Category Archives: Astro-photo

Shower of Light!

2008-01-26, Star Shower.I still do not know exactly why but night time is my absolute favorite time to photograph. I suspect part of that favoritism comes from the fact that the night still holds much mystery for me. Most of my waking life is spent puttering around during daylight hours. “It’s different at night…” (LOL! Stupid quote, I know. What was that from? Was it a Red Wolf beer commercial??)

The above image is another from one of my “lone wolf star parties” in January. I find this one to be more interesting than previous start trail images. Total exposure time is 330 seconds (5.5 minutes). Shot with a Nikon D3 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.4.

“LiveView” was critical in the creation of this image (and others like it). What most casual shooters do not realize is: SLR cameras and interchangeable lenses ARE NOT perfectly focus calibrated when they leave the factory. Just because the marks on the lens say “3.3 m” or “&#8734” does not make them true. It takes some experimentation to nail down truely accurate focus. The Nikon D3 and D300 both have menu options for “self calibrating” your camera body with specific lenses–GENIUS! (Canon’s 1D pro models have this feature also.) ;-)


Starry Night with a Nikon D3.

Star trails w/ Nikon D3.Last night I took a drive out to my favorite dark sky location. As you can see, from the orange “city glow”, it is not perfect. (What, in life, is?) I don’t think there is a perfect dark sky location on the island of Oahu–unless the power went out island wide. It’s probably better that the power stays on. ;-) The orange glow really helped me in the creation of this image though. It back lit the mountains and also provided a tiny bit of fill on the facing side. The image would be boring without it.

This was my first real session with the D3 and long exposure times. The camera performed splendidly! The image above was captured with a single exposure time of 1,055 seconds! (17.58 minutes) Nothing and I mean NOTHING else in the Nikon line can output images this clean at such long exposure times. (D300 might be just as clean but I do not own one to test–Fred can you help me out?) On top of that: I was shooting at ISO 800!!! Now, can you begin to fathom the creative power that is just waiting to be unleashed??? I get goose-bumps just thinking about it! :-D I was shooting through the 17-35mm f/2.8 @ 17mm and f/4.0. That may explain the illusion of the stars rotating about two different centers: the geometric distortion of the lens at 17mm.

For the first time (since I switched to digital) I can finally say – with total confidence – “I will never need to use 35mm roll film, ever again.” Key word being “need”. Of course there will still be times that I want to shoot 135. What a great night! :-)

I promise I will wrap up my holiday food ramble in the next two entries. (Both are favorites, so it will be fun!)

The Milky Way Gallaxy.

Click to view larger image. As you might have guessed, from my previous post about the moon, astronomic photography is another one of my hobbies. I do these kinds of photos to satisfy my curiosity about the natural world. I guess I am a nerd because the exploration of the process is a lot more exciting to me than the photos themselves. It may just be that I am not satisfied with the results that I have been getting. Anyhow I do these photos for my own enjoyment and do not make any money with them (yet?).

I believe many true astronomic photogs are the same way. Most of the ones that I know of do not make a living with their photos. One such photographer is Russell Croman. According to his bio page he is a chip (intergrated circuit) designer (aka, Engineer) by day and an astro-photographer by night.

His photographs, by far, are the best that I have seen–from any land based observatory. Click here to view his online gallery and website. Remember–he is a self funded, individual, working out of his “backyard”! Photos of the Milky Way, like mine, are nothing compared to what he is capable of.

Speaking of my photo: I captured this “composite” of the Milky Way from Mokuleia (North Shore, Oahu) on August 16th, 2007 @ 22:19. I was using my D70, Sigma 30mm F/1.4 @ 1.4, ISO 800, and three exposures of 30 seconds each. Post processing done in CS3.

2007, Lunar Perigee.

Full Moon, Oct. 25th, 2007.

Every lunar cycle has an apogee (point of orbit farthest from Earth) and a perigee (point of orbit closest to Earth). October 26th marked the nearest perigee for the year of 2007. The Moon was only 221,721 miles (356,750 km) from the Earth. Unfortunately the weather in Honolulu, Hawaii, on that night was terrible. So I have no photos of the true event. :sad: Luckily, I managed to capture the full moon the night before and it came out pretty good.