One of the advantages (or negatives) of the “clocks going back” in the United Kingdom is that it’s dark from early evening. A few days in the Mourne mountains offered an opportunity to capture the skies in an area with very little light pollution.
The flip side of early dark evenings is finding a clear night in winter can be quite a gamble. Day one in the Mournes saw the area receiving the heaviest rainfall in the entire UK. Fortunately the torrential rain passed during the afternoon but some of the remnants of rain clouds are still visible in the images.
I should point on that astrophotography is something I have only tried once before, (See Harland and Wolff at night) so I am still at the low end of a steep learning curve. The technique uses the same lose principles of Long Exposure Photography (see the Long Exposure eBook) with a few tweaks.
The first thing to remember is to wrap up warm, it’s winter and a clear night can mean frost, there is a bit of standing around so you can get cold quickly, staying warm will make the whole experience more enjoyable.
Heading out I packed the following gear:
The Petal head torch is highly recommended as it frees up your hands to work with your camera and tripod. I recommend you read the long exposure ebook so you have an understanding of the process and the science as this will help you be more creative with the technique in the long run.
Astrophotography is about pushing the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to see the stars, using as fast a lens as possible and then balancing these variables with the duration of the exposure.
If you are new to photography then, in simple terms, set the aperture of your lens as large as possible, the Fujinon 14mm offers a maximum aperture of f/2.8, anything f/2.8 or larger is going to be fast enough to capture the stars at night. I then set the ISO to 2400 and was aiming for exposures of between 20 and 30 seconds, The Fujifilm X-E2 as a T mode that makes shooting at these discreet time intervals easy.
At 30 seconds I was beginning to see smudging in the stars, obviously if you want to shoot star trials then shooting for longer than 30 seconds is going to be key. If you want pin sharp stars then stay as close to 20 seconds as possible. This may mean increasing the camera ISO to 3200 but this is where you can get creative, balancing ISO, shutter speed aperture and location will offer endless options for your astrophotography.
As I mentioned I am at the bottom of a learning curve but astrophotography is definitely something worth exploring, a clear night can be the most difficult part of the process.