Pixean
Dec 5, 2018

We are always bewildered about what is happening outside our world. For all of you who are highly interested in star gazing, night sky and constellations, this is going to be an experience of a lifetime. And for those who are not into the night sky at all, this will be a unique experience! I used to belong to the latter category.

Photography is an illimitable art form. Time-lapse photography is a perfect example of that. Why time-lapse then? Well, we always want to see things we have never seen. We are always looking for things to excite and fascinate us. Time-lapse does exactly that! An hour long event depicted in a few seconds by a range of photographs enthrals us to the core. This is what a time lapse is defined as. When you combine your passion for photography with your curiosity for the night sky, you actually make a mesmerizing combination. Let us take a look at how we can achieve this…

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Image courtesy Phys.org

  1. Gear: For any time-lapse, you require a very stable set up. Find a tripod which can support up to twice the weight of your camera gear. Suspend a sand sack from the middle leg of your tripod to gain more stability. A time-lapse can be shot with any digital camera but a dslr camera is always more preferable because of the amount of control it gives us. A wide angle lens is required to shoot the night sky. Lenses having focal lengths of 12-15mm or above are advised. An intervalometer is required to shoot a time lapse. This is a device which actually takes control of your camera digitally by conveying to it the number of shots it needs to take and the interval between each shot. It’s better if this doubles up as your remote shutter release too. An extra battery is required since this process can be power consuming. A couple of extra memory cards are also required since you may end up shooting more than a few thousand images and that too in raw format.

 

  1. Camera settings: The exposure triangle parameters of shutter speed, aperture and ISO are the pillars of your photography. Try to use a lens with a wide open aperture. A lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 will get the job done. This will let in more light which is crucial in night photography. The shutter speed will depend on what you want to shoot. Mostly fast shutter speeds are used to freeze actions while slower ones are used to show the motion blur. For night sky time-lapse, slow shutter speeds are always preferable. Keep a shutter speed somewhere between 10-30 seconds and check out the shots. This slow shutter speed will not only let in more amount of light but will also capture the entire motion blur. The ISO has to be kept at minimum to avoid any sort of digital noise. It is always a strict advice to shoot the entire set of images in raw. This will allow capturing as much information as possible in your images and letting you take control during the post processing stage. This is not going to be the case if you shoot in jpeg mode. With these basic camera settings in place, you will have focus on your focus! You want the same depth of field in all your images. Hence the focusing has to be quite accurate. In case you let the camera free on autofocus, you are actually going to lose control of the focusing mechanism. Hence always use the manual focusing option. This may seem a tad scary for many of you but once you practise doing this, your time-lapse videos are going to benefit greatly. The white balance of your camera can be set to auto once you are shooting in raw mode.

 

  1. The star / night sky: Not everything will depend on your camera settings when you are out there shooting the night sky. You need to have some environmental conditions in your favour. You need a dark and clear sky and hence you might have to move outside your city. Photographers prefer the night sky during the new moon and maybe a day later. This is when the sky is at its darkest best and enables you to get clear photographs of the star studded sky. The presence of a moon can actually burn out some parts of your image. In case you want to shoot the Milky Way, you need to do some research on the location and timings. Travel to that location an hour before and setup your camera gear so that you don’t miss a single frame. Location scouting goes a long way in determining the quality of your night sky time-lapse. Compositions of your images are also going to be extremely important. Include as much movable objects as possible. The ground may be static so try to get some attractive ground objects in your frame. This will make the foreground look interesting as well.

 

  1. Time lapse calculations: There is a bit of Math involved in time lapse photography. Decide the length of your final video and the time duration of your shoot. Considering 24 frames per second as the normal playback rate, calculate the time interval required between each shot. The calculation is actually quite simple and we have a dedicated blog for this.

 

  1. Post processing: No genre of digital photography is done and dusted without post processing. With simple adjustments in the exposure, contrast and colour sliders you can drastically change your night sky time-lapse images. Sync those settings in all your images. Later import these images in to video editing software to create the final sequence. Post processing is a skill that requires a lot of practice especially for this genre.

 

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Image courtesy: PictureCorrect

 

The basics of time-lapse photography need to be in your pockets all the time while shooting a night sky time lapse. Experiment in different locations with different compositions to improve your time lapse images. With this I believe you are ready for your first night sky time-lapse.

*Cover image Source*