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You don't need to be a professional astronomer/photographer, to take good astrophotos!
To get started, the main things you will need are:
A 35mm Manual SLR camera and preferably a selection of other lenses (see above, left).
A tripod - Not absolutely necessary but it helps a lot! This is another way you can do it.
A shutter release cable (see image above).
Some film - Use a fast film, 400 or 800 ASA.
Last but not least: PRACTICE AND PATIENCE!
There are of course other lenses and accessories you can get so you can take better photos, these are just the basic things, but you still can take good astrophotos with just this equipment!
Here are the steps you have to take to photograph the night sky.
- First of all, and probably most difficult of all, find some clear sky!
- Second, make sure there is some film in the camera!
- Check to make sure that the ASA setting the camera is set to, matches the ASA film that is in the camera (see above, left).
- Set your camera up on a tripod.
- Put the shutter release cable on the top of the camera (see above, left).
- Turn the camera onto Manual. (There should be the option of Auto or Manual on top of the camera. See above, left)
- Set the exposure time setting to B or T, depending on what option is on your camera. (This allows you to leave the shutter on the camera open for however long you want)
- Set the focus to Infinity
- Set the F/ratio to around F/5.6.
- Take the camera outside and aim it at a constellation or the area of sky you want to photograph.
- Hold some black cardboard or black paper in front of the lens. (This stops any shaking which is caused when the shutter opens,resulting in blurred stars)
- Press, and hold the button on the shutter release cable (see above, centre), and you should hear a "click" as the shutter on the camera opens to let the light of the stars onto the film.
- Take the black cardboard or paper away from in front of the camera lens.
- Lock the shutter open by tightening the thumbscrew on the side of the shutter cable (see above, centre). You can now let go of the shutter cable, and it should stay down, holding the shutter on the camera open.
- Leave the camera for a while. (Around 5 to 10 minutes)
- Place the cardboard back in front of the camera lens, and unscrew the thumbscrew, and you should hear a "click" as the camera shutter goes back down.
- Remove the cardboard from in front of the camera.
- Wind the film on.
To take another photo, just repeat the steps #10 to #18.
The longer your exposure times are, the longer your star trails will be. If you look at this 5 minute photo, then at this 17 minute photo, you can see the difference in the length of the star trails because of the different length in exposure times.
Click here to see what sort of exposure times to do for different objects, as well as some constellations to start with.
Some other tips:
Set the camera up on a sturdy, flat surface.
If possible, allow the camera 15 - 20 minutes to cool down, and for the dew to evaporate before starting to take photos. If dew appears on the lens during an exposure, use a hair-dryer to clear it off.
Tell the assistant at the photo lab that there are night shots on your film, and to print every frame! In some of the shots, its a bit hard to see the object in the negative, so they think there is nothing on there, and don't print the negative
If you are going to be doing long exposures (5 - 10 minutes or longer), try do it when the Moon is not in the sky, or during a new Moon. If the moon is in the sky during the exposure, it will "wash" the photo out. This could, at times, be helpful though, if you are wanting the Moon to light some scenery/foreground up.
If you have any other questions about taking astrophotos, feel free to e-mail me.
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