Zoom Presentation – Photographing the Night Sky – January 18th 2022

Pete Colley explained the process and techniques to follow in order to obtain the best results when photographing different aspects of the night sky and illustrated his talk with his own impressive images. He included lots of practical information that will have prompted many of us to experiment with some astro-photography.

He started by explaining how he had prepared to obtain an image of the moon over his local town jetty and the range information used to ensure that the height and positioning were optimised.  For moonscapes, using a 400mm+ lens and focus stacking images gives more detail and a partial moon, as opposed to a full moon, exposes the moon’s surface detail better.

Star trails are best captured with a 14-20mm lens combining about 14 exposures at 5 minute intervals. Time lapse techniques are also very effective.

Essential kit includes a sturdy tripod, remote control, spare battery and red head torch. This can extend to an intervalometer or equivalent phone app. Shoot in RAW and practice camera adjustments in the dark. Lens misting can be prevented by using a dew strap and/or a kagool over the camera.

Planning and preparation are key to improving results and many factors need to be considered including the darkness of the sky, light pollution and visible lights at your chosen location along with detailed weather conditions and phase of the moon. Fortunately there are now some very useful apps to help with this – e.g. clearoutside.com and Photographers Ephemeris.

There are endless subjects in the sky to observe and photograph from shooting stars, aurorae, noctilucent cloud, zodiacal light, comets and the Milky Way to the major galaxies. Stacking hundreds of shots using specialist software improves the signal to noise ratio and hugely improves image quality.

Whilst all of the above is possible using reasonably common photographic equipment, more specialised items such as Equatorial Tracking Mounts, Refractor Telescopes and Reflector Telescopes will take you to the next level and he recommended some reasonably priced items to start the journey with. In summary, an intriguing and informative talk that has opened our eyes to what can be observed when you do look skyward.