Need advice for Milky Way shots in Death Valley....

Butlerkid

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First, this will be my first attempt at night photography. So - I've read a lot, studied all sorts of information, and am now trying to consolidate way too much data into a simple, executable checklist once I get out in the dark and suddenly find everything seems confusing and strange to me! :confused:

I own the 14-24/f2.8. Thought about buying an IRIX 15mm f2.4 Firefly or Blackstone for the hard focus stop and ability to lock focus ring.....B&H has good sale on them right now....?????

D850 is invariant. D5 is variant. Which one would you recommend and why?
Long Exposure Noise Reduction setting in camera : Off
Normal Noise Reduction setting in camera: On for foreground images

Before our trip, I plan to sit in a dark room and get REALLY familiar with my camera in live view. Also practice setting up my new intervalometer!

I am using photo pills to pick target locations and times


Take a couple of chairs......


ON SITE: Please critique this updated CHECKLIST for capturing night images....


1. Get to location early enough to determine final position and composition

1a. Decrease brightness of LCD

2. Take foreground image @ f8 - f11 and low ISO during dusk/blue hour ....maybe focus stack several images

3. Find sky focus. Lock in focus for Milky way - tape focus barrel or lock focus if using the IRIX

4. Set WB K° between 3500 - 4300. Use 3900° K


5. Use Photo Pills to determine shutter speed for shooting wide open. Change f stop to wide open, set intervalometer shutter speed and # of shots
D850 - set ISO to 400 and increase in post ???
Set intervalometer for .5" of 1" intervals ???

5a. Close viewfinder window!

6. Take 10 - 20 images of night sky in LV


7. Take black image


What am I missing? I'm assuming if I take the correct # and type of images, I can pick processing s/w later and learn how to process night sky images. Bad assumption?
 
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First, this will be my first attempt at night photography. So - I've read a lot, studied all sorts of information, and am now trying to consolidate way too much data into a simple, executable checklist once I get out in the dark and suddenly find everything seems confusing and strange to me! :confused:

I own the 14-24/f2.8. Thought about buying an IRIX 15mm f2.4 Firefly or Blackstone for the hard focus stop and ability to lock focus ring.....B&H has good sale on them right now....?????

D850 is invariant. D5 is variant. Which one would you recommend and why?
Noise Reduction setting an camera : On ????

Before our trip, I plan to sit in a dark room and get REALLY familiar with my camera in live view. Also practice setting up my new intervalometer!

I am using photo pills to pick target locations and times


ON SITE: Please critique this CHECKLIST for capturing night images....

1. Get to location early enough to determine final position and composition

2. Take foreground image @ f8 - f11 and low ISO during dusk/blue hour ....maybe focus stack several images

3. Lock in focus for Milky way - tape focus barrel or lock focus if using the IRIX

4. Set WB K° between 3500 - 4300 ???


5. Use Photo Pills to determine shutter speed for shooting wide open. Change f stop to wide open, set intervalometer shutter speed and # of shots
Set intervalometer for .5" of 1" intervals ???

6. Take 10 - 20 images of night sky in LV


7. Take black image


What am I missing? I'm assuming if I take the correct # and type of images, I can pick processing s/w later and learn how to process night sky images. Bad assumption?
Your checklist looks good to me. A couple comments:

With an ultrawide, your exposures will be long enough that your ISO will probably not be too high so I would want the higher resolution of the D850.

I wouldn't buy another lens just for astrophotography just yet; I doubt you'll be disappointed by the 14-24.

I don't use an intervalometer - just a wired remote locked and C-L or C-H burst mode. Also, don't use in-camera NR as it will really slow down your capture process.
 

Butlerkid

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Your checklist looks good to me. A couple comments:

With an ultrawide, your exposures will be long enough that your ISO will probably not be too high so I would want the higher resolution of the D850.

I wouldn't buy another lens just for astrophotography just yet; I doubt you'll be disappointed by the 14-24.

I don't use an intervalometer - just a wired remote locked and C-L or C-H burst mode. Also, don't use in-camera NR as it will really slow down your capture process.
I'm using the newer NPF guidlines for shutter length.... Photo Pills is proving to be VERY useful. Now if I can just narrow down my location to shoot.....!

Oh yeah..... not keen on being out all night.......especially with a husband and puppy! LOL! Hope I don't wimp out!
 
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PhotoPills, red light torch.
At some stage you may want to consider an equatorial mount?
Milky Way and stars tend to move around but to start with you should be fine.
I took some Ok pictures with standard mount, Sony a5000 and Nikon D7000 without a tracking mount.
 
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Find a forehead mounted red lens flashlight to illuminate your work area, the red light will be easier on your eyes. I don't know if mosquitos are a problem in death valley, but they have eaten me alive here in Nebraska on night sky shoots. Bring a warmer coat than you think you need. Use pocket warmers if the temps are cold. D850 would be my choice. It's harder than you think to focus on a star in live view, use a planet if one is out if possible.

Your checklist looks complete.

Have fun!
 

Commodorefirst

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Your list is good,

Before I switch to live view, I find that at 24 mm on the lens I can AF on a bright star, then switch to manual focus, then switch to live view for any tweaks needed. I find that rarely is needed. Tape is your friend, I use it all the time!

also, make sure you flip your viewfinder switch closed so light does not enter from behind.

take many many multiple exposures, noise reduction off, mirror lock up, or with a remote, 5 second timed release etc, all will work. Iso on my D3s usually set at 3200, 20 seconds to 25.

If you are doing stacking get darks beginning, middle, end of session.

Also consider if needed having the camera laying on ground on a bag if it is windy, with even a good tripod, there may be some shake with the big wind catcher lens.
 
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Butlerkid

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Before I switch to live view, I find that at 24 mm on the lens I can AF on a bright star, then switch to manual focus, then switch to live view for any tweaks needed. I find that rarely is needed.

also, make sure you flip your viewfinder switch closed so light does not enter from behind.

take many many multiple exposures, noise reduction off, mirror lock up, or with a remote, 5 second timed release etc, all will work. Iso on my D3s usually set at 3200, 20 seconds to 25.

Also consider if needed having the camera laying on ground on a bag if it is windy, with even a good tripod, there may be some shake with the big wind catcher lens.
Great tips, Wade! Espeically about closing the viewfinder! DUH! I would have never remembered that! LOL!

Any tips for motivation to go out in the middle of the night? :oops:
 
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Any tips for motivation to go out in the middle of the night? :oops:
Not exactly a tip for motivation, but...

I actually plan to go out in the wee hours of Sunday morning. This time of year with the MW core on the predawn eastern horizon and this time of month with the waxing moon Is challenging in terms of our natural sleep cycles. I'm going to bed early tonight in hopes of retiring even earlier tomorrow so I can get up just before moonset and have an hour or so before astronomical twilight begins. If I get anything worth sharing, maybe that will help?
 

Butlerkid

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I'll be shooting April 15-17. I think best shooting times will be midnight to 4 am.....Furnace Creek, Death Valley.

If you use Photo Pills, can you confirm?
 
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Yes, that's what I see in Photopills also. Another app that I find very useful is Stellarium. Although it doesn't have Night AR, I actually find it easier to pre-visualize the MW core with respect to the horizon.
 

Butlerkid

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Yes, that's what I see in Photopills also. Another app that I find very useful is Stellarium. Although it doesn't have Night AR, I actually find it easier to pre-visualize the MW core with respect to the horizon.
Thanks for double checking me! LOL! I'm trying Stellarium now.......... I opened it on the PC. Is there a way to tell it what location you want? Or does it only work on the phone when you are AT the location?
 
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You will also need to decrease the brightness of the LCD screen, if you don’t it will ruin your night vision.
The eyes take up to 40 minutes to adapt but it take a few seconds for the pupil to close down again.
Red LEDs are the only source of light you want to use.
Hence the importance of getting set up as early as you can in daylight.
Fix everything, tape what needs to be.
Don’t hesitate to gaffa tape your lens (which will be on manual).
Some need to be manually focused before infinity.
Messing these steps will do more damage than bringing the wrong camera :) .
It will be fun.
Pre Covid I used to fly from London to Anza Borrego to toy into astrophotography.
Always lots of fun.
Last time I was there (2018), D7000 and film camera.
In 2019 I got a D7200 and D700, joined the Royal Astronomical Society as a Friend, to learn a bit more.
Got lots of books, subscribed to Astronomy Now.
Learnt how to use PhotoPills and several other iPhone apps.
And... stuck in London behind grey skies and city lights.

Please have fun and post some photos.
 

Butlerkid

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You will also need to decrease the brightness of the LCD screen, if you don’t it will ruin your night vision.
The eyes take up to 40 minutes to adapt but it take a few seconds for the pupil to close down again.
Red LEDs are the only source of light you want to use.
Hence the importance of getting set up as early as you can in daylight.
Fix everything, tape what needs to be.
Don’t hesitate to gaffa tape your lens (which will be on manual).
Some need to be manually focused before infinity.
Messing these steps will do more damage than bringing the wrong camera :) .
It will be fun.
Pre Covid I used to fly from London to Anza Borrego to toy into astrophotography.
Always lots of fun.
Last time I was there (2018), D7000 and film camera.
In 2019 I got a D7200 and D700, joined the Royal Astronomical Society as a Friend, to learn a bit more.
Got lots of books, subscribed to Astronomy Now.
Learnt how to use PhotoPills and several other iPhone apps.
And... stuck in London behind grey skies and city lights.

Please have fun and post some photos.
Great suggestions! Hopefully I'll get a few keepers which will fuel excitement to do it again! LOL! And if I gain some confidence, perhaps I'll be comfortable going out alone...and letting hubby and doggy sleep............. ???? LOL!

I love Anza Borrego. How I'd LOVE to have some saguaro in the foreground!!!!!
 

JLH

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So much good advice here there is little I would add. What I do advise, if you are up to it, is to shoot after midnight for the best results. As we all know the ground cools at night and makes the stars shimmer a bit. Of course one has to consider their subject and when its best viewed. With my telescope I tend to use it in the middle of the night. Same for star shots. Sometimes I sleep early and then go out at two to four AM. It will be cool/cold out as the night time temps can be 30 or more degrees less than the daytime highs. Last time I was there I saw 118 on the car's outside temp reading during the heat of the day. At night I wore a polar fleece as it felt so cool out.
Its a beautiful place. Scottie's Castle is fun too. Also there is a mountain you can drive up (if you are brave) and do a self guided tour of an old gold mine. Then there is a drive up to the top of the hill that the miner made to show off the view to his friends. The view there may look familiar to fans of the original Star Wars movie. Its where they shot the view seen by Luke when he and Obi were driving to the space port where they would meet up with Han Solo.
You likely also know about another location that has turned up in movies and TV shows, Rhyolite Ghost Town. But then there is much to see around Death Valley.
 

Butlerkid

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I've updated my checklist in #1 with the advice I've received.

Dummy question - when using gaffer tape to tape down focus ring.....do you lay it down around the lens or from front to back of the lens?

Any suggestions for a small, handy red night light? Preferably on a retracting lanyard I could clip onto the D ring of a vest or jacket?
 
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High Power One Mode Red LED Flashlight, Powerful Single Mode Red Flashlight, Red Light Flashlight Red LED Red Light Torch For Astronomy, Aviation, Night Observation-Black https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X3SY4L...abc_C2VZYTP7C314XZG1J2NS?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

You could also go for a head band one.
They let you use both your hands.

VEKKIA Ultra Bright LED Headlamp - 5 Lighting Modes, White & Red LEDs, Adjustable Strap, IPX6 Water Resistant. Great For Running, Camping, Hiking & More. Batteries Included https://www.amazon.com/dp/B019MK6DX6/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_K24AS9XEF1K2SFBPKNJN
 

Butlerkid

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High Power One Mode Red LED Flashlight, Powerful Single Mode Red Flashlight, Red Light Flashlight Red LED Red Light Torch For Astronomy, Aviation, Night Observation-Black https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X3SY4L...abc_C2VZYTP7C314XZG1J2NS?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

You could also go for a head band one.
They let you use both your hands.

VEKKIA Ultra Bright LED Headlamp - 5 Lighting Modes, White & Red LEDs, Adjustable Strap, IPX6 Water Resistant. Great For Running, Camping, Hiking & More. Batteries Included https://www.amazon.com/dp/B019MK6DX6/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_K24AS9XEF1K2SFBPKNJN
I have a good head light with dimmable red light......I just have never gotten used to using it. Thanks so much for the links. I'll check them out.

I'm also looking at a pouch to attach to the tripod that will hold the Phottix Aion intervalometer. THIS seems to be the best....


I have an idea, just fly over and meet me at Death Valley. You can sleep in our 5th wheel RV!
 

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