Dark Skies Event - My list of mistakes (with pictures)


Mu-43 Regular
Sep 2, 2019
It was early March and I had booked to go to a dark skies event, not expensive and in the middle of the North Yorkshire moors with little light polution I thought I would get some good pictures. I think that night I made every mistake in the book and a few more and so please use this to learn from my mistakes.
The issue with night photography is that for me, it is like DIY - I start off rubbish, get good at it and by the time I am good then the end of winter comes and I forget about what I have learnt until next winter. Worst still I can see all the mistakes that I made when I was rubbish (a bit like my tiling - hence the reason to bring in a tiler).
So here was the good stuff:
  • I booked and did go on the Dark Skies event. This is actually quite big - unless you have an event you wont try the photography. AND IT IS WORTH A TRY
  • I took 3x fully charged spare batteries - for my Olympus OMD 10 Mark II (and I suspect most micro 4/3rds) - sky photography just burns batteries
So lets talk about the mistakes:
  • We stopped off at Pickering a station for steam engines (I am blessed with the variety where I live) so I thought lets get some nice pictures. Despite being a flat sky, there was no-one around and so the DRAMATIC Art Filter gave some very decent lift to the pictures (below). Mistake #1 - I should not have side tracked to do anything other than Sky Photography
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  • Mistake #2: Not looking up the settings before leaving the house and not using MYSET to store the settings. I got sidetracked and arrogant and forgot to ISO 800 and although most of the photos were okay at ISO 200, I could have got more at either ISO 800 and ISO 1600. I should have done more ground work beforehand (a common theme).
  • Mistake #3 (they will now come thick and fast): I should have reccied the place to get a bearing and so know where North is (for the twirlies) and know where the paths are at the site. Even GOOGLE MAPS would have given me this and a compass on the night is not a substitute. Do as much as you can BEFORE you get there. Also - and there is clue in the name "Dark skies" (mistake #4) the compass was next to useless as it was pitch black.
  • Mistake #5: Reading Robin Wongs post - get a decent tripod. So I did and decided to use it for the first time on the Dark Skies. I repeat there is a clue in the name DARK skies. I spent the night having a fight with that bl**dy tripod and truth be told - it won. I should be like the soldier who can - blindfolded - put his rifle together, the same should be done for the camera and tripod. This is a biggie for micro 4/3 users as many of us have tripods but rarely use them. I do have one hint - I always put the camera strap around my neck when putting it on the tripod so if there is an issue with the tripod falling over then the camera wont follow.
  • Mistake #6: You wont read this on any other post - it takes 15 - 20 minutes to acclimatise to the stars and red light keeps this acclimatisation but not white light. So I used my back bike light -ideal - EXCEPT it is used to being on the bike and not for astro photography. Well it was easily knocked to flashing light every so often and that just kept messing with my brain. Better to use a normal torch with a cover from a red chocolate wrapper (the up side is that you need to buy and eat a box of chocolates)
  • I dont class it as a mistake but please be aware that if you are not use to photography in a clear sky at near freezing, the camera can "feel" different as the hands start to get cold and lose the feeling.

So why go through this? Honestly it is worth it when the sky clears:-
  • (Mistake #7) Not knowing my subject. This is personal thing whether landscape or animal or anything else I get far more satisfaction knowing about the subject that I photo. The below was the best of the" normal" pictures. There are many, many more pictures on the forum astro site that trounce this but what is interesting from the Olympus OMD 10, 12-50 lens is that in the middle left is Orions Belt. The star above the belt slightly to the left has been picked up differently as orange. This is Betelgeuse which actually is a different star -a red giant. The camera has picked up the different type of star far better than the eye. The star at the same horizontal line also orange is also a Red Giant (Aldebaran)
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  • And finally the "swirlies" ARE REALY WORTH IT. It is not so much what they are (again better pictures on the micro 4/3 forum - indeed they have inspired me - so thank you and please keep posting). It is what they represent and seeing them build in real time (Live Composite) that is really impressive. This is just 10 minutes but shows how much the stars move or rather the Earth has rotated in respect to the stars. This is showing how the earth spins and WOW how quickly.
  • The North pole stays in the same position where it is as this never changes in respect to the rotation of the earth, the north does not move. Again this is massive as it shows the reason why the north star has been used for thousands of years as a form of sea navigation. At a dark skies event full of astronomers, there are plenty of experts who will show you North Pole.
  • Got to say that when I got this on the laptop (little changes), despite the hedge to reduce the glare, the output are defintiely WOW moments and definitely worth all the hassle. I would recommend any micro 4/3 dipping your toe into astro photography whatever your set up. Below was with OMD 10 Mark II and 12-50 lens
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