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

Joined
Mar 25, 2011
Messages
3,173
Location
London
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!
Good idea.
Have you got a good armchair?
 

Butlerkid

Cafe Ambassador
Administrator
Joined
Apr 8, 2008
Messages
23,554
Location
Rutledge, Tennessee
Real Name
Karen
Since I'm going out tonight, I could take some notes on my workflow and post with photos (hopefully!) in a separate thread, if you think that would be useful to others.
That would be helpful to compare to my Checklist in Post #1...... which I have updated with the suggestions I've received in this thread!
 
Joined
Oct 4, 2006
Messages
2,249
Location
Chicago, IL
Regarding your list, here is my input - I have not done a lot of this, but I have done a lot DSLR photography but on a guided mount - well except for the solar eclipse.

1a. Decrease brightness of LCD. Turn it off, you don't need it on.

2. Take foreground image - I would bracket several images for this then use HDR

3. Focus - I have never had luck doing live view focus. Rather, I tether and zoom in on image. You might want to try take an image, chimp and zoom in then adjust focus SLIGHTLY. A good place to start is at infinity, then back off a touch.

4. Set WB K° between 3500 - 4300. Use 3900° K Shoot in raw if you are going to stack and it won't matter. I don't use DSS but I use Pixinsight and it does not care what the white balance is so I assume DSS is the same. That was one of the hardest things I had to learn going from terrestrial to astro photography.

5. PhotoPills - No idea what this is so never used it. I have no idea what focal length lens you are going to use - but I assume wide. Every camera has a 'sweet spot' for exposure vs noise for long exposures. I would take the 850 as high as you are comfortable with before noise takes over. I thought I read on a Nikon USA site once 3200 or 4000 for Milky Way shots. But.... make it worth your time and try different settings. TIP: when you change settings, put your hand over the lens and take a few photos to put a divider in your photos when processing.

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

If you are taking 15 second exposures (just as an example) and shooting a hundred or so, your sensor will heat up - which is a cause of noise. I would add a delay in your intervalometer of the same length of time.

As already mentioned, noise reduction turned on is not advised - Nikon FW can treat small stars as noise and will eliminate them.

Backups: batteries, cards, camera and lens .... you never know when something will go wrong. If you were in your backyard, would not matter...

Flashlight - I use a head band. They are cheap and typically do white or red.

Clothing: No idea how cold it will get. In my observatory in the winter I wear a one piece ski suit, hat and boots. The last thing you want is to get cold and uncomfortable (you a coffee drinker???) But, layers are always best. Always easy to take something off...

Get yourself a star app - there are free ones but I really like Sky Safari Pro. You will be in dark skies so take some time and look around! I have no idea what your astro background is, but once you recognize a constellation or two, they will become old friends when you look up! Using averted vision you will be amazed what you see. Above all... have fun!

Once you start a sequence, stay away from your camera :)

Anyway... just my opinion.
 

Butlerkid

Cafe Ambassador
Administrator
Joined
Apr 8, 2008
Messages
23,554
Location
Rutledge, Tennessee
Real Name
Karen
Regarding your list, here is my input - I have not done a lot of this, but I have done a lot DSLR photography but on a guided mount - well except for the solar eclipse.

1a. Decrease brightness of LCD. Turn it off, you don't need it on. Makes sense! Thanks!

2. Take foreground image - I would bracket several images for this then use HDR Depending on the light, that may be necessary

3. Focus - I have never had luck doing live view focus. Rather, I tether and zoom in on image. You might want to try take an image, chimp and zoom in then adjust focus SLIGHTLY. A good place to start is at infinity, then back off a touch.

4. Set WB K° between 3500 - 4300. Use 3900° K Shoot in raw if you are going to stack and it won't matter. I don't use DSS but I use Pixinsight and it does not care what the white balance is so I assume DSS is the same. That was one of the hardest things I had to learn going from terrestrial to astro photography. I ONLY shoot raw. I will adjust WB in post if necessary, but want a more accurate WB when setting up the shot.

5. PhotoPills - No idea what this is so never used it. I have no idea what focal length lens you are going to use - but I assume wide. Every camera has a 'sweet spot' for exposure vs noise for long exposures. I would take the 850 as high as you are comfortable with before noise takes over. I thought I read on a Nikon USA site once 3200 or 4000 for Milky Way shots. But.... make it worth your time and try different settings. TIP: when you change settings, put your hand over the lens and take a few photos to put a divider in your photos when processing. I will be using my 14-24 and will probably be around 20mm. I will shoot the D850 wide open at about 11 seconds (NPF rule). The D850 is invariant relative to ISO. So I will shoot ISO 400 and can raise up to 4 stops in post. Photo Pills is a fantastic app that allows one to see landscape, position of sun, moon, stars, galaxys, etc at any location in the world - at any time in the world. Plus is includes DOF tool and 500 and NPF rules for shutter speed. Invaluable for planning trips to shoot sky above locations on earth.......

6. Take 10 - 20 images of night sky in LV - Why? I will be stacking images for noise reduction. 10 images is probably what I will shoot. Then see how many give a good result.

If you are taking 15 second exposures (just as an example) and shooting a hundred or so, your sensor will heat up - which is a cause of noise. I would add a delay in your intervalometer of the same length of time. It will be quite cool....sensor heating should not be a problem when taking only 10-15 shots. My intervalometer is set for a 2 second delay at start.

As already mentioned, noise reduction turned on is not advised - Nikon FW can treat small stars as noise and will eliminate them. Good point

Backups: batteries, cards, camera and lens .... you never know when something will go wrong. If you were in your backyard, would not matter...

Flashlight - I use a head band. They are cheap and typically do white or red. I am getting the one Morty recommended. Red only.... I also have a red & white dimmable head light and will have stronger white flashlights if needed. to traverse any distance in the dark.

Clothing: No idea how cold it will get. In my observatory in the winter I wear a one piece ski suit, hat and boots. The last thing you want is to get cold and uncomfortable (you a coffee drinker???) But, layers are always best. Always easy to take something off... I'll have layers - and a chair! LOL!

Get yourself a star app - there are free ones but I really like Sky Safari Pro. You will be in dark skies so take some time and look around! I have no idea what your astro background is, but once you recognize a constellation or two, they will become old friends when you look up! Using averted vision you will be amazed what you see. Above all... have fun! I'll check out the app. Thanks!

Once you start a sequence, stay away from your camera :)

Anyway... just my opinion.
See my replies in Kevin's post.....
 
Joined
Mar 23, 2009
Messages
102
Location
Arizona
I recommend you use a very dim diffuse flashlight only when needed, otherwise you will wreck your eye's dark accommodation.
I use live view at 200% magnification to focus on a bright star, a hand held magnifier viewing the live view works well for critical focus, so once you set focus then use the camera's view finder to compose your shot. This works well if you have dark adapted your eyes, and not at all if you use have recently used a bright flashlight.
Death Valley is unfortunately near Las Vegas and there is a tremendous light dome in that direction, so in mid-April the milky way will be rising in the east through this light pollution. Mid April also will coincide with a 1st quarter waxing moon so it will not set until 1 or 2 in the morning. Just before dawn the Milky Way will have cleared most of Las Vegas light dome.
If you are 'painting with light', a somewhat frowned upon activity, try to find a diffuse fill light that produces a warm color, the 'daylight' bluish LED flashlights are difficult to light balance with the sky.
-Jay-
 
Joined
Feb 6, 2020
Messages
21
Location
Thunder Bay, Ontario
Real Name
Kay
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?

As others mentioned, your checklist is good .

Tho, I think you're really giving way too much thought for milkyway photograph.

Which is not a bad thing to do.. but yeah I find that if you plan to this detail, it usually will give you hard time if anything starts going sideways. Just relax! :)

ISO invariant or variant, doesn't really matter. Looks like you are going to use Stacking method, just shoot high enough ISO to have enough shutter speed.

I've shot ISO12800 on my D850 with 105mm f/1.4 just to capture the core. Image came out super clean after processing. (D850 sensor = insane)

And, D850 also has a great internal intervalometer. You can literally just set the interval shooting and walk away (one of the best thing about Nikon cam).

But if you are setting up the intervalometer, give at least 2 secs between shots. Sometimes 1 or 1.5 secs are causing errors between shots and you'd miss few frames.(idk why)

For the last,

GOOD LUCK! And would love to see your image when you're back!!!
 

Butlerkid

Cafe Ambassador
Administrator
Joined
Apr 8, 2008
Messages
23,554
Location
Rutledge, Tennessee
Real Name
Karen
As others mentioned, your checklist is good .

Tho, I think you're really giving way too much thought for milkyway photograph.

Which is not a bad thing to do.. but yeah I find that if you plan to this detail, it usually will give you hard time if anything starts going sideways. Just relax! :)

ISO invariant or variant, doesn't really matter. Looks like you are going to use Stacking method, just shoot high enough ISO to have enough shutter speed.

I've shot ISO12800 on my D850 with 105mm f/1.4 just to capture the core. Image came out super clean after processing. (D850 sensor = insane)

And, D850 also has a great internal intervalometer. You can literally just set the interval shooting and walk away (one of the best thing about Nikon cam).

But if you are setting up the intervalometer, give at least 2 secs between shots. Sometimes 1 or 1.5 secs are causing errors between shots and you'd miss few frames.(idk why)

For the last,

GOOD LUCK! And would love to see your image when you're back!!!
Thanks so much for your response. My 105mm only opens to f2.8....but maybe I should give it a try. Would the 105mm be better than the 70-200/f2.8?

I tried shooting at night before and became frustrated and ended up changing settings that caused future problems! LOL! If I have an idea of what to do, I'll hopefully keep myself out of major trouble.

Actually pressue is now on for me to at least get a decent image to share! :eek::oops:

I'd like to have a nice foreground instead of just a sky shot, but at this point, I'll take just a nice sky shot! :D
 
Joined
Mar 23, 2009
Messages
102
Location
Arizona
I think you will have more success with a wide angle unless you use a tracking mount. A shorter focal length minimizes star trailing, along the celestial equator where trailing is at a maximum you will see trailing with a 24mm lens at 15 seconds without a tracking mount, and less if you point N or S. Those short teles will show trailing sooner.

Recording point sources is enhanced with a larger entrance pupil diameter, not f/.

Faster f/ enhances the recording of extended objects, like milky way clouds and light pollution.

If you use Nikon's intervalometer allow at least 3 seconds minimum between exposures, or it will miscount.

-Jay-
 

Butlerkid

Cafe Ambassador
Administrator
Joined
Apr 8, 2008
Messages
23,554
Location
Rutledge, Tennessee
Real Name
Karen
For a "black" image, I put the lens cap on, right? What settings....SS, f stop and ISO.....???

Any other shots I should take?
 
Joined
Feb 6, 2020
Messages
21
Location
Thunder Bay, Ontario
Real Name
Kay
Thanks so much for your response. My 105mm only opens to f2.8....but maybe I should give it a try. Would the 105mm be better than the 70-200/f2.8?

I tried shooting at night before and became frustrated and ended up changing settings that caused future problems! LOL! If I have an idea of what to do, I'll hopefully keep myself out of major trouble.

Actually pressue is now on for me to at least get a decent image to share! :eek::oops:

I'd like to have a nice foreground instead of just a sky shot, but at this point, I'll take just a nice sky shot! :D

Hey! I wasn't suggest using 105mm! f/2.8 is way too dark to use 105mm lens without a tracking mount.
And also it is bit more advanced compared to shooting with a wide-angle lens.

You said you have 14-24mm lens. that is definitely one of the best one to use! unless you have 20mm f/1.8G lens.

It is really quite simple when it comes to the settings.

1. Decide what focal length you are going to shoot.
2. Find out the maximum shutter speed you can use without stars stretching. (500 rule or NPF rule)
3. Fstop wise, shooting wide open is recommended.
4. then decide ISO based on your other settings.

From my area, I usually do 8-10" f/2.8 ISO8000. at 14mm.
You can definitely go longer shutter speed, but I usually like to make the stars in the corner sharp as well.
 
Joined
Feb 6, 2020
Messages
21
Location
Thunder Bay, Ontario
Real Name
Kay
For a "black" image, I put the lens cap on, right? What settings....SS, f stop and ISO.....???

Any other shots I should take?
Dark frame condition.

Same temperature (Usually take right after your light frames are done)
Same setting (SHUTTERSPEED / ISO).

Personally, it won't make that much difference when it comes to milkyway photos. I'd skip it and focus on getting light frames correctly.
 

Butlerkid

Cafe Ambassador
Administrator
Joined
Apr 8, 2008
Messages
23,554
Location
Rutledge, Tennessee
Real Name
Karen
Dark frame condition.

Same temperature (Usually take right after your light frames are done)
Same setting (SHUTTERSPEED / ISO).

Personally, it won't make that much difference when it comes to milkyway photos. I'd skip it and focus on getting light frames correctly.
Done! LOL!
 
Joined
Feb 6, 2020
Messages
21
Location
Thunder Bay, Ontario
Real Name
Kay
Done! LOL!

Dark frame is a must if you take shots like this XD
But for milkyway, you can skip them no problem!!
More pressure is on :p

First one is the 2 nebulas in the middle of Milkyway core(Galactic center).
Lagoon Nebula(bottom) and Trifid Nebula(top)

2021.03.16 Milkyway Nebula working file(re-re).jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Second one is the Great Orion Nebula (and Horsehead nebula on top - taken accidently LOL)

2021.03.09 Orion(50p).jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
 

Butlerkid

Cafe Ambassador
Administrator
Joined
Apr 8, 2008
Messages
23,554
Location
Rutledge, Tennessee
Real Name
Karen
Dark frame is a must if you take shots like this XD
But for milkyway, you can skip them no problem!!
More pressure is on :p

First one is the 2 nebulas in the middle of Milkyway core(Galactic center).
Lagoon Nebula(bottom) and Trifid Nebula(top)

View attachment 1680880

Second one is the Great Orion Nebula (and Horsehead nebula on top - taken accidently LOL)

View attachment 1680881
These are EXCELLENT!!!! I could enjoy thses for hours!!!!! You need to post often in our Night image gallery!!!!! You and @cdnpilot (Kevin) are such inspirations!
 
Joined
Feb 6, 2020
Messages
21
Location
Thunder Bay, Ontario
Real Name
Kay
These are EXCELLENT!!!! I could enjoy thses for hours!!!!! You need to post often in our Night image gallery!!!!! You and @cdnpilot (Kevin) are such inspirations!

Haha, I am just a newbie when it comes to deep sky. I do more of milkyway photographs and I am looking forward to see more photos from other photographers from here!!
Wish you the best luck for your shots!
 

Latest posts

Links on this page may be to our affiliates. Sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
Nikon Cafe is a fan site and not associated with Nikon Corporation.
Forum post reactions by Twemoji: https://github.com/twitter/twemoji
Forum GIFs powered by GIPHY: https://giphy.com/
Copyright © Amin Forums, LLC
Top Bottom