During my recent trip to a cottage located east of Toronto I got the opportunity to do some astrophotography. Some of the photos turned out great, to my liking.
I have done photography for a long time but over the past couple of years, I developed a fascination for astrophotography. When I look at the light-polluted sky I sometimes see bright stars but the photos of what lies beyond the vision of my eyes excited me.
And I started to ‘explore the skies’ in earnest during the first lockdown in 2020.
However, my initial efforts to get some good photos frustrated me. Some appeared as if there was camera shake even though they were shot using a tripod while others were just a dark sky with some dots. Not those fantastic photos showing the milky way in different color settings.
Here is a photo I took in 2020.
18mm/F6.3/15 sec/ISO 800
Nothing special. The blurry images or lines instead of sharply focused stars are caused by camera shake during the pressing of the shutter, the earth’s movement etc.
It was at this time, in the summer of 2020, that the Neowise comet made news. Having realized that it will not appear for another 6800 years, I decided to take a shot at it. Armed with my Nikon camera and the 18-300 lens I drove around my city trying to find a good spot and look for the comet.
However, it was a total failure. There was too much light and I did not know where to go to find a less polluted spot.
Then came the good news. Someone in a Facebook community group mentioned a spot just a few kilometers away from my home, towards north of Toronto, where there was not much light so one could spot the comet.
Off I went one night.
I couldn’t initially locate the comet because of the cloud cover. Besides, I didn’t even know where to look.
Fortunately for me, there were a few other astrophotography enthusiasts gathered in that spot and they pointed to the area where I could observe.
And there it was – the Neowise!
Once I located it, I needed a few settings and I got some good shots.
I followed up with some more trips.
Here is one photo.
34mm/F6.3/15 sec/ISO 1000
Months went by and I did not do much photography but whenever I did, I was not happy.
The Lens Challenge with Astrophotography
I realized that my lens – the 18-300 – is not the ideal lens for astrophotography so after much research I went for a Samyang 14mm/f2.8 wide-angle beast.
But still I wasn’t happy with the photos I took from my deck.
And then this year I got to spend a few days in a cottage about 100km north-east of Toronto. It was a waterfront cottage with direct access to the lake.
It was not the darkest place in the evening as across the lake there was light but it was still much darker than where I live.
I spent about half an hour each day for two days capturing the sky. Some of the best photographs came when I set up my tripod on the edge of the boat dock.
Here are some of the photos.
14mm/F3.5/30 sec/ISO 3200
14mm/F8/30 sec/ISO 3200
I took this photo from my Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (using a tripod)
7mm/F1.8/30 sec/ISO 3200
Note that I have not used any software or stacking to upgrade the photos.
I am happy with these photos but I still have some way to go.