Monday, 20 August 2012

Imaging the night sky, a tutorial and melting snowflakes!!!

Good afternoon interweb, I trust you are somewhat better than I am today what with my glass back and all that. Bloody painful today, not even managed to get to the gym yet. Anyway I have been asked for some tips on photographing the night sky so without too much more rambling I will try to explain the basics. All the photographs featured here today were done using this method.
For those of us who are lucky enough to not live in a major city (exclude me) the night sky is an amazing sight when you look up. Those of us who do live in a city will see only a fraction of what is actually up there due to the light pollution.
With this in mind the first thing you are going to want to do when imaging the night sky is to get out of the city. It isn’t practical in England to have truly dark skies but you can give yourself a fighting chance.
In this section I am going to deal with simple straight forward night sky shooting and leave the stacking for another chapter.
Now you are hopefully away from the worst of the light pollution you can sit your camera on its tripod and pour yourself a nice hot chocolate. Give your eyes 5-10 minutes to adjust to the darkness and then if you look south and up if you’re lucky you will see the milky way in all its majesty. Really you can see it with the naked eye and it is amazing. Now to capture this in a photograph we are going to have to take a few things into consideration. In general terms you will want to set your camera to ISO 1600 with an exposure of 25 to 30 seconds. Depending on what lens you are using and how much star trailing you are willing to accept will be a factor in the exposure time. As a general rule of thumb you divide 600 by the focal length of the lens not forgetting any adjustment for sensor size.
An example would be my 17-85mm lens set at 17mm on a Canon EOS 7D So 17x1.6 for sensor crop thingy gives us 27.2ish, 600 divided by 27.2ish gives us 22ish. So to avoid trailing stars I would have to use an exposure of 22ish seconds. I'm using ish a lot because all of the setting are very ishy to be honest but it gives you a starting point. You will then want to open up the lens to it’s widest aperture and the close it one stop.
Switch your lens to manual focus and focus it to the infinity mark, that’s the lazy #8, it looks like a number 8 laying down for those of you that don’t know.
Now you will want to minimise any movement of the camera on the tripod whilst the exposure is taking place so if it is windy remove the neck strap and if you don’t have a cable release use the timer setting to trip the shutter. If you really want to go belt and braces you could also use the mirror lock up.
After you have your shot make any adjustments you feel are needed to the settings and take another shot. Again make any adjustments to ISO exposure etc and take some more.
 To add a little more interest maybe include some of the surrounding landscape however be aware that the more your camera is towards the horizon the more light pollution will creep into shot. This can sometimes be quite effective but most of the time it’s a pain in the ass.
If your really lucky you may even get a meteorite etc fly across your shot whilst the shutter is open.
When you have your shots the next thing to do is to load them into your processing software. I use Lightroom and Photoshop and switch between them making adjustments. The luminance control in lightroom is very very good for controlling the noise in the image and bringing out some of the colour whilst I find Photoshop great for doing several curves and levels adjustments.

Right so there you go, a basic starter for ten introduction to taking photographs of the night sky. I will try and put into some sort of English my method of stacking photographs in the next instalment.
Right then interweb, now for some drivel. The ability to delude yourself may be an important survival tool, and remember this, we have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand... and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it before it is too late.

Peace out yall, THE BAGSTAXXX

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Anoraks, chocolate bars and the universe!!!

Good afternoon interweb, and a very pleasant one it is too, shame I have to go to work soon till midnight. Some of you who read my ramblings may be well aware that I am interested in lots of things that mean I am an anorak, The Universe, how it works, physics etc etc.
I have over the last couple of nights been trying to capture images of our Milky Way. (I have never managed to work out why so many chocolate bars are named after celestial objects)
This task has been made very difficult due to the fact that I am in proximity to several very large cities and the light pollution from these makes astrophotography very difficult.
I have however managed to capture what I consider reasonable images. The best of which I did last night.
 The image is a stack of 2 darks (exposure with lens cap on for the same as the photographs and at the same iso) 1 Offset image and 5 photographs.
These were then stacked and the curves and levels adjusted to bring out the fine detail.
I also managed to capture the first Perseid meteor of the month and will be back out after midnight tonight when I finish work to hopefully capture some more.

And so interweb after a brief flirtation it is time to move on to the drivel of the day, Keeping with the subject of today's blog, just like stars, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same and with regards to “them” I find If you cannot convince them, confuse them.
And lastly, never forget it is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.
Peace out y'all, THE BAGSTAXXX

Monday, 6 August 2012

Emotions, Gymnasts and bad planning!!!

Good afternoon interweb,at the moment a rather bright day is outside my office window and I am hopeful if nothing else that the skies will clear this evening so that I might get a look skyward with the telescope instead of through the bedroom windows of the pretty ladies who live across the valley. Only joking, cough cough. Lol.
I have been somewhat addicted to watching the Olympics this weekend, in between working at the hospital that is and I have been quite transfixed.
It is not really my “thing” at all but Saturday night was an absolute belter and I was even sober as I had to work the following morning.
Jess Ennis winning gold was surprisingly an emotional moment. I know she hails from my home town and all that but I actually felt quite proud of the young  lass and dare I say it, I was a bit choked. Not by Fi for a change but by some strange feeling, I think it was what normal would people call emotions. Anyway I'm over it now and normal service has been resumed. 

I was at the gym myself this morning and took a big chunk of time out of my own personal best managing 30K in 59 minutes and 20 seconds on the bike. It’s the only thing I'm allowed to do at the minute due to my bad back. I had an MRI scan on it last week and actually managed to fall asleep inside the machine which was banging out noise like a 90’s rave. I eventually woke myself up snoring. Now I just have another 3 weeks to wait for the results. At least the exercise is keeping blood flowing to the damaged area reducing any bad stuff happening to it.
This afternoon I will mostly be watching Cricket or Women’s Gymnastics, hmmmmm is that really a choice or a foregone conclusion interweb. I think we both know the answer to that one.
 Last week I had a moment of conscience and decided that I would be good and try to recycle something to stop people bloody pissing and moaning at me all the time despite my ability to point out to them that they are less green than I am.
It was with this idea in mind that I decided to do something with my collection of VHS tapes and movies and collectors editions.
It is no wonder that many people don’t recycle. You cannot get shut of the things on Ebay and charity shops don’t want them. You can’t give the bloody things away and the only people who do want anything to do with them are mad art or fashion student drop outs who want the tape from the inside so that they can crochet the tape into a handbag or dress of other moronic fashion statement that confirms their mental instability.
We live in England idiots. What happens when it rains? Oh yes that’s right, your new bag or top will begin to rust with the ferrous oxide particles in the tape not to mention the harm to your lungs as other particles are inhaled from the unwound tape.
In other news as I mentioned earlier I am hoping for clear skies this evening to calibrate the telescope with the cameras extra weight. Just another quick mention about the upcoming Perseid meteor shower which can be seen next weekend in the UK looking North East. If you have a camera which has manual functions and you want to have a go at capturing some of the delights the shower will bring here are some basic settings to try out.
Stick your camera on a tripod pointing up into the night sky. (looking NE) If you can get out of the city to a darker area it would be better. Set the iso to around 800 iso and the shutter speed to 30 seconds. Turn off the auto focus of the lens and manually focus the lens to the infinity mark. 

Then simply start taking photographs and look out for the meteors. Good luck.
And so interweb it is time for today’s drivel, Did you know that it is the gravitational force of a super massive black hole at the centre of our solar system that actually makes it all work? And also fools rush in where fools have been before, adventure is just bad planning and with the Olympics in mind,  it is worth remembering that the moment of victory is much too short to live for that and nothing else.
Peace out yall, THE BAGSTAXXX