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Thread: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

  1. #21

    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by aspenx View Post
    Eh.......

    It does not work in practice unless you set the lens at hyperfocal distance and the appropriate aperture.

    sabee is right. Focusing to infinity does not solve the problem.

    Anyways, TS could have checked his images before starting on capturing the trail (which looks like it took at least 1.5hours). That's what we have digital cameras for right?
    I second this.. I was about to post the same thing.

  2. #22

    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    The blurring looks more like camera shake from a long exposure rather than inability to focus.
    The star trails looks "thick", as if the camera moved slightly during the exposure.

    Maybe your first step is getting a good, stable tripod and head

  3. #23
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    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    I too am trying to do a star trail but realized that I do not know how to do it. Some questions I have

    1) How to compose in the dark if you are not allowed to use artificial lightings. I am not able to see the unlit buildings that is 30m away from me that will form the foreground of the image
    2) How to keep shutter open for 30 min without shutter release cable? I tried to use mirror lockup but it will flip shut when the 30s on the shutter time is reached.
    3) Can I switch off long exposure noise reduction function to reduce the time needed by the camera to reduce noise?
    4) What ISO, aperture should I be at?
    Last edited by ManWearPants; 17th May 2010 at 07:39 PM.

  4. #24

    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by midicity View Post
    The blurring looks more like camera shake from a long exposure rather than inability to focus.
    The star trails looks "thick", as if the camera moved slightly during the exposure.

    Maybe your first step is getting a good, stable tripod and head
    Shdnt be the case coz i did have another star trail shot taken at the same place but diff angle and the object was focused.

    Quote Originally Posted by ManWearPants View Post
    I too am trying to do a star trail but realized that I do not know how to do it. Some questions I have

    1) How to compose in the dark if you are not allowed to use artificial lightings. I am not able to see the unlit buildings that is 30m away from me that will form the foreground of the image
    2) How to keep shutter open for 30 min without shutter release cable? I tried to use mirror lockup but it will flip shut when the 30s on the shutter time is reached.
    3) Can I switch off long exposure noise reduction function to reduce the time needed by the camera to reduce noise?
    4) What ISO, aperture should I be at?
    1) This is the question that i asked in this thread, however i think you need to MF, then test few shots with 20 or 30 sec exposure and see if the photos are sharp, if yes, then proceed with 15 0r 30 mins or watever exposure u intend to take.

    2) U need a shutter release cable to use bulb mode, otherwise, like what u experienced, max is oni 30sec exposure. get a wired shutter..oni ard $16-$20.

    3) U shd turn offlong exposure noise reduction function unless u willing to wait long to view yr photo.

    4) I used f2.8 and ard 14mins exposure shot for this...i will say if this is focused, it will be a good star trail although the light from the lantern is abit glaring. U shd used the widest aperture when takign star trail coz i think u shdnt go more than 1 hr of exposure. If yr aperture is f20, u may need few hrs of exposure! ISO shd be minimum at 100.
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  5. #25
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    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gerald Lam CK View Post


    Hi everyone, i took this star trail (my first try) with MF (i had to coz too dark, cant AF) and while it looked sharp on the cam screen, it turned out blur on computer screen..i regret not enlarging it to see the pic after taking it.

    But point crying over spilled milk...i will like to find out how did you guys focus in the dark? Had to use MF right? then if use MF how to check if it's focused? Isit by taking a 20 or 30 sec shot to see if it's focused then proceed with bulb mode?
    Looking at the photo, it seemed like you not only have problem focussing in the dark but setting up the composition is also quite problematic. Even if you've nailed the focus, the composition does not do justice to the effort at all.

    If its possible, start early, get everything ready and wait for the right moment. That means setting up the shot while you still have light or at least bring a torch light if you have to.

  6. #26
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    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gerald Lam CK View Post
    1) This is the question that i asked in this thread, however i think you need to MF, then test few shots with 20 or 30 sec exposure and see if the photos are sharp, if yes, then proceed with 15 0r 30 mins or watever exposure u intend to take.
    I don't have problem focusing as anything more than 1 m is at infinity when using a WA. I do have problem composing - placing the foreground nicely in the composition in the dark. Unfortunately the place I wanted to do star trail does not allow early entry, seating or the use of artificial light. So can only try to use the method you mentioned, take a few test shots to ensure composition is proper. This is quite difficult when you are fumbling in the dark adjusting camera settings and ballhead. I guess my problem is I am not familiar enough with where to change my camera settings. So when you tilt the ballhead to look at the top of your camera, your last position is lost.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gerald Lam CK View Post
    2) U need a shutter release cable to use bulb mode, otherwise, like what u experienced, max is oni 30sec exposure. get a wired shutter..oni ard $16-$20.
    I have a wired shutter cable but forgot to bring it on the trip. So am trying to think of another way of holding the shutter open. The other way is probably to use bulb mode but will have to keep finger on shutter button steady for as long as you want it to stay open.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gerald Lam CK View Post
    3) U shd turn offlong exposure noise reduction function unless u willing to wait long to view yr photo.
    Will turning it off result in a noiser picture. I do not mind waiting long if it does clean up some noise.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gerald Lam CK View Post
    4) I used f2.8 and ard 14mins exposure shot for this...i will say if this is focused, it will be a good star trail although the light from the lantern is abit glaring. U shd used the widest aperture when takign star trail coz i think u shdnt go more than 1 hr of exposure. If yr aperture is f20, u may need few hrs of exposure! ISO shd be minimum at 100.
    I thought the aperture is to keep the trails thick or more define (thin) and ISO should be kept as high to be more sensitive to light? I am thinking along f8-11 and ISO400-800. Maybe I am wrong.
    Last edited by ManWearPants; 18th May 2010 at 02:57 AM.

  7. #27
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    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    I believe the solution is to stack.

    At least that's what I do.

    My attempts at star trails have been at f/4 or f/5.6, base ISO and 30s exposures (iirc) and they have turned out pretty good so far (except for composition...).

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    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by aspenx View Post
    I believe the solution is to stack.

    At least that's what I do.

    My attempts at star trails have been at f/4 or f/5.6, base ISO and 30s exposures (iirc) and they have turned out pretty good so far (except for composition...).
    care to share your technique of stacking. I am quite upset with myself not to have prepared myself better for a once in a lifetime photo opportunity.

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    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by ManWearPants View Post
    care to share your technique of stacking. I am quite upset with myself not to have prepared myself better for a once in a lifetime photo opportunity.
    You might want to give RegiStax 5 a try.
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    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by 9V-Orion Images View Post
    You might want to give RegiStax 5 a try.
    does it mean you do multiple 30sec exposure and stack the images together. So if you want a 30min exposure, you would need to stack 60 images?

    What are the pros and cons of using stacking compared to a single long exposure, other than those already mentioned in the thread.

    How to keep the sky dark with silver streaks instead of the brown/orange sky as shown by TS' image? Is it ISO+aperture or using shorter exposure time such as stacking that will create a darker sky?
    Last edited by ManWearPants; 19th May 2010 at 03:29 PM.

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    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by ManWearPants View Post
    does it mean you do multiple 30sec exposure and stack the images together. So if you want a 30min exposure, you would need to stack 60 images?
    I leave 5 second intervals between shot. ie. expose 30s -> 5s delay -> expose 30s -> ...
    Regarding software/plugin, there are free photoshop actions that you can download and try for stacking star trails.

    Quote Originally Posted by ManWearPants View Post
    What are the pros and cons of using stacking compared to a single long exposure, other than those already been mentioned in the thread.
    Not sure what have been mentioned already (quite confused).

    Anyways, from the top of my head.

    Pro: Less noise from sensor heating up.
    Pro: Save battery so that you can make longer trails or anything you want.

    Cons: May not be THAT smooth. Then again, it depends on where you are pointing and the focal length you use.
    Cons: May take a while to process if you have a lot of images and your computer is slow.

    Maybe other people might want to contribute to the list also.

    Quote Originally Posted by ManWearPants View Post
    How to keep the sky dark with silver streaks instead of the brown/orange sky as shown by TS' image? Is it ISO+aperture or using shorter exposure time such as stacking that will create a darker sky?
    The brown/orange sky is due to light pollution (from the lights spilled from urbanization or even the moon). Nothing you can do about it unless you move to a more rural place and point towards an even more rural (or the ocean/sea/lake) direction. The brightness of this "brown/orange" tinge thing is also increased because of the long exposure time in TS' image.

    But, it can be somewhat fixed in PP. Some film photographers use tungsten-balanced films for star trails. Similarly, you can try correcting the WB for tungsten in PP and play around with the contrast.

    Anyways, I'm wondering if this thread even belongs here now...

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    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by ManWearPants View Post
    does it mean you do multiple 30sec exposure and stack the images together. So if you want a 30min exposure, you would need to stack 60 images?

    What are the pros and cons of using stacking compared to a single long exposure, other than those already mentioned in the thread.

    How to keep the sky dark with silver streaks instead of the brown/orange sky as shown by TS' image? Is it ISO+aperture or using shorter exposure time such as stacking that will create a darker sky?
    On second thought, RegiStax 5 might not even be suitable for star trails photography, Achim Schaller's Startrails application seems to be more appropriate.

    My bad.
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    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by aspenx View Post
    I leave 5 second intervals between shot. ie. expose 30s -> 5s delay -> expose 30s -> ...
    Wouldn't the 5 seconds delay leave noticeable gaps in between the star trails?
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    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by 9V-Orion Images View Post
    Wouldn't the 5 seconds delay leave noticeable gaps in between the star trails?
    Not noticeable unless you point it higher up and with significantly longer focal length.

    No problems so far with 58mm pointed 45 or so degrees above the horizon in Singapore.

    EDIT: Not sure of the exact terminology cos was taught by someone to read star charts and can't for the life of me remember much now...
    Last edited by aspenx; 19th May 2010 at 04:53 PM.

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    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by aspenx View Post
    Not noticeable unless you point it higher up and with significantly longer focal length.

    No problems so far with 58mm pointed 45 or so degrees above the horizon in Singapore.

    EDIT: Not sure of the exact terminology cos was taught by someone to read star charts and can't for the life of me remember much now...
    I believed the terms that you are looking for is either altitude or declination depending on the coordinate system if I am not mistaken.
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    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by 9V-Orion Images View Post
    I believed the terms that you are looking for is either altitude or declination depending on the coordinate system if I am not mistaken.
    Ok...

    Anyways, there is a great software, Stellarium (?), that maps star charts very nicely.

    You can set the date, time, geographical coordinates, altitude, FOV etc to view the skies.

    Fast forward the simulation and you can see how fast the stars move. Might help give people who want to shoot star trails and idea of the kind of exposures they should/can make.

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    Default Re: How to Focus Objects in the Dark when Taking Star Trail Photos?

    This is what I missed. I am still squeezing my balls over it....


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