June 15, 2014
I spent the night over at the kids house over the weekend to watch the grand dogs. I was by myself and there wasn’t much going on so I thought I would try my hand at some night sky photography. It was a beautiful night and the sky was relatively clear and starry. Amazing how much of a difference 25 miles makes as far as light pollution goes.
I set up my camera with my 18-105mm kit lens on a tripod and made sure it was attached securely. I don’t mind surprises but having my camera fall off and hit the ground is not a surprise I want! I zoomed the lens to 18mm and focused on a distant light to lock in focus and then turned auto focus off. My aperture was set to f3.8. With such a wide angle of view most lenses have pretty good depth of field so going with a large aperture is no biggy. My iso was 160 for this picture. I could have gone with a lower iso but wanted a relatively short exposure. I then composed the frame and locked everything down.
Now comes the fun part! I hooked my phone up to the camera via my trusty Triggertrap dongle and set the app for a timed release of 40 seconds, tapped the button, and Triggertrap did the rest! 40 seconds was a pretty lucky guess I’m thinking as I didn’t have to do much to this in Lightroom except bump up the shadows a bit and sharpen. Next time I might bump up the iso a little more to get a quicker exposure so I can freeze the stars a little more. I’ll have to do some research and experiment a little to find a sweet spot.
This was a fun picture to make. My Triggertrap was set to Star Trails and I made 6 exposures of 90 seconds each. Making multiple frames vs. 1 long exposure makes it easier for you to keep digital noise to a minimum. Same as my other picture, all I had to do was set things up and let the app run! After uploading the pictures in Lightroom I made a few adjustments to the first frame and then synced the other 5 so everything matched. I then clicked Edit With/Open as layers in Photoshop. Photoshop will open a document with all 6 frames as layers. I selected the top 5 layers and set the layer blending mode to Lighten. That was it! By selecting a Lighten blending mode all colors lighter than the first layer will show through. In this example, all the stars were brighter so that was all the 5 selected layers contributed.
I haven’t done much night photography but plan on heading out there again soon and do some more star trail stuff. This was sort of a test drive for me using this app and I am really happy with it. Once you get your focus set all you have to do is compose, set up the app, and the Triggertrap does the rest for you! How cool is that? Next time I’m going to try at least a 1 or 2 hour series of longer exposures. Should be interesting!
I don’t want this post to sound like an ad for Triggertrap but the app was an integral part of making these pictures. The app is free but you have to purchase a dongle to attach your camera to your phone or tablet. The dongles are just under $35 and well worth it! You can check out the app here and see for yourself.