Astrophotography Images – Recent Efforts

Capturing nighttime images along the coast is a challenge, so much moisture in the air cuts down star visibility. However this image from Shi Shi Beach came out okay. The glow on the horizon is the small town of Neah Bay. And there are several campfires along the shore. Night sky at Shi Shi Beach

Zion National Park is famous for its night skies, this image is taken on the bridge along the main park road, looking down the Virgin River. Orion really shines in this shot!
Zion National Park: Virgin River and Orion

The Baker River is a wild river, its northern end far away from any signs of civilization. The streaks in the sky are satellites.
Baker River Stars and Footbridge

This last image is from Palouse Falls State Park, in eastern Washington. The campfire in the canyon illuminated the walls with a wonderful orange glow…
Paliuse Falls and Milky Way

Nighttime Imaging Along Baker Lake Road

Baker Lake Road heads north from Highway 20. Skirting Lake Shannon, Baker Lake and finally the Baker River the road leads to darkness! About 20 miles up the road makes a sweeping curve over a cement bridge and this view of Mount Baker opens up.

Mount Baker and the Big Dipper Mount Baker under the Big Dipper

The roads end soon follows and a short hike in the darkness offered this view of Baker River.

Baker River under starlight Baker River, North Cascades

New Moon Night Imaging Along Baker Lake Road

Last night, December 3rd, was the New Moon. It was also a crystal clear sky…and cold! I considered several destinations for image capture and decided for the Baker Lake Road. The road heads north from the North Cascades Highway, passing from Skagit County into Whatcom, the road ends after 26 miles (21 paved, 5 gravel) at the trail head for the Baker River Trail.

Right at the end of the paved section the road crosses a large concrete bridge as it curves east. Here are superb views of Mount Baker. We stopped to admire the night sky…
stars 7em

stars 8em

The parking area was, not surprisingly, empty and we made the short stroll up to the suspension bridge crossing the river.

I started under the bridge, clambering over the gravel bars, trying a place to set up and capture the arc of the Milky Way and the bridge.
stars 5em

stars 4em

The wind was so strong at times that I needed extra weight/pressure on the tripod to ensure it did not topple.

In this image I flashed the lower side of the bridge with one swipe of my head lamp set to red.
stars 3em

The camera settings were f/4 (widest aperture), 10 to 13 seconds shutter speed and between 10,000 to 20,000 ISO. I was using a 24mm lens and the camera (Canon 6D) has a full sized sensor.

Of course I mounted the camera on a tripod and used a cable release. This was the extent of my photographic equipment and settings.

My last stop was atop the bridge, attempting to capture the tower silhouetted in front o the stars.
stars 2em

Nighttime imaging is very exciting! I hope to get out again in the next two days…

Astrophotography Images and Techniques

I have been working on nighttime imaging for a while, trying different exposures and post-capture processing.
This image was one of my first attempts. I hiked in to a location with very little ambient light, actually I went there to capture meteor images last August. I shot this at f3.5 at 30 sec and 800 ISO, using a Canon t2i and an 15-85mm lens. I tried using various settings of ISO, but had the idea that I should not get much above 800-1200iso. IMG_9218
The image was shot in the RAW format, opening it in Photoshop I made several changes:
The noise reduction and sharpening was used heavily to reduce the graininess
Lens distortion correction
Fill light was used to brighten the image and Recovery to decrease the brightness on the tent
Vibrance, Clarity and Contrast were also significantly increased.
I saved the image as a jpeg and opened it in PS (I was using CS5 for this image) and went on to select the sky, and using Levels brought out the contrast by moving the slider to the right (to the start of the peak) and to the left down to 220. here is the result:
t and s em
This year I got myself a new Canon 6D and went to Washington Pass, along the North Cascades Highway to take pictures. I was careful to choose a night with clear skies and very little moon.
This image was shot at 8sec, f4.0 and 25,600 iso. There is a setting on the camera for “High ISO Noise Reduction” and I set this to high. I tried to keep the shutter speed low, 10 sec or less, to make sure there was no blur from movement of the earth, etc.
Again, I shot this in the RAW format. Photoshop CS5 was not able to open the RAW images I shot with the new Canon 6D, so I had to upgrade to CS 6…
Here are the basic modifications made to the RAW image:
The sharpening was used heavily, BUT no Noise Reduction
Lens distortion correction
I increased Vibrance, Saturation and Highlights
Here is the result:
stars 8 em
Going back to the image later I felt that there was still to much graininess and so I went back to the RAW image and greatly increased the Noise Reduction, then I saved the image as a jpeg and opened it in PS (I was using CS6 for this image) and went on to select the sky, and using Levels brought out the contrast by moving the slider to the right (to the start of the peak) and to the left down to 220. Here is the result:
stars 16em
I am much more satisfied with the version.
Please feel free to let me know which variation you like the most, and if you can, why!
And if you have any ideas, tips or suggestions, I am very interested.

Nighttime Imaging

Anytime I have seen images of the night time sky I have always been awed. Viewing the cosmos, seeing the huge number of stars, the strip of the Milky Way stretching across the sky these evoke such a strong feeling…

So, I decided this year to try my hand at capturing a few images. I read up, re-studied my camera instruction manual, got my tripod and cable release and started.

My first effort was of the Cirque of the Towers, in the Wind River Range. The moonlight illuminated the peaks in a perfect light. I was excited!

Warrior Peak, Cirque of the Towers

I did not fully duplicate the fact that I would not be able to see anything through the view finder, and that the camera’s auto-focus would be inoperable.

So, I set the focus manually to infinity, turning the dial all the way to its end.

I was generally very disappointed, with the exception of this one image, because, as I later learned, on Canon lenses one needs to set the focus ring back, matching up the mark on the top with an l-shaped symbol on the lower ring. The result of my ignorance was that most all of the images I pictures were out of focus.

What a bummer!

My next effort was along the Washington Coast, again, I picked another moon-lit night to try and capture images, but did not take into account clouds! I was able to get a few images, thought they were fuzzy and too grainy.

Stars at Point of the Arches

Heading back to the books I read more about focus, ISO, time of exposure and decided to try again.
This time I headed up to the Baker River on a night with no moon, and even better, no clouds!
However, I was again foiled by my failure to make sure that the focus was set right. But I did recall an advice to review images on the camera using the magnification buttons to zoom in and see if the image was in focus…about halfway through the shoot I remembered that advice and checked, and the focus was way off. Fixing it I continued and was able to get a few good images. For the most part I was using an ISO of 800 to 1600 and a shutter speed of 25 to 30 seconds. As I reviewed the images it seemed to me that the stars were somewhat fuzzy, I recalled reading that with longer exposure times, (20 to 30 seconds) that the rotation of the earth can blur the stars.

Tent and Stars on the Baker River

Encouraged I headed up to the Washington Pass overlook to take another stab at moon-less night. I wanted a dramatic backdrop. Setting up at the overlook gave me Liberty Bell mountain as a silhouette. Here I tried to use higher ISO, 1600 to 3200 and keep the shutter speed down to 15 seconds.

Liberty Bell Mountain and Milky Way

It looks like I captured either a shooting star or satellite on this image.

Liberty Bell Stars

A short time after I had occasion to return to Baker River again. I tried to recall each point: turning off the image stabilizer, removing the polarizer, setting the manual focus, using a shorter speed and higher ISO. I also had someone inside the tent turn on and off the headlamp so as to not overexpose the tent light.

On the Baker River: Tent and Stars

This particular tent is very photogenic!

Another picture of a tent with stars!

Last weekend I headed up to Cutthroat Pass and the next night up to Heather Pass, in the North Cascades.
This first image is from Cutthroat, we camped on a rock slab at the top of the pass. I believe the orange tint in the foreground is from wildfires burning to the south.

Cutthroat Pass at Night

This last image is from Heather Pass, here I tried to use all I had learned, incorporating the tent, milky way strip and a high ISO (and shorter shutter speed) to get things sharper.

Heather Pass: Starfields at Night

It seems that I still have a way to go, back to the books for me. If any of you have any advices for me, I would be most grateful!