My First Milky Way

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Spending a week in South Dakota and the skies are alive with stars. I shot this last night with a D7200 and a Nikon 16-80 2.8 lens. I included part of the hills to give some perspective. This is my first Milky Way shot and I'm interested in what is wrong and what can I do to fix it. (I'm a Florida bird photographer, not a astro guy.)

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Commodorefirst

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Really not a bad first attempt. A couple of quick things: 30 seconds is to long, try 20-25 seconds iso 3200, timer delay, mirror lock up, remote etc. etc. to avoid shake. But really it also involves different post work too than normal.
 

Commodorefirst

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It’s actually a very usable capture. Try another post processing session using some levels (or curves) adjustment layers in PS. Don’t do too much at once, but rather work gradually to get the result you want in multiple layers. Then reduce noise with your preferred method.
 
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It’s actually a very usable capture. Try another post processing session using some levels (or curves) adjustment layers in PS. Don’t do too much at once, but rather work gradually to get the result you want in multiple layers. Then reduce noise with your preferred method.
Thanks. Someday I'll take the time to learn more about processing, but for now I don't do much at all.
 
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Thanks. Someday I'll take the time to learn more about processing, but for now I don't do much at all.
Well you’re definitely on the right track with the captures. If you have the time and energy to get back out to shoot more, Wade’s suggestion to shorten the exposure is good. You can get multiple shorter captures over a long period of time and (someday) stack them in DeepSkyStacker to improve signal to noise ratio. To do it right, you should also capture dark frames during your session (to use later in correcting sensor noise) and flat frames. Even if you’re not interested in learning the post processing methods that require them at the moment, you’ll want to get the darks during your imaging session if you ever decide to take the plunge.
 

Butlerkid

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The stars are moving. A shorter shutter time will minimize blur in the stars. Here a quick tutorial:

"The simplest rule for astrophotography is the 500 rule. It recommends that your shutter speed is equal to 500 ÷ Equivalent Focal Length.

So, if your full-frame equivalent focal length is 20mm, the 500 rule would suggest that you use a shutter speed of 500 ÷ 20 = 25 seconds. If you’re using a 50mm lens instead, it would recommend using a 10 second shutter speed (500 ÷ 50).

The benefit of the 500 rule is that it’s easy to remember, and it’ll get you in the right ballpark for your Milky Way shutter speed. That’s likely why it’s become such a popular tool among photographers who are first learning astrophotography.

The biggest drawback with the 500 rule is that it doesn’t take into account the direction you’re facing (nor any of the other factors like pixel pitch or blur from diffraction). The formula only ever spits out a different shutter speed when you change focal length, which doesn’t account for all the real-world factors that apply.

The other major drawback of the 500 rule is that it’s too lenient. In almost every case, regardless of your composition, you’ll get more blur than ideal when using the 500 rule. This particular issue is easy to fix by using the “400 rule” or “300 rule” instead (the same formula, but with 400 or 300 rather than 500). However, this doesn’t fix the issue of the direction you’re facing, so it’s a bit like putting a bandaid on a garden hose.

That said, if you like the idea of simplicity, this rule isn’t worthless. I personally use the “300 rule” version when I know that my composition includes stars along the celestial equator (again, the fastest-moving stars in the night sky). This means I’m at 20 seconds of exposure with my 14mm lens and 15 seconds with my 20mm lens when those fastest-moving stars are in my composition."

MY take: use the 500 rule and then use a bit faster shutter speed. If the 500 rule results in 25 seconds, then I use 20 seconds.


Regarding processing, night photos generally require a bit of processing. For now, try adjusting the color temperature. HERE is a quick guide.
 
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Two more thoughts regarding the 500 rule: pixel density matters and so does effective focal length. For the OP using a D7200, both the relatively high resolution (24MP, I think) and the 24mm equivalent focal length due to crop factors will adversely reduce the pinpoint nature of the stars.

Bottom line: Favor a shorter exposure and higher ISO. Noise can be fixed in post. Star trails cannot.

Still, for a modest sized print (say, 12x18”) I think this capture will be perfectly fine with a bit of TLC in post processing.
 
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Cool framing. Hudson Henry has some good videos on nighttime sky photography. Obviously, a tracker is helpful as well as image stacking. Playing around with white balance can give interesting results.

I took a few Milky Way shots Saturday night in S. MD where it was pretty dark. Unfortunately, mine were all OOF....as suggested I used 25 sec exposure, 400 ISO, Z7, remote release and shutter delay. Exposures were pretty good, just hard to get my eyesight set. I should have zoomed in 100 in EVF to validate focus.
 
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How was the drive, Louie? As enjoyable as you hoped it would be?
I left Louis in Washington. ;) But, the drive was awesome. My travels have always been surf trips to other countries or U.S. air travel, and lately I've wanted to see my own country. I saw Tennessee mountains, winding rivers, the K.C. royals baseball stadium at night, old churches in Topeka, the Gateway to West, and dozens of signs of the names of towns most have never heard of. Oh, and there was an awesome sunrise in Manhattan, Kansas a few days ago. The trip back will be less of a rush and I'll be able to stop more. I also really wanted a few days alone out here is Custer, and airports weren't part of the equation this time. So far, mission accomplished.
 
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Night #2. After reading suggestions I changed a few things. I switched from the D7200 to a D500, kept shutter speeds under 20 seconds, and used the timer to trigger the shutter. The skies here are amazing for stars and I'm here for three more nights to fine tune this fun way to shoot the sky. I also tried a vertical composition to include the water.
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Nice that 2nd shot looking pretty good, not sure if you have a flashlight or headlamp but you may want to try painting the foreground with it while under the 20 sec exposure. From a post processing standpoint may try pushing the the WB towards blue, add positive highlight recovery and then with the brush add clarity to the MW itself.

Love taking road trips through that part of the country. Growing up, I loved westerns, the little town we lived in would open up the movie theater at 9AM on Saturdays and show a double and sometimes triple feature. Lot of the names of little towns in Kansas and western Mo. would show up. Later it was fun to drive by Dodge City , Wichita, Independence Etc. Driving one night through mid Kansas with nothing but the rolling prairies before me, I could easily envision heards of buffalo coming over the rise .

Have have fun and safe trip back.
 

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