the foreground in case you are able to travel

When it comes to reusing your own work I use the following ethic which I am happy with as long as I took all images in the same location it is ok even to go there another day in case I could not make the image I wanted

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