Intro to Astrophotography?

rgugler

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I just love everybody's photos, and I am excited to try some of my own. I was wondering if anybody could recommend a good primer on how to start with an EM5? I am totally new to m43! When my camera gets here I will have the 12-50mm and 45-200mm lenses. I am also looking a good, lightweight tripod. A hiker/photographer friend recommended the Sirui T-025X. The aluminum model is more in my price range. What else so I need to start astrophotography? I will be working on the Charles M Russell NWR this summer, so I don't want to miss out on all the dark sky time!

Thanks!

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CiaranCReilly

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This is a very very good guide to astrophotography without breaking the bank - http://www.bartbusschots.ie/blog/?p=2386 - Bart is a friend of mine, a talented photographer and excellent at explaining things.

One quick tip I use is to turn "Reset lens" to "on" in the Olympus menu, every time you power off and on your autofocus lens will reset to infinity, which is where you want it to begin with. You can fine tune then on manual focus, as AF will most likely not be much help.
 

bassman

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If funds for a tripod are tight, consider a tabletop tripod like the Manfrotto 709:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home/search?N=0&InitialSearch=yes&InitialSearch=yes&sts=ma&Top+Nav-Search&Ntt=Manfrotto 709

rather than the Siriu. While the T025 is a fine product for its purpose, that purpose certainly doesn't include 15-60 second exposures. Every breeze that comes along will conspire to blur your images on that tripod. The 709 is actually solid as a rock, although somewhat inconvenient to use. But you can't tilt the screen on your camera and still make it work.
 

rgugler

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I'm worried the 709 would be too short to get decent angles from the ground. I'll be in the middle of no where most of this summer with no table to use for height. Is the wobble from the T025 just because it is such a light tripod? I could save a few bucks buying a slightly heavier tripod, but I want a tripod light enough to take hiking for long distances. Would hanging a bag from the center not stabilize it enough?
 

bassman

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It's not the weight so much as it is the thin legs - they're just not rigid. Weight hanging from the center column might help, but IMHO won't really solve it. Just to be clear - I have a similar tripod, the MePhoto Backpacker - for hiking, but I'm really careful when I use it, and don't try the type of long night exposures you're thinking of. I use my $800 Gitzo for that.

I understand and the inconvenience of the tabletop. Keeping the legs on the Sirui collapsed (like the picture B&H has posted

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/917559REG/sirui_bsrt025x_t_025x_carbon_fiber_tripod.html

would help as well. This effectively creates a much heavier and more stable leg.

You can get a sense of how unstable a tripod is by mounting your EM5 on it with the longest lens you have, turn off IBIS (which is recommended for tripod use), focus on something, then invoke the magnified view and watch the wobble on the LCD. Try tapping on the lens and seeing how long it takes to calm down. When you're shooting, use a remote or the timed shutter release. If the Sirui meets your expectations, then you're golden.
 

rgugler

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Makes sense. I wish I could get multiple tripods, but I just can't afford to purchase a full kit of gear all at once.

Could you recommend a generalist tripod under $200 (though lower is better) that still collapses small enough and isn't too much of a brick to carry on long hikes? The main use would be wildlife, landscapes, and macro, but sturdy enough I could dabble in night photography and long exposures or time lapses? I know that is probably too much to ask for at that price, but have to start somewhere.

Thanks!
 

Timmy

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If you're on a really tight budget you could have a look for used Manfrottos - I bought an ancient all-metal version - light enough to carry around but never had issues with wobbles.

You don't need expensive gear to get started in astro - particularly if you're doing star trails. It's more important to practice and get to know your camera - if you really get into it then you look at buying some more gear. If you want to take landscape photos with the stars / milky way static then it's a bit harder without a tracker - but perfectly doable in areas of low light-pollution.

One absolutely essential purchase is a remote timer (with a backlight) - any 3rd party version off ebay will do - they cost almost nothing.

Hand warmers to keep the lens warm (avoid dew) can be useful if it'll be very cold.

Lots and lots of batteries are useful (they drain a lot faster in the cold at night)

A few good settings to get you started (assuming you might not want to do everything RAW):

- IBIS off
- Grad = normal (not auto)
- reset lens = on
- keep warm colours = off
- Noise (dark frame reduction) = Off if you're doing sequence for star trails, On if your taking a single photo
- Noise filter = low (assuming you'll tidy up noise in PP)

As you practice you'll figure our the limits of your camera (e.g. at which point hot-pixels / noise start appearing). I just go in the garden most nights with my humble PL3 and kit lens - the photo's aren't amazing but I learn and lot by practicing and it's great fun:

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/timmyhoops/11194247954" title="washline by Tim Hooper, on Flickr">
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
"500" height="375" alt="washline"></a>
 

rgugler

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Thank you for the information!

Has anybody used a Manfrotto 190xb? It is a bit heavier, but seems to have good reviews.

My camera should be here Monday, I'm so excited! :D The full moon is coming up, so maybe I could try for a shot of that and get to know my settings until new moon.

For a time release, has anybody ever used TriggerTrap? I don't think it is sold in the US, but it looks like it could be shipped.
 

Timmy

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For a time release, has anybody ever used TriggerTrap? I don't think it is sold in the US, but it looks like it could be shipped.
Bear in mind using an phone/tablet for triggering you've got another thing that could run out of battery, and every time you pull it out of standby you ruin your night vision. The batteries in handheld remotes last for months - on the other hand if you've got something plugged into the camera there is a risk you accidentally shake the camera during a shot.
 

Qiou87

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There's a nice little blog tutorial on 500px: photograph the night sky

Then there's this map of the World at night, to show which areas are susceptible to be "polluted" by city lights and therefore not suitable for night photography.

Hope this helps. I've been looking at astrophoto for a couple months, I'd like to try but I'm not such an early riser and I live in a highly populated area with at least 45min driving to get anywhere near a good clean sky.
 

rgugler

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I'll be living and working about an hour northeast of Lewistown, Montana this summer.

I looked it up on the map and yep, pretty darn dark! :D

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Still looking for a tripod. I think it is taking longer to find one than it did to pick out a camera! Has anybody used the Benro Travel Angel tripods?
 

CiaranCReilly

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Don't stress about tripods or gear, just get out there and shoot!

And no need for a trigger release, the less junk you have to faff about with in the dark the better, just use 2 second self timer, simples!
 

LeeOsenton

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Excellent Presentation

This is a very very good guide to astrophotography without breaking the bank - http://www.bartbusschots.ie/blog/?p=2386 - Bart is a friend of mine, a talented photographer and excellent at explaining things.

One quick tip I use is to turn "Reset lens" to "on" in the Olympus menu, every time you power off and on your autofocus lens will reset to infinity, which is where you want it to begin with. You can fine tune then on manual focus, as AF will most likely not be much help.
Thanks for posting this link! I learned a lot from Bart that applies to much more than just astrophotography.

Lee
 

slothead

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Both, but there are going to be a lot more of the former since they are much easier (and less expensive) to make.

What kind of astrophotography are we talking about here? Wide angle sky shots or serious telescope astrophotography?
 

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