Astrophotography - The Bug Has Bitten

Sabaki

EOS 6D MK II
Dec 4, 2012
800
0
45
Cape Town, South Africa
So this weekend past, I attended an astrophotography workshop with my camera club.

And I loved it!

I have a few questions though and I hope you guys can give me some advice please :)

Editing Software

We got loads of advise as to what software should be used but as I'm a Windows user, most of what was suggested is not available to me.

I can get my panos this far (see insert, not my image) but I'm not sure how to get the image close to rectangular and how to correct the distortion on the stars at the top of the stitched pano.

Any recommendations on editing software for Windows?

Geared Head Good Enough?

I love my geared head and was wondering if it is sufficient for astro or should I lay down some cash for a pano head and leveling base

Samyang XP 14mm f/2.4 Lens (Canon)

I have some f/2.8 & f/4.0 lenses. Any opinions on the newer Samyang 14mm?


Sorry for all these noob questions but I really cannot think of a better forum to pitch these questions. I remember jrista had an awesome post but I couldn't find it

Thanks in advance everybody :)
 

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BeenThere

EOS 6D MK II
Sep 4, 2012
864
194
I would suggest that you develop your technique without using multi-shot panos first. And then add complications like pano shots once you are satisfied with single shot results. The Samyang 14mm f/2.4 is a great lens to use for Astro photography. At 14mm, on a FF Camera, it is wide enough to get a significant amount of the Milky Way into one image. ✨
 

Don Haines

Beware of cats with laser eyes!
Jun 4, 2012
8,228
1,841
Canada
Beware the dark side, for once have you set down its path, forever will it consume your destiny.....
 

Sabaki

EOS 6D MK II
Dec 4, 2012
800
0
45
Cape Town, South Africa
BeenThere said:
I would suggest that you develop your technique without using multi-shot panos first. And then add complications like pano shots once you are satisfied with single shot results. The Samyang 14mm f/2.4 is a great lens to use for Astro photography. At 14mm, on a FF Camera, it is wide enough to get a significant amount of the Milky Way into one image. ✨
Fair advice, thank you

The facilitator gave us briefings on stacking, panos etc so I thought I'm out here in the dark, let me try my hand at the panos too

Hmmmm....so maybe I should save up for that 14mm :p
 

Don Haines

Beware of cats with laser eyes!
Jun 4, 2012
8,228
1,841
Canada
Geared heads are wonderful.... the allow very precise positioning of the camera and they do not droop. If you are manually tracking an object, it is a lot easier than other heads....

As to lenses, the more light the better.... I broke down and got a 20MMF1.4 lens for my 6D2, it's a great combo for things like the milky way.... 14mm on crop would be the same. The included shot was during a camping trip and was at 20mm and about 5 seconds exposure.... No fancy processing, just lightroom….

There are some smaller tracking heads available, such as the skywatcher head https://focusscientific.com/product_info.php/cPath/49_56/products_id/957
which can be used to track objects so you can do long (or multiple) exposures without stars turning into lines....

Have fun!
 

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NancyP

EOS 6D MK II
Dec 17, 2013
1,297
14
The big question: are you interested in "astro-landscape" wide angle photography, or are you interested in sky-only photography, either with ordinary moderate telephoto lenses or with telescope?

If the latter, I would suggest finding your local astronomy club, which may have several members doing planetary imaging or "BFO" (big fuzzy object - ie, galaxy or group of stars) imaging. You may find the club helpful and enjoyable even if you are mostly doing wide angle work - you will learn more about how to find iridium flares, other earth-orbit objects, meteor showers, etc.

For astro-landscape, you may want to explore foreground lighting options, light painting (flashlight and diffuser) and continuous low level lighting. I am thinking about getting continuous lighting equipment. :
http://intothenightphoto.blogspot.com/2017/02/low-level-landscape-lighting-tutoriallow.html
https://www.bryanhansel.com/2017/low-level-lighting-nightscape-milky-way-photography/
http://www.mitzenmacher.net/blog/?p=1719

Geared heads are great.

Fast lenses are best. Beware of "coma" aberration (batwings on your stars in field corners). To see lens tests for coma, go to Lenstip review site.

My (older) lenses, also used for regular photography (camera is Canon FF 6D original):
Samyang 14 mm f/ 2.8 manual focus lens (an older version, new ones now have autofocus for some reason) (cheap!!)(used at f/2.8)
Zeiss Distagon 21 mm f/2.8 (it is a favorite landscape lens, tack sharp at f/2.8)(used at f/2.8)
Sigma Art 35 mm f/1.4 (also a favorite landscape and walk-about lens) (used at f/2.0)

There are many newer lenses out there, including a Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 zoom that seems to be well-liked among astrophotographers.

Samyang manual focus lenses in general have little coma and are favorites of astrophotographers - the Samyang 24 f/1.4 is probably the favorite lens of most astrophotographers


This photographer has a great, detailed, geeky site: http://www.clarkvision.com/
Check out his article list - there's a long section (~20 pages) on astrophotography

"Clear Dark Sky" website has 48 hour weather and seeing reports for the US and Canada.
 

KeithBreazeal

EOS 6D MK II
Jan 16, 2014
1,264
57
www.kbvp.com
I use Lightroom to process all my images. Getting your exposures correct is the key.
I use both the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 and the Sigma 14mm f1.8 Art. Both are good astro lenses. The Rokinon wins with the lack of coma at the edges whereas the Sigma has some at the corners at f1.8. The Sigma wins with less distortion and the ability to shoot either with a lower ISO or faster shutter speed.

Lightroom before/after

5D IV jpg Milky Way edit test 2337 © Keith Breazeal by Keith Breazeal, on Flickr
 

Sabaki

EOS 6D MK II
Dec 4, 2012
800
0
45
Cape Town, South Africa
NancyP said:
The big question: are you interested in "astro-landscape" wide angle photography, or are you interested in sky-only photography, either with ordinary moderate telephoto lenses or with telescope?

If the latter, I would suggest finding your local astronomy club, which may have several members doing planetary imaging or "BFO" (big fuzzy object - ie, galaxy or group of stars) imaging. You may find the club helpful and enjoyable even if you are mostly doing wide angle work - you will learn more about how to find iridium flares, other earth-orbit objects, meteor showers, etc.

For astro-landscape, you may want to explore foreground lighting options, light painting (flashlight and diffuser) and continuous low level lighting. I am thinking about getting continuous lighting equipment. :
http://intothenightphoto.blogspot.com/2017/02/low-level-landscape-lighting-tutoriallow.html
https://www.bryanhansel.com/2017/low-level-lighting-nightscape-milky-way-photography/
http://www.mitzenmacher.net/blog/?p=1719

Geared heads are great.

Fast lenses are best. Beware of "coma" aberration (batwings on your stars in field corners). To see lens tests for coma, go to Lenstip review site.

My (older) lenses, also used for regular photography (camera is Canon FF 6D original):
Samyang 14 mm f/ 2.8 manual focus lens (an older version, new ones now have autofocus for some reason) (cheap!!)(used at f/2.8)
Zeiss Distagon 21 mm f/2.8 (it is a favorite landscape lens, tack sharp at f/2.8)(used at f/2.8)
Sigma Art 35 mm f/1.4 (also a favorite landscape and walk-about lens) (used at f/2.0)

There are many newer lenses out there, including a Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 zoom that seems to be well-liked among astrophotographers.

Samyang manual focus lenses in general have little coma and are favorites of astrophotographers - the Samyang 24 f/1.4 is probably the favorite lens of most astrophotographers


This photographer has a great, detailed, geeky site: http://www.clarkvision.com/
Check out his article list - there's a long section (~20 pages) on astrophotography

"Clear Dark Sky" website has 48 hour weather and seeing reports for the US and Canada.
I'm definitely into the wide angle variety, where I can capture some foreground and some sky. That being said, I will try and delve into all the various disciplines.

I'm more and more looking to one of either the Samyang 14mm or 24mm but TDP's review of the 14mm says it is soft until stopped down to f/2.8 and that's a bit of a caveat if fast is a reason to get those lenses

What's interesting in your comment is the flashgun and diffusion for those foreground shots, I was considering bouncing the flash off of a reflector or something.

Thank you so very much for your feedback, I'll definitely go check out those websites

Much appreciated :)
 

Sabaki

EOS 6D MK II
Dec 4, 2012
800
0
45
Cape Town, South Africa
Don Haines said:
Geared heads are wonderful.... the allow very precise positioning of the camera and they do not droop. If you are manually tracking an object, it is a lot easier than other heads....

As to lenses, the more light the better.... I broke down and got a 20MMF1.4 lens for my 6D2, it's a great combo for things like the milky way.... 14mm on crop would be the same. The included shot was during a camping trip and was at 20mm and about 5 seconds exposure.... No fancy processing, just lightroom….

There are some smaller tracking heads available, such as the skywatcher head https://focusscientific.com/product_info.php/cPath/49_56/products_id/957
which can be used to track objects so you can do long (or multiple) exposures without stars turning into lines....

Have fun!
Hi Don :)

Cool image! How did you manage to get your image so rectangular?

I did a 5x4 pano (for experimentation purposes) and ended up with a weird shape. It wasn't only the shape that bothered me but also the 'bunching' of the stars at the top of the frame and I wasn't sure how to process that shape into a usable image.

The facilitator is and always has been an Apple user and most of the programs he suggested was for that platform and I'm a Windows user

But yeah! It was exciting to sink my teeth into a new genre, I'm definitely excited about doing more of it
 

Sabaki

EOS 6D MK II
Dec 4, 2012
800
0
45
Cape Town, South Africa
KeithBreazeal said:
I use Lightroom to process all my images. Getting your exposures correct is the key.
I use both the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 and the Sigma 14mm f1.8 Art. Both are good astro lenses. The Rokinon wins with the lack of coma at the edges whereas the Sigma has some at the corners at f1.8. The Sigma wins with less distortion and the ability to shoot either with a lower ISO or faster shutter speed.

Lightroom before/after

5D IV jpg Milky Way edit test 2337 © Keith Breazeal by Keith Breazeal, on Flickr
Hi Keith :)

I also am totally besotted with my geared head. What I find funny is that the majority of landscape users who use ballheads, don't seem to have any idea of just how awesome geared heads are!

Your image, I noticed you shot wider than I did, 14mm vs 16mm. Was this a single image?

The facilitator advised for panos shot at wider focal lengths, the stitched image will have an irregular shape, that's more exaggerated the wider the lens

Thank you for the feedback :) Much appreciated
 

Sabaki

EOS 6D MK II
Dec 4, 2012
800
0
45
Cape Town, South Africa
NancyP said:
Samyang manual focus lenses in general have little coma and are favorites of astrophotographers - the Samyang 24 f/1.4 is probably the favorite lens of most astrophotographers
Another consideration is that I already own 3 lenses (24mm TS-E, 16-35 & 24-70) that do 24mm. Would I want to add another 24mm to the mix? I could potentially use the 14mm for interiors too ???
 

Joules

EOS 7D MK II
Jul 16, 2017
467
405
Hamburg, Germany
I'm new to astro photography myself so I'll gladly take any advice coming from this thread as well. I just wanted to share my thoughts on the software related question, based on the limited experience that I have.

Recently I took a panorama of 30 images at 16mm with my 80D (~ 24mm) which lightroom couldn't stack properly and photoshop distorted it a lot, like the picture you showed in your opening post. I edit my images mostly in Lightroom but Photoshop can help with some astro stuff. Even though the color and subject aren't all that great, I got the perspective pretty naturally looking using Photoshop's Adaptive Wideangle filter. I would imagine it could work for you as well, but I only used it on this one astro image so far, so a different tool might be better.

Also, if you want to get into stacking and dark frame subtraction on Windows, the free Software Sequator is worth a try. I had done some tests with Deep Sky Stacker a while back and got frustrated with it - None of that with sequator, it makes getting rid of noise super easy and can even reduce Light Pollution greatly. A good alternative to Starry Landscape Stacker, if it isn't even better than that. It's also really fast.

As far as lenses go, since I use a crop camera my experience probably doesn't help you much but I'm very happy with the Samyang 16mm 2.0 and Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art. They only give me 24mm and 55mm equivalents, but there's basically no coma or softness to worry about with these primes. And for going wider I take a panorama, which essentially also decreases noise by reducing the size of the grain relative to the entire image. Which is helpful for me as I can gather the same amount of signal with both lenses (10s at 1.4 or 20s at 2.0), but it is still slightly less than for example the 14mm 2.4 and even a full stop less than the 24mm 1.4 on a Full Frame camera could gather while avoiding star trails.
 

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Sabaki

EOS 6D MK II
Dec 4, 2012
800
0
45
Cape Town, South Africa
Joules said:
I'm new to astro photography myself so I'll gladly take any advice coming from this thread as well. I just wanted to share my thoughts on the software related question, based on the limited experience that I have.

Recently I took a panorama of 30 images at 16mm with my 80D (~ 24mm) which lightroom couldn't stack properly and photoshop distorted it a lot, like the picture you showed in your opening post. I edit my images mostly in Lightroom but Photoshop can help with some astro stuff. Even though the color and subject aren't all that great, I got the perspective pretty naturally looking using Photoshop's Adaptive Wideangle filter. I would imagine it could work for you as well, but I only used it on this one astro image so far, so a different tool might be better.

Also, if you want to get into stacking and dark frame subtraction on Windows, the free Software Sequator is worth a try. I had done some tests with Deep Sky Stacker a while back and got frustrated with it - None of that with sequator, it makes getting rid of noise super easy and can even reduce Light Pollution greatly. A good alternative to Starry Landscape Stacker, if it isn't even better than that. It's also really fast.

As far as lenses go, since I use a crop camera my experience probably doesn't help you much but I'm very happy with the Samyang 16mm 2.0 and Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art. They only give me 24mm and 55mm equivalents, but there's basically no coma or softness to worry about with these primes. And for going wider I take a panorama, which essentially also decreases noise by reducing the size of the grain relative to the entire image. Which is helpful for me as I can gather the same amount of signal with both lenses (10s at 1.4 or 20s at 2.0), but it is still slightly less than for example the 14mm 2.4 and even a full stop less than the 24mm 1.4 on a Full Frame camera could gather while avoiding star trails.
Hi Joules :)

Thank you for the feedback

I also did about a 30 image pano but with my 6D and 16-35 f/4.0 so I'm thinking if you were able to correct so well in the Adaptive Wide Angle module, it's perhaps the best place for me to start

I will download the other software too and see what works and doesnt work for me.

Nice image btw! Better than what I got
 

Don Haines

Beware of cats with laser eyes!
Jun 4, 2012
8,228
1,841
Canada
Sabaki said:
I will download the other software too and see what works and doesnt work for me.

There is another package for panoramas called AutoPano Giga... It is specifically designed for panoramas and can handle some pretty serious sized ones... It's not free, but they do have a downloadable version to try out... it is the same software as the paid version, except it puts watermarks on the images...
 

stevelee

FT-QL
Jul 6, 2017
1,286
310
Davidson, NC
I've had good luck with the Adaptive Wide Angle on a lot of images.

These days I start from Bridge, select the pictures, and open them in Filmstrip mode. Then I select them all and go to the little pulldown menu just above the thumbnails and choose panorama. Before it finishes, it gives you a slider to control the resulting perspective. That often works well, and can save me what can be a lot of work in AWA. I've not tried this with sky photos per se, but they should work just as well.

If the exposures look weirdly different, when you first open them in the filmstrip, they can be chosen individually and worked on, I would presume. I've not needed to do that, as I recall.

One of the more challenging AWA projects of mine was a picture of the room in which Will Rogers was born. Shots were made from the doorway with my S120 zoomed out to 24mm equivalent in 2015. I could probably do a better job now, or at least if no better, at least with less struggle. It is the sort of thing that experience helps, both in the original shooting and in the eventual processing.



About as close as I get to the sky panorama is something like this composite of Pittsburgh:

 

KeithBreazeal

EOS 6D MK II
Jan 16, 2014
1,264
57
www.kbvp.com
Sabaki said:
KeithBreazeal said:
I use Lightroom to process all my images. Getting your exposures correct is the key.
I use both the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 and the Sigma 14mm f1.8 Art. Both are good astro lenses. The Rokinon wins with the lack of coma at the edges whereas the Sigma has some at the corners at f1.8. The Sigma wins with less distortion and the ability to shoot either with a lower ISO or faster shutter speed.

Lightroom before/after

5D IV jpg Milky Way edit test 2337 © Keith Breazeal by Keith Breazeal, on Flickr
Hi Keith :)

I also am totally besotted with my geared head. What I find funny is that the majority of landscape users who use ballheads, don't seem to have any idea of just how awesome geared heads are!

Your image, I noticed you shot wider than I did, 14mm vs 16mm. Was this a single image?

The facilitator advised for panos shot at wider focal lengths, the stitched image will have an irregular shape, that's more exaggerated the wider the lens

Thank you for the feedback :) Much appreciated
This was a single image with a 14mm. Lightroom can be very powerful for night sky work. It's taken me a while to really get into the "little things" during the editing- which steps to do first, brushing techniques, etc. Every photo shoot is different, so each time I learn something new or a better approach. If you light paint, it gets even more complicated. Auto white balance is good until you light paint, so set the Kelvin manually. For panos, Manual Kelvin settings might be a good choice if the skyline has light pollution in one area.
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
8,063
1,360
119
Sabaki said:
I also am totally besotted with my geared head. What I find funny is that the majority of landscape users who use ballheads, don't seem to have any idea of just how awesome geared heads are!
I have had several over the years but have settled on the Arca Swiss d4 I got used off eBay, it is a great head but if I went for a new one it would be the p0 Hybrid.
 

Frodo

EOS RP
Nov 3, 2012
298
17
Sabaki said:
I'm more and more looking to one of either the Samyang 14mm or 24mm but TDP's review of the 14mm says it is soft until stopped down to f/2.8 and that's a bit of a caveat if fast is a reason to get those lenses
I use the old, fully manual Samyang 14mm f/2.8. It is plenty sharp at f/2.8 and has negligible coma even wide open. It has a weird moustache distortion but my Lightroom profile removes that. However, the profile crops the image slightly and corrects the vignetting so I get a little more noise in the corners.

In contrast my EF 35/2.8 IS has awful coma wide open and is unusable until f/2.8 and better at f/4. Indeed my 24-105/4 IS has less coma wide open.

This photo is taken with the Samyang 14/2.8 wide open on a 6D.

Has anyone else seen the kiwi bird in the Milky Way, just below the bright spot in the galactic centre?
 

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