Intro to Astrophotography: How to Capture the Beauty of the Night Sky | Gary Cummins | Skillshare

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Intro to Astrophotography: How to Capture the Beauty of the Night Sky

teacher avatar Gary Cummins, Night Sky Chaser

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

15 Lessons (1h 59m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Class Overview

    • 3. Gathering Your Gear

    • 4. Researching Your Location

    • 5. Planning the Shoot Date

    • 6. Shooting on Location

    • 7. Light Painting

    • 8. Photo Stacking

    • 9. Light Panel Blending

    • 10. Light Panel Editing

    • 11. Drone Blending

    • 12. Drone Editing

    • 13. Ambient Light Blending

    • 14. Ambient Light Editing

    • 15. Conclusion

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About This Class

Want to know how to photograph the brilliance and beauty of the night sky?

Join National Geographic-published photographer Gary Cummins to learn about an exciting and eye-opening technique: astrophotography.  In this class we will cover the many different methods used for capturing high quality images of the night sky, compiled with interesting foregrounds. The individual, easy to follow lessons will give you the tools to start taking photos with confidence or improve on what you already have in your knowledge base. It will give you a unique understanding of low light photography, which can be applied to other low light photography situations. The lessons include how to:

  • Getting the right gear that's perfect for night shooting
  • Researching and planning your shoot location and date
  • Getting into the field and learning how to shoot on location at night
  • Blending and editing your photos in Photoshop

Plus tons of unique tips and tricks light Light Painting to give your photos an incredible look. We want our photos to tell a story. By the end of this course, you will be supplied with the adequate tools to tell your story.

This class is for anyone interested in taking photos of the night sky and working in low light conditions. If you are just starting out or are looking to improve on your shooting or editing methods, this course is for you. All skill levels welcome.

Come join the adventure!

Meet Your Teacher

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Gary Cummins

Night Sky Chaser


Hello, I'm Gary,

I'm a photographer originally from Ireland, now living in Toronto, Canada. I have been an avid astrophotographer for the past three years and it has become my favorite style. There is something that's just simply wonderful about taking photos of the night sky. It's definitely a great adventure!
I have spent the last couple of years finding my style and trying new things. So let's head out and create something beautiful!


You can find me on Instagram @garycphotography



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1. Introduction: Have you ever wanted to take photos of the night sky but can't seem to get a road or just don't know where to begin? Are you looking to improve your shooting and editing techniques? Well, this course is definitely for you. Hi, my name is Gary Cummins, and I'm an astrophotographer based out of Toronto, Canada. I've been taking photographs for maybe eight years now, and the astro stuff really only started back in the beginning of 2018 when I went on a pretty big trip, and that trip took me to Iceland. It was in January, so there was a lot of dark nights, long nights, and thankfully, a lot of clear skies. I was just blown away by the stars that we could see at nighttime. I'm here today to teach you all I know about taking photos of the night sky and adding them to a frame well replenished. This course is aimed towards beginners who are just trying to get into astrophotography or more advanced photographers who are familiar with their camera gear and editing methods and stuff like that. The whole purpose of this course is to get you comfortable working in places that have little to no available light. I will teach you the fundamentals of astrophotography, from focusing and composing in the dark to exposure settings and different light painting techniques. I'll run you through the gear I use and what you yourself can use to capture amazing photos of the night sky. After I've colored all the technical and shooting aspects for your cameras, I'll then take you into Photoshop and put everything together to make the image come to life. This might seem a little complex and daunting at first glance, but by just following my step-by-step guide, we'll have you finding your feet in no time and getting the results that you really want. Without further ado, let's begin. 2. Class Overview: I've broken the class down into a couple of main lessons. That way, it's a lot easier to navigate. The first lesson will be our camera gear and I'll go over cameras, lenses we can use, cable releases, tripods, headlamps, LED panels, just a few little things to make our lives easier while we're working in these dark areas. The second part of the course will be location scouting and research. This is very important because, for me, especially I live in Toronto, which is cursed with crazy air pollution. So I have to drive for at least two to three hours to get away from all that, though, I'll show you how I use things like Google Earth and Street View and PhotoPills to find locations and to plan with moon cycles and all that stuff. Obviously, weather being a big thing, I rely on weather apps too. In that part of the course, I show you exactly what I do when I'm looking for occasions and it just saves me time and money. The 3rd element of the course will be on location where I'll show you one of my favorite fair that I've shot a couple of times over the last two years. Basically, I'll show you how I work compositions and focus on stars in the dark, the different elements of light painting also, which is very important, and just how you can navigate around camera settings and getting things nice and sharp because it's not like you're walking around in the middle of day and you can find everything on a camera pretty easy you can focus on things in the distance pretty easy. Even at night time in a city you can do that because you've got lots of available light. But usually it's going to be extremely dark and when you get to your location, it can take you maybe 30 minutes to an hour for your eyes to adjust and then you're trying to focus on things where there's no light available. So you're using torches to focus on a house, our foreground. Just using our cameras, allows you to focus and get things sharp for your stars. The final element of our course will obviously be the editing element. This is a very, very important part of the course. The whole point of this course for me teaching what I know is to take really, really good photos and then because you've done most of the work in camera, when you go and add stuff, tends to become a lot easier and photos will look very good very quickly. We can just go out and drive for two hours or an hour or however long it takes you to get through a dark sky and take photos or take a single photo of that matter of the foreground. Then when you get back and look at on your computer, even though it looks good on a camera, when you look at it on the computer, you're going to see it's really grainy. When you bring up shadows and stuff like that, you want to find out there's a lot of hot pixels or noise in your image. We're going to go through a whole process here of getting things right in camera and then taking it into Photoshop and getting these photos that will just look amazing. I'm super excited to teach you this because it's something I've been wanting to do for a long time. I've spent a couple of years of just learning the hard way, which is learning by myself, by making mistakes and coming back and go, Oh, my God, this doesn't look right. How could I make that mistake? Now I got to go back again. I want this course to be a tool for you guys to really improve your Astro photography. Or if you're a beginner to give you the confidence to go out there and just start taking photos. With that, I'd like to welcome you to my course and take you on this wonderful journey of photographing the night sky. Let the adventure begin. 3. Gathering Your Gear: Astrophotographers, welcome to Lesson 1 and that is gathering our camera gear because we cannot take these photos unless we have the right gear. What are we going to need? We're going to need a camera. We're going to need a wide-angle lens, preferably a fast lens with an aperture of f2.8 or lower. You can definitely use an f4 lens, but you're going to have to sacrifice things like shutter speed. You might need to make your shutter speed a little bit longer. Or you might have to up your camera's ISO, which will in return, introduce more camera noise. You can use an f4 lens, but I wouldn't use a lens that's lower than that because you're definitely going to start sacrificing image quality just to leave enough light in onto your camera sensor. I shoot with a Nikon D810 and a D850, and I have a 20 mil, 1.8 Nikon lens and a Tamron 15-30 f2.8. I also have a 50 mil f2.8 and a 24-70 f2.8. These are all very good astro lenses. They are nice and fast. All of them are pretty wide except for the 50 mil, and they compliment my camera bodies really well. Then we're going to need a very sturdy tripod. This is very important because if you have an old rickety tripod, you're going to have trouble with camera movement, or the tripod being blowing in the wind, and stuff like that. You need a good, sturdy tripod that can take the weight of your camera and lens combo. I would also recommend using a cable or shutter release, or your camera's intervalometer if it has one. This definitely takes your hands away from the camera and you don't need to press the camera's shutter release. I have one that has an intervalometer on it. I also have a wireless one that just fires the camera. It's just a really handy device to have when you're taking photos of the night sky. Also, I would recommend a good headlamp because you're going to need to see where you're going. This is very important. You can fall over things quite easily when you can't see where you're stepping, so a good headlamp is a must. If it has a red light on it as well, that is also very handy. Because once you get out of these dark areas, you will find that your eyes will start to adjust after maybe 20-30 minutes of getting out of your car. If you keep turning on the white light on your headlamp or if you're with a friend and they have their white light on and they shine it in your eyes, you'll find out that could make things go a little bit dim again, or you might have a hard time seeing for a bit. Also, I would recommend dressing appropriately for the conditions. There's a big difference in weather conditions from north of the equator all the way down to south of the equator and onto the other end. If you're in cold areas, please definitely wear enough clothing so you don't start getting frostbite because that's the last thing anybody wants. If you're in warm areas, you're going to be dealing with insects and bugs maybe. If you're in humid places like here in Northern Ontario where there is a lot of bugs in the summertime, you might want to wear insect repellent, etc. Obviously, wearing the right footwear is definitely a thing. You don't want to be wandering around in sandals, for instance. One thing that I would definitely recommend is using a lens warmer or hand warmers that for your lens. Because astrophotography, for some reason, is synonymous with condensation and fog and frost messing up the optics on your lens. For instance, if it's a really still night in the summertime, you will find that very quickly, you're going to start getting condensation on your camera and lens. While your camera and lens itself can handle condensation, the glass can't, and once that starts to happen, there's a good chance that your night of shooting is going to be ruined. I definitely would recommend getting a lens warmer that can hook up to a power bank, or you can buy some hand warmers where you shake them and you can tape them, and this keeps the condensation off your camera even though the rest of your equipment is dripping from the condensation. Especially in colder months where frost is also a threat, definitely, a lens warmer or hand warmers do come in handy. Next, we're going to talk about the different methods of low painting or illuminating. They are used for my foregrounds. This is critical if you want to get good quality images, especially if it's really dark where you are and you are having trouble finding some ambient light. It can just add a different look to your photographs. The first light that I'm going to talk about is this one. It's called a Lume Cube, made by the company of the same name. It's a two-by-two range cube and it's extremely powerful. It has 10 different settings on it. It also comes with different color diffusers that has snoots and barn doors and stuff that you can buy extra with this little kit. Everything is magnetic so it's easy to connect everything to the camera. It's also waterproof. If you ever wanted to get super creative and do something through ice or underwater, it's also good for that. Next is this LED panel that I got on Amazon. This was maybe 25 bucks Canadian as far as I can remember. It came with two batteries and this is a really nice light. It comes with a softbox too, and again, something that I just use for leaking light onto the foreground. You can use a flash lamp just to point it straight at your foreground, which you're going to find that the light's really hard and it's very hard to get things really balanced. Whereas this, when you put it on the foreground, you'll find out it actually washes down at the foreground a lot more evenly and gives you everything is nice and evenly lit. When I first started Astrophotography, I was using flash lamps and I find that there was a lot of parts that I would have missed or just things were way, way too harsh. With this, it's got also settings on it so you can crank it down to the lowest setting, which is usually what I work with. If you crank it up at a higher setting, you're going to find that because we're using a low f/stop like f2.8 or lower and a really high ISO and a long shutter speed that when you put this up really high and put it on your foreground, you're going to find out everything is really, really bright. It's just a lot of trial and error over the different lighting methods. Finally, this third light is another one I use. It's also by the company called Lume Cube, and again, this is just a mini LED panel that they have. This one is actually very versatile. It has different color temperatures on it. Also, this now is on one percent power. It has a 15-hour battery life when it's fully charged. Again, this is super light, super compact. It, again, gives you some really nice, even light on your foregrounds. If you want to step away from ambient lighting, which is a good way to take photos of the night sky and the foreground, and if you want to just add some more dynamic lighting to foreground, these three methods of lighting are very, very good and I go over those in the outdoor element of the course. In the next lesson, we're going to be speaking about location and research, and basically how I find locations and how I plan my shoots because it also is a very important part of our astrophotography. I will see you in the next lesson. 4. Researching Your Location: In this lesson, we're going to talk a little bit about location, research, and planning our shoots. This is all done from our homes as well. It's a very important part of my process in finding interesting foregrounds to shoot and knowing when the best notes are to go and all about aligning stars and moon cycles, etc. I like to use my phone because I can just have it in my hand. I use a couple of apps to do my research. First and foremost, I usually find places by using Google Earth and Google Street View. If there is Street View available, this is a really handy way of just clicking on the blue line or the blue dot on the app, and it will zoom in and give you a good idea of what the surrounding area looks like. Then after that, I will use an app called PhotoPills. This is a really, really, really good app. That's why I emphasize really three times there are just to get it across that this app is extremely powerful. It tells you moon cycles, it tells you a myriad of different things, such as the sunrise and sunset times, astronomical twilight timing, lunar cycles. It can show you the alignment of the Milky Way. When you find the location on Google Earth, or if you have a location already in mind, you can go to that location on the app and it can tell you weeks, days, months, years in advance, when and where the Milky Way will align and what time, etc. You can do an augmented reality. If you're actually on location, you can hold the phone up and it will show you a live view of the night sky. As you scroll our pan around your scene, it'll show you where certain constellations are. Galaxies will align also. It makes it really handy for doing stuff while you're on location as well. Also, I will show you how I use an app called Dark Sky. This is an app that shows you the different levels of light pollution, ranging from Bortle 1 to Bortle 9, Bortle 1 being the darkest skies and Bortle 9 being downtown city locations. It's a really handy app because it can give you an idea of how far you need to travel and where you need to point your camera in order to get good visibility. There are other apps that are actually quite handy tool, but they don't give you as much detailed information. One of them would be Sky Guide. It's a pretty looking app. It's very ether with lovely music and it shows you where all the constellations and the Milky Way is. Although it doesn't give you as much information as let's say PhotoPills does. The first app that we're going to look at is Google Earth. It's a really convenient app that just helps me find locations without having to drive for two or three hours because that just takes up a lot of time and money and work for them jobs here. It's not always easy to get away on a weekend. Is just the go and find places and not shoot. I tried to maximize my time by actually just using this app to help me find locations. I've actually used this app to find maybe 80-90 percent of the locations that I've shot in the past and someplace that I've yet to get to. At one point, I had almost 200 or 300 locations saved and it just saves me a lot of time. Basically, in Google Earth , if you click on the little man here, it's going to show everything that's in blue is available with Street View. For instance, thankfully, Ontario and Canada is actually pretty well mapped out. You can see it's a nice and graded, so it's actually really easy to navigate through, compared to, let's say, some European places which will be a lot of winding roads and less formatted layouts. I basically zoom in on a section and I'll slowly just scroll along. I usually look out for worn down driveways or like old structures in fields and stuff. You can see this one is right here. When I find something that I think might be an interesting foreground, I'll just tap on the Street View, and it'll take me right in there, and it'll give me look around of what's nearby. It gives you the coordinates and the address and all that kind of information. It's just a really good way of locating places without having to drive for hours on end if you don't have that time. As you can see, there's a little old abandoned house in a field, which will be the location of the outdoor products of our lesson. Once I've used those methods to find a spot and I've confirmed that it is abandoned, I just push down on the screen and hold down and then I tap on the coordinates and that copied their location to the clipboard on the phone. Then we'll come out of there and go into Google Maps. We can just basically copy and paste into Google Maps. Just be mindful if the height of the satellite view is at the end of the quarter, starts to delete that. Otherwise, it won't work. Then press "Search" and it will take you right in there. Then you can just hold, you can basically save the location into a folder in Google Maps. We just exit out of there and hold down on the screen, for instance. You can now just swipe up and save it. I have, as you can see, a little abandoned folder here. You click on that and you can type in the name of the location and just click "Done". Now you'll see you have your location saved and it's just easy to find later when you come back to it. As you can see, these are other spots that I have saved around Northern Ontario. That's just the way I find stuff, rather than spending hours on the weekends driving around. It does save me a lot of time. It does help me use other apps to find whether the area is dark enough for night sky photography or where we can align stuff for Milky Ways and all that stuff. Next, we're going to go over to the Dark Sky app and we'll see how that works. Now, we're going to go into a Dark Sky app, and this is a handy little app that can tell you exactly where you are in terms of light pollution. You'll see down in the bottom right-hand corner we have a thing called the Bortle scale or the light pollution scale, black, gray and blue being low light pollution. Then all the way up to 89, which is a white stone or red zone, which is really a lot of light pollution and very hard to shoot at the night sky stuff in these areas, especially white field night photography or Milky Way photography. Usually, because of where I'm based in North America, the eastern seaboard is overwhelmingly full of light pollution. You can see they are compared to the Western States and Western Canada, how much light pollution we're actually dealing with here. You can also go over to the likes Europe, and see how much light pollution we're doing there. It looks a little bit crazy at the beginning, but when you zoom in, I'm originally from Ireland, so when I zoom into Ireland, you see that most of our atoms is actually a Bortle for on the light pollution map. You can also see all around the edges because it's an island and it does nothing but ocean surrounding it, that you're going to be shooting into Bortle 1, 2, or 3 if you're shooting out over the water. As you can see, Darwin's got a lot of light pollution, but if you drive for an hour south, you're going to be in some darker areas. The same for the UK, there's a lot of light pollution in the UK, so you need to head out to coast to get away from that and start getting some nice dark skies and [inaudible] is actually pretty good too. If you look at Iceland, there's little light pollution there. The likes of Africa, there is absolutely hardly any light pollution there, and the same goes for Australia. Sometimes I see a lot of photographers that I follow on Instagram that are living in Australia and they try for 20 minutes and they are in dark skies, but unfortunately I have to try for two hours. That's just part of the work, I guess. For the location that we're going to be shooting, it's in your little town in Western Ontario. It's in a Bortle 4 as far as I can remember, if you can find it here. I can't seem to find that is around here somewhere. It's in a Bortle 4. For this house, I shoot north. It's actually not too bad because we're shooting into some darker areas, as you can see. For my Milky Way stuff, I really like to get onto the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario because we're shooting straight for the Milky Way. Whereas if we come North of Toronto and we're shooting South, we're going to catch all our light pollution, so you get less visibility. Whereas if you go over towards Lake Erie and shoot South, you do pick up some light pollution and you'll notice some of photos is just par for the course here in Ontario, because America is to the South, we're just picking up all our light pollution from the likes of Cleveland, on Erie, and on Ontario we're picking up light from likes of Rochester and Syracuse in New York. But there's some good visibility and I've gotten some of my best Milky Way shots off the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. That's just a little look into this app. It shows you light pollution for pretty much everywhere in the world. The darker the better. From one through three is probably the best for viewing and shooting the Milky Way out on a night sky. Then as you get into four or five, you're going to start seeing a lot less stars. That just gives you a good idea of where you need to be and what direction you need to point your camera in to actually get nice details photos of the Night Sky. In the next app, I'm going to show you. It's a little bit more involved, is the PhotoPills app. That's how we plan and do some more research on our [inaudible] shoots. I'll show moon cycles or the kind of things that we can use to our benefit so we can get some alignment and planning down before we actually head out to shoot. I'm just going to take you all through that app now and I'll see you there. 5. Planning the Shoot Date: Now we're going to go into the PhotoPills app, and this is the app that I use for all of my planning pretty much. Even when I'm in the field, it's a really good way of just getting everything organized and planned out now before we actually head out, because you can just go out on a whim and hope you get something, but this is just a really cool way of helping us do some really good planning ahead of time. Usually, when I go into the app, the first thing I look at is I look at the Moon cycle. It gives you all of the different phases of the Moon. Obviously, if it's on the calendar here, if you click on the black dots in New Moon, and that's usually when the Moon is not in the sky. As you scroll through, you'll see that the phases of the Moon come back in, and it tells you when the Moon is going to rise, when it's going to set, what phase it's at. It even tells you how high it's going to rise. For the Milky Way too, if we go into the summer months here and click on a New Moon, it should tell you where a random Milky Way is going to rise, what time it's going to arise that, and what time it's going to set. Here you can see it says the Galactic visibility starts at 11 o'clock at night and it ends at 3:06 in the morning. It also show you the trajectory of the Milky Way, so when it arises over the horizon, what angle it's going to be at, and when it sets, what angle it's going to be at. This is a really good quick way of finding out what phase the Moon is at in the month, what the visibility is going to be like, and you can also plan ahead, like years and years in advance. You can go right out. There's no limit to how far ahead you can plan this stuff. Then when I'm finished checking the Moon phases and the times for the Milky Way and such, I go into the Planner, and this is a really cool way of finding where the Milky Way is going to rise and fall over the horizon. Let's say if we take it to Ontario here, we bring it over to where our little house is that we're going to shoot. It's in this field right here. When you get to the location, when you find the location on the map, all you got to do is hold down with your finger for a second and it's going to show you a bunch of lines. These lines represent different things like the Moon and the Sun. When the Sun rises, and where the Sun's going to be. There's a slider at the top that gives you all the different settings. I usually just keep it to [inaudible] so it doesn't get too complicated because I know what I want to use it for. If you slide the slider slowly, you see that right now it's the middle of the day. When you start sliding things over, you see the sunset comes in, the screen turns red. Then astronomical and nautical twilight come into play and things get a bit darker, then once the screen goes black, that's when it's actually complete darkness and you can start shooting without having any interference from the setting sun. If we go and check for the Milky Way for instance, let's go to June for instance and click on the 10th of June as an example. Now, we're in the summer months when the Milky Way is prevalent in the Southern Sky. This is really convenient, because what it's doing now, it's showing us where the Milky Way is. Now the Milky Way is always visible to an extent. It's just that the core is only visible from, I believe, late February, early March until the end of October and to November sometime. Here we are in June. When it gets to completely dark, you see there's three dots at the bottom of this semicircle here, and those represent that Galactic core. Basically, when you scroll through, you see that the dots move according to the time of night and where the Milky Way is headed. Then as it gets brighter, the dots will slowly fade out. This is just a really good way of planning and aligning for when you're actually going to be on location, and it's a good way to, just when you get there, you know exactly where to look. In fairness though, when you usually get to a place, if the sky is dark enough, you're going to see the Milky Way anyway once your eyes adjusted to the darkness, so it's not really that hard. But this is just a good idea to see, let's say there's a place you really want to shoot and you check the alignment on the Milky Way and it's not lining up quite yet, so then you skip ahead a month or two months, and then you say, "Okay. I need to go here in September, and that's when the alignment will best suit my shooting needs." That's what this is really good for. Again, another really good tool in this really diverse app. Another quick thing in this app is there's a Star Trails section. This is really handy for showing you how long you need to leave your camera open for, or how long you need to shoot for it to get the desired length of star trails. So it allow you to have the camera go the longer the star trails obviously are going to be. This is a really good way of computing that. Again, another really handy addition to this really good app. It also shows you things like Meteor showers. You can scroll through all these meteor showers, and it'll show, for instance, the Perseids, and you can load that into the app. It will show you where they are in things like your planner, stuff like that. Now Is not Perseids season, but that again is another really, really handy addition to this app. Also, there's the thing called the Hyperfocal Table, which is a camera-specific thing, and basically, it tells you how far you need to stand away from your camera before things in the foreground get blurry. If you wanted to, for instance, put yourself in one of your shots, and you find that you're standing really close to your camera, it'll tell you exactly at each focal length how far you need to stand away from your camera for everything to be in focus. Because when you're shooting at f/2.8, you can shoot landscape with f/2.8 and everything will be in focus. But when you start introducing something that's really close to the front of the camera lens, that's when things get thrown out of focus. For instance, if we're shooting at f/2.8 and we're shooting with a 20-millimeter lens, we need to be roughly 4.74 meters away from the front of the camera lens to avoid anything going out of focus. That's hindered me in the past, not knowing the distance between the front of my camera and the subject, because I've done a couple of shots where I thought everything was in focus. When you focus on the stars, whatever is within that 4.74 meter range will be able to focus. You got to make sure that when you focus on the stars, that your subject is a certain distance away from your camera, then everything should be in focus. When I focus on the stars on location when I'm shooting at these houses, the house is usually more than 4.474 meters away. So now I know what I don't have to refocus on the house when I'm actually going to shoot the foreground. Again, another really handy thing in this app. Another app that's really handy to use is Sky Guide, and I'll quickly go into this. This is on location app. It shows you where all the constellations are. If you point to the North Sky, it'll show you the Ursa Major, the Big Dipper. It'll also show you Ursa Minor at a Little Dipper. Then there's Polaris is right there. It shows you where everything is, and got a nice [inaudible] , and it's got some music that's really nice too. Shows you where the Milky Way is and stuff like that. This is just a really good quick view kind of app to show you where all of this stuff is in the sky in case you want to zoom in and shoot some deep space stuff. It's just really pretty to look at. So that's another good one too to complement the PhotoPills app. Now that we've gone over the gear and the research and planning needed for astrophotography, it's time to pack up our camera gears and head out the door and get shooting. Remember to have your batteries charged and your memory cards clear. Also, make sure you've got enough gas in the car and maybe bring some snacks, because it's going to be a long night. In the next lesson, we're going to be talking about composing and focusing in the dark with the different camera settings that we can use. Also, I'll be going through the different types of light painting techniques that I like to use in illuminating my foregrounds. I'll see you in the next lesson. 6. Shooting on Location: Hey, Astrophotographers. We've done the research, we've gotten all our gear ready and now we are on-location to start taking photos of the night sky with a beautiful abandoned house as our foreground. This is actually the second house I took photos off when I began taking photos of the night sky and thankfully, the landowner has been very gracious to allow me permission to enter onto their land. If you're in a situation where you need to go onto private property, please, please please try and get permission because you don't want any disgruntled landowners coming along in the middle of the night asking what you're doing on their land. When I get to the location, I like to try and maximize my work output by taking at least three angles of the foreground. Because we drive for one, two, maybe three hours sometimes, and you don't want to just take one photograph and head home. When I'm looking at my compositions, allowed to take one from the right-hand side, one from the center, and one from the left. Because we're shooting the night sky, and we want to have a nice balance between foreground and night, normally I'll have the camera on waist height, or even sometimes a little bit lower because we want to point up at our foreground and then we'll, using the rule of 1/3, will get 2/3, 1/3 foreground. It just makes for a more dramatic scene, and normally I also shoot in the vertical or portrait mode on my camera. But you can also shoot landscape. You just got to sacrifice height for width, but it's all down to personal preference. When I get here, I will take a look at my foreground, I look through my camera, and try and get the composition that really suits my needs. So now that we've got our composition setup, we're going to talk a little bit about camera settings, which is obviously very, very important for not only this type of photography, but for any type of photography. Because we're in very, very dark places with little to no ambient light, hopefully, we need to leave as much light into the camera as become possibly leave in. Also, we want to have our stars nice and sharp in our images because we don't want to have stars trailing, while that can be a desired effect, this isn't the effect that we're focusing on today. So for me, I'm going to try and get you to get as much out of your tools as possible. Because we all have different cameras, different lenses, they all have different capabilities, and different settings work differently on different cameras. For me personally, with my Nikon D810 and my Nikon 20mm f1.8 Lens, I like to shoot anywhere between 10 and 15 second exposures at f2.8 and annual between ISO 1600-4000, depending on if there's a lot of light pollution on the horizon line and available light, etc. Usually the longer the focal length, the shorter the exposure time you have before you start seeing star trails. With a 10 mm lens, you can expose for probably 30 seconds before you see star trails, with 20 mm lens, technically, I've got 25 seconds based on the rule of 500, where you divide 500 by a camera's focal length. So I should have 25 seconds worth of shutter speeds before I start seeing trailing, but that doesn't work for my camera and lens combo for some reason. After 15 seconds, maybe 20 seconds, I'm actually getting star trails. If you're shooting with a 24 millimeter lens. Again, the time is going to be shorter. So the whole thing we're trying to do here is, with your gear, finding your camera sweet spot. They just messing around. There's no right or wrong way of doing it. But we want to mess around and find what works for you. Basically for me, when I was first taking these kind of photos, I just start at the bottom 10 seconds, f2.8, ISO 4000. If we look good or look good, if I want to be brighter up the exposure time a little bit to maybe 15 seconds, and then you can zoom in and see if it looks good, and then you can even push it to 20 seconds. Then if you see star trails, you'll know, just to dial it back a bit. It's all trial and error in the beginning, and when you get to know your camera and your lens and what they're capable of, that's when you can go onto a location very confidently and say, these are the settings I need to shoot with and start taking photos straight away. The sun's after setting and we're almost ready to start taking photos of the night sky and this lovely old house behind us. When it gets dark, I'm going to show you actually how to focus on the stars, which is a very, very important thing that we haven't touched on just yet. But because it's still pretty bright out and the sun is setting, we can't see any stars right now. We're just going to wait for a little while and then we'll come back and I'll show you how by using your camera's live view mode, you can zoom in on a star and get those stars really, really sharp, so they look fantastic when we edit them afterwards and put everything together. The night is dark enough, it's time to work on getting our stars nice and sharp. The best way to do this is basically using the camera's live mode function. Because for this type of astrophotography, we're actually using pretty wide angle lenses. If you look through the viewfinder, you're going to have a very hard time finding a star to focus on because it's just so far away, it's when we see them. The best way to do it, is as I said, shoot in live view mode, and you just got to search, scan the sky with the camera looking at the live view mode. Once you find a star, you can lock it in on the tripod and then just focus in with the buttons on the back of the camera. Here I've already found one, and you can see there's a star just right here. Nice bright star, and make sure your camera is in manual focus, because if you hit the wrong button or if you hit your shutter, it's just going to hunt for focus and just can't do it in this lighting conditions. Always in manual focus, ensure your tripod is locked in nice and tight. You can set your camera lens to around the infinity mark. But just be wary the fact that infinity doesn't mean that your stars are going to be sharpened. Infinity is what people negate that it is complete sharpness. But when you're dealing with night sky photography, it's not always the case. It can be a fraction of a millimeter left or right of infinity on your lens. So basically the way I work it in is more focused in on our star here. I'm going to zoom in. I just take the star just a little bit out of focus. It's like a little white blob there, and then I just take it out to the other side of being in and out of focus. Then I just slowly bring it in and out and then find that sweet spot where you're quite happy that it's pinpoint and nice and sharp. About there, it seems to be pretty good. I'm happy with that. Now we're going to take a test shot and see how it looks. I'm going to zoom in and hopefully everything is nice and sharp. We've taken our test shot and now we can zoom in and have a look and see if our stars are actually nice and sharp. Which they are. Some nice sharp stars there. I just want to zoom in and show you something really quick here. This is a photo I took at 13 seconds, f2.8, ISO 4000. You can see that our stars are nice and sharp. But the photo I took it beforehand was a 15-second exposure, at the same settings at f2.8. You can see here that there's actually a little bit of star trailing. [inaudible] of 500. Technically, I've got a 20 millimeter lens on. I can shoot for 25 seconds before seeing star trails, but obviously you can see that's not the case. Usually for this camera and lens combo, my sweet spot would be 30 seconds f2.8, ISO 4000. The ISO can be changed based on the ambient light in the area light pollution, etc. As I mentioned before, it's just a matter of finding what works for you and your camera lens combo. Now we can take our camera over and work on our main composition. As I said before, be careful. Don't touch the [inaudible]. Make sure your lens is in manual focus. Now we can start working on our night photos. Now we have our camera settings dialed in. We've taken our test shots. I'm going to go a little bit into how to take good photos. You can go and take a single exposure and be happy with that and go home, but you'll find when you put it into photoshop or whatever camera editing program you're using, that there's going to be a lot of noise in the photograph, especially in the sky. What I tend to do is stack my photos, which is continuously take a bunch of photos one after the other. I think between usually between 10 and 20 photographs. What that does is it's like a mini time-lapse of sorts. You take those 20 photographs in to post-processing and when we stack them on top of each other in the specific app that we're going to use, it will blend all of those photographs and kill all the noise and get a really, really clean image. We'll go a little bit more into that in the post-processing part of the course. 7. Light Painting: Now that we've taken our photos of the stars, let's focus on the foreground a little bit. I like to use artificial lighting to get my foregrounds illuminated because it can be really tough sometimes using ambient light, or having a dark foreground might take away from the sky a little bit. There's two methods I like to you use. The first method is with a light panel, something like this. This is a light panel I got on Amazon for 20 bucks, and it's got a pretty low output when you have it cranked down to the low setting. Generally, what I like to do is just point it towards the house. You can do it handheld, but I have this little stand that I got and a little ball head. What I like to do is just point it up at the sky, straight up so that there's no light being cast on the foreground, and then just slowly tilt the light forward a little bit like so, and then you slowly see the light pour onto the foreground and you know where you're at with your illumination. You can just point the light straight at the house, but you'll find that everything in the foreground is going to get lit up and it can look a little bit harsh. We just want to basically make a natural vignette just by having enough light fall onto the house from this light. I also have this little light which can also go on a ball head or you can do it handheld for your exposures. Basically, what I like to do is at first, hold it straight up and then just leak a little bit of light, leave a pour down onto your foreground, and then take your exposure and see how it looks in camera. Because we're using light sources like this, our settings are going to be a little bit different. The reason for that is if you're shooting the foreground with the same settings you're shooting the sky and you introduce artificial light into the scene, it's going to come out very bright. So what I tend to do is I lower my ISO down to anything from 1000-500, I'll bring my shutter speed up more, and keep the f-value more or less the same. Sometimes if you've got bulb mode available on your camera too, using your intervalometer built into your camera, or a cable release or a shutter release, you can keep the camera open for 120 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 800, and you can just leave the light leak onto your foreground. Again, this is all trial and error; it will offer different results, it will never be the same each time, so it's just a matter of finding out what works for you and how you like the look. Now, my favorite type of light painting is using my drone. For this, I put two limb tubes on. They have these special arms that clip onto the arms of my drone. These lights are very powerful and they've changed the game for me when it comes to illuminating these foregrounds. It totally changes how I set up my cameras with the settings. Rather than just shooting at higher ISOs and at f/2.8, for instance, now I'm shooting at 20 seconds exposure, f/8, ISO 100. So we're pretty much taking all of that noise out of our foreground exposures. Again, I shoot this continuously like I shoot the sky because we're shooting at f/8, ISO 100, so when you're flying around the house, the drone won't illuminate the whole scene. Basically, I'll fly it towards the subject and I'll paint in a grid, so I maybe start at the roof, come across, down, back across, down in front of the house and around the side and then I'll paint a little bit of the grass in front just to give us a more natural flow from the dark foreground immediately in front of us to the actual house. Again, because of the settings that we're using, we need to shoot multiple exposures. Usually, on a small, little house like this, I can get it done in maybe 15 exposures. I just have my camera continuously shooting while I fly the drone around the house. Now, you might ask, "How is he flying a drone around the house at nighttime and not hitting anything or crashing into the house?" Well, basically, when I look through my camera on the drone into the controller on my phone, I open up all the settings on the controller. I set my drone's camera settings to eight seconds, ISO 12500, f/2.8, and that leaves so much light into the display on my phone that I can see everything in front of me so I can see how close I'm getting to the house. Because remember, at nighttime, your drone's camera sensors don't work because they can't see so it's a very important thing to keep track of. Also, be aware of local drone guidelines. You don't want to be getting in trouble from anybody for flying your drone at night. With that said, I'm on private land, with permission, and I'm 10 meters off the ground. It's not like I'm flying in a downtown urban core. Now, I'm going to fly the drone around the house. It's not quite dark yet, but it'll give you an idea of the way I move the grid. Basically, I usually start at the roof and just come across and then down and back across the roof and then down in front of the house, just in a formatted grids formation. Then the same around the side and paint the ground in front of it a little bit and we'll see how it goes. Now, we've got our photos of the stars and our foreground. It's time to head back to the studio and put it all together. This is where the second big chunk of the work begins. We've done the hard work of actually getting out here and driving for an hour or two, three hours out of the city to actually taking our photos. It's time to make all that hard work pay off and see the photo come to life. I'll see you back in the studio. 8. Photo Stacking: We've done the research, we have gotten our gear ready, we've driven out into the dark of night, and taking some amazing photos in the night sky. Now we're going to go into Photoshop here and go through the workflow that I like to use to put these photographs together. Hey, Astrophotographers. In this section, we're going to talk about stacking our images for noise reduction. This is a pivotal part of getting really clean images for our Astrophotography skies and landing. Basically, you can quite easily use one image if you want, but you're going to find that things are questionably less quality because of the high ISO values and other things like that. This is a single image, for example. You zoom in, you can see there's quite a bit of noise. If you wanted to just use one image, especially for a foreground when you bring up things like shadows and your exposure a little bit, you're going to find that it just doesn't look pretty. It's very grainy, pixelated, lots of noise in the image, especially for your foreground. For your sky, you can see that there is quite a lot of noise here in this image. I'm also going to try to eliminate this by a method called stacking. What we'll do here is we'll take anywhere between 10 and 20 to 30 photos. Usually I go between 10 and 20. Sometimes 20 is usually a good point. Here we'll use a few key just because as you can see here, there's some cloud in these images and I want to avoid that. Because when you do stack images that have clouds in them, it tends to mess with the photo a little bit, so we'll try to avoid that for now. Here I'll just select a couple of images here. We'll select right up to about here. Now we have 13 image selector. The application we use is called Star Landscapes Stacker. What we need to do is change these into tiff files so that the application can read that. We're going to hit "Enter" here and it's going to take us into camera roll. We're selecting an image and hitting "Command+A or Alt+A", we're going to select all of these images. You can do some minor adjustments here if you want to just do white balance adjustments if you want to make the image a little bit brighter and reduce highlights of shadows and kind of stuff. We're just going to focus in on this guy here and go on from there. What we want to do now is just save these as tiff files, and then you want to put them in a folder close to where your base files are. For now, we're just going to put them in their own folder in here and we'll just call them Stack Files and create that file. Once it's gone here, we'll select and we save. That'll take a couple of minutes depending on how fast your computer is. Now that they're all saved, we can go and open Style Landscapes Stacker. It's a pretty basic program and I'll open the file locator browser straightaway. Click on a folder here. We're just going to select all of these files and open them. What it'll do is it'll take each file and we read them all and take the digital information from each one and help us do our noise reduction. This is going to show you really quickly how good of a program this is. There are other one's called [inaudible] and Deep Stacker as well. This is the one I've been most familiar with since I started taking photos of the night sky. Now here is our first view of what we're dealing with. As you can see, it looks like it's almost after blending them all to the stack shop, you see all these red dots here. They are representative of the stars, and you can add dots to the sky if you want. It's not really necessary because we're going to skip adding or removing dots. There are time you might find some on some buildings, you might want to get rid of those, but it's not a big deal. Basically, we want to click this button here, it says "Fine Sky". Then having that in the sky selection goes blue. We can just increase the size of our brush here. We can use the brackets on your keyboard or you can drag the slider up and down. We're just going to paint in wherever the app missed. Now, you can come right in here and get super close if you want. In here, not to worry, but there's no stars in there really. When you go around the bushes, again, that's redundant, it's also really hard area to work in. You'll find if there is light pollution present on the horizon, that you're going to see less stars the closer you get to the horizon compared to at the top of the image. Now we have our sky selected. We can click "Align and Composite", and now it has done it's blending. We want to take a closer look and just see how much of a difference there is between a single image and a blended image. This is our blended image. If you click on here, one of the saved images, you're going to see that there's actually quite a lot of noise introduced to the image there. Again, going back to the composite, really cleans it up. The more images you use, the better the noise reduction. That's basically it. Then we can just save current image. It'll save out the image as a whole, as a tiff file and you can save it to that folder. You can also save the mask, which would just be basically the whole sky and it will omit the part that we hand painted in blue right. We're not allowed to use that because it's easier to align this after in Photoshop. That's it for this section of the course. It's a really good way of reducing noise and artifacts of your images. I recommend we follow these steps in every course, in part of the course. While we're shooting, you need to take one photo one after the other consecutively, pretty close together because if there's too much of a distance in time between a certain amount of frames, the application will not align them properly for you. In the post-processing segment of the course, we'll take this and we'll just skip it in the actual course and go straight into the blending. I will see you over there. Catch you soon. 9. Light Panel Blending: What we can do now is we can open our foreground image. We can do some basic adjustments here. We can bring up our Shadows, we can bring up our Exposure a little bit, and just play around with things and find what's good for you. Adding Contrast. We can add more Clarity and Texture if we like. We can Dehaze things a little bit. Don't go too crazy with these three stars because you'll find if you go crazy with them, you're going to get hailing and just things will look a lot more unnatural. So just little adjustments here and there. I do like to take things that are extreme and see how bad it would look at the very high end or low end of adjusting. Then you can just fine-tune it and bring it back in. We'll open this one now. I'll open in Photoshop, and there's our foreground image in Photoshop. Now I can come back into Bridge or whatever program you use to organize your photos. Here you see, in our TIFF photo, we have this Horizon Noise TIFF, and we want to open that in Photoshop also. Now we have both images in Photoshop. They are loaded as separate layers, images. What we want to do now is, with the Move Tool, which is this icon up here on the very top, or V on your keyboard, just click and drag the photo from its location up into this tab here, and then just let go and it will drop that photo on top. Then what you want to do is just line them up. Then you can turn the eye icon on and off to make sure that they're lined up pretty well. We just unlocked the background there by double-clicking and hitting "Okay". Now, with our top layer selected, this is our sky exposure, we can use the Quick Selection Tool here, which is W on your keyboard, or just by tapping it with your mouse key. What we want to do here is just starting in one of the bottom corners, just click 'Hold" and drag up around our foreground. Then it will make a quick selection based on what it thinks it's you're trying to select. Now, I want to see that. It looks like it's done a pretty good selection around the roof. But you see that in areas like here and here and here, it hasn't gotten those areas and around the edges of the bushes that were blowing in the wind. What we are going to do now is we're going to refine that. A really handy way of doing that is by hitting "Select and Mask" here up in the top. A new window is going to open, and this is how we are going to refine our selection. There's a couple of different view modes. Just by pressing F on your keyboard, it should cycle through these modes. I like to use either the white one or the red one, and it's a really good way of just seeing where your work area is. You can also deal with the [inaudible] also. We're just going to work here with the red. What we're going to do now is select up here. There is the Refine Edge Brush Tool. Basically, what we're going to do is we want to start over here on the edge of the image, and then just clicking and holding down on your mouse key and just dragging, or your pen, and just painting along this horizon line here, along all the bushes, and just painting around here. In the red area where we see some [inaudible] , that's where there's gaps behind. That's where we to return our boke focus on. You'll see that it seems it's making a better selection. Again, in here and here. Now we can work our way up the building right there and across the top. You can see this part of the building missed on the top. Again, we'll just work our way along here and along the edge and in here a little bit. Now we come down. We're just going to paint all in around the bush here and the trees in case that hasn't been selected by the Quick Selection Tool. Now, we see we can hit "Okay", and we'll have a look and see how our selection is. So next thing to do is, with the sky layer selected, just add a layer mask. It doesn't look quite right because we want to have the foreground nice and bright and the sky properly exposed. Here we have our layer mask here, and all you got to do is hit Command or Alt and I and that will invert the layer. Now you're going to see we have a nice clean sky with some sharp stars and a very nicely exposed foreground, and everything looks really nice around the edges and around these trees and stuff like that. So that's basically it for the blending. Some blends I will admit are trickier than others. Trees can be very hard to work with sometimes. If you have a nice clean foreground with rocks or shapes like a house that don't have a lot of bushes or trees around it, it can be a lot easier to blend. Again, this takes practice and just some messing around, and eventually, you will get it to where you want it. 10. Light Panel Editing: Now that we've done that, I'm going to just quickly go through some quick editing because the blending is the main part, and then it's up to you to take the edit to where you want it to be. What we're going to do here is we're going to work on our white balance. What I'll do is open up the camera. What you can do is "Command Alt Shift" and "A," and then we'll work just on our sky image and not on the foreground image. I'm just going to take purple back out of it a little bit. Maybe make it blue bit blue. Just somewhere where it looks a bit more natural. You can saturate the image a little bit. Now, we'll be [inaudible] upper sky exposure, a little bit of contrast. You can work with our highlights here. I'm not quite happy where they are. Same with our shadows, and just bring it up to where you want it to be. Dehaze a little bit. Not too much because if you show too much dehaze and you see, you're going to get this really horrible banding over the top of the house, and it just doesn't look natural. You want them to look like it belongs in this photograph. That's okay there. Again, all down to personal taste and where you want to take things. I'm just thinking you still might be a little bit on purple side, so we can make just a little bit warmer here. Again, somewhere around there, I think it's pretty good. Now I'm going to hit "Okay," and we'll do the same for our foreground and hit "Command Alt," "Shift," and "A." Again, we're just going to cool the things off here and make them look other than unusual. Quite happy with the exposure of the foreground here and maybe bring the shadows up a little bit. It's now making a crazy difference here, but it is looking pretty good, and I'm quite happy with that. Now we can hit "Okay." Here we have our image, and it's time to start working on our image as one image rather than working on them individually. What you want to do here is, just select the top layer. We want to maintain this, we want to keep this because this layer mask here is very convenient in future as we walk through the edit. If you want things just to affect the sky or just to affect this foreground here, you can drop this air mask on different layers and it will delete the selection depending on where you want to work. I'll show that a little bit further in this edit here. What we're going to do now is hit "Command" or "Alt Option Shift" and "E", and now it's going to give us one layer, which is represented over these two layers combined. Usually, what I like to do here is duplicate it by "Command" or "Alt G" and then we go "Command" or "Alt Shift L" and "B". Then there are just Photoshop's Auto Tone and Auto Color modes, and they don't always work but sometimes they do. I always like to start off with that, and I'm quite happy with that there. Maybe if you just want to have a little bit of it, you can just reduce the opacity by dragging the slider down and then just bring a little bit of opaque in. Then "Command" and "E" to merge those two layers. Now we're back with one layer. Here, we're going to go a little bit into the Raya Pro Panel. It's some good quick shortcuts that could otherwise take a long time in your post-processing workflow. Here we have a couple of things here. We want to work with this Magic Green Lands, and that will just add an autumn effect to make the sky look a little bit soft, a little bit of glow. Just little tweaks to the image that are nice for this photography, for me personally. Again, you could leave that image as it is and be happy with that. That's totally up to you. It's all the taking the edit to where you want it to be. You can see everything is gone with green-yellow here. Now we've got all these actions that were compiled into one. What we can do here is just delete the Boost Greens. You see dash, it's given the image a nice little pop, some nice warm, saturation, a little bit of vibrance. You might not want to have dash on your foreground. You've got two options here because when you use this action, it does supply a layer mask with this. We can click on the layer mask and what you can do is with a black brush, you can just brush out whatever Magic Greenhouse filter did on your foreground. You can also just brush off 50 percent of it by reducing the opacity or the flow and then you see that it just affects the sky. Now, what I was saying earlier about this layer mask here, if you only wanted to affect [inaudible] part of the photo, but you do want to because you could do something like this and you can get halos or things will look inconsistent, all you got to do here is hitting "Option" on your keyboard and clicking and holding and dragging this layer mask up here and dropping it in. We'll do the exact same thing as brushing when [inaudible] to be a lot more accurate because it's going to use that selection that we made earlier when we're blending the image. Again, it's a good way of just affecting part of the sky or your foreground. I'm quite happy with that. I'll actually leave that there because I like that. What I did was I just brushed out the house here I like what I did to the grass with the saturation stuff. No, you don't have to use the full effect of this. Again, you can just drag the opacity all the way down to zero and then just start bringing in just little bits of it. Then if you only use 77 percent of it, but you want to keep editing, again, you can go "Command" or "Alt Option Shift" and "E," and it will pop up a brand new layer to start working with. Then Raya Pro has some color correction filters in its color center that you can use if you choose to. Sometimes it does a good job, sometimes not so much. It depends on your personal taste. If you don't like dash, you can just make it colder, make it soft. You can saturate everything as well. It won't completely go up to saturation points, but it will add some more saturation. Again, this is all of personal preference. I like that, but I just reduce it a little bit by reducing the opacity here. Again, we're going to want to have an image to work on, so "Command" or "Alt Option Shift" and "E." Then you go ahead [inaudible] do that for you. If that's where you'd like the image, and that's it. That's pretty much where you want to take it. Now we're just going to focus on saving our image. Again, you can spend a lot of time, I'm just going through this quickly to give you an idea of where you want to take things. You can spend an hour, two hours doing this. Well, for the sake of this course, I'm just quickly going through things just to give you an idea. Now we can save our file, and the best way to do this, there's a couple of ways of doing it. You can just go "Command" or "Alt Option S," and that will save in the folder that you were working in, probably, and a new work may be, save this as a JPEG. Actually, we're going to have to change our mode because I do edit in 16 bits. We want to change that back to 8-bit channel. Some editing in 16-bit is just better to avoid any banding in your photographs, like that. Something that you might want to consider when the photo does open up. You can just go "Image Mode" and 16-bits channel, but when you want to save it, you do have to change it back to eight bits. We can go "Command" or "Option" and "S", and then we'll just make it a JPEG and call it. Then we can click "Save". We've got a nice big image, that's good for printing or whatever you like to do with it. But I wouldn't recommend posting a 50-megabyte photograph online, for instance. If you do want to share stuff on social media, there's two ways to do things. You can use the Raya Pro app. If you go sharpen or resize for the web, a really good way of doing it, first, we're going to just collapse all of these layers. The best way to do that is "Command" or "Option Shift" and "E" and that will give you one final image. Then come over here to Raya Pro Filters and Actions panel, and by clicking "By Height" and just type in "2, 0, 4, 8". Hit "Okay", and now you see that this image has already sharpened layers. We'll just delete the top one and then you can see how much sharpened, especially if just for a web because it dramatically reduces the size of the photo. So when you zoom in, things look all pixelated, not super clean, but that's not going to matter when you post it online. You can just delete this one and usually, I use this one sharpened layer here. Again, come up to a layer, flatten the image. We'll go "Command" or "Alt Option S". Then we can just call this Palmerston Light Panel web and change up to JPEG. Now we have a higher-res copy if you ever want to print something and we have very nice compressed copy if you want to post it on the likes of Facebook or Instagram or somewhere like that. Another way of doing it, if you don't have the Raya role Panel, not to worry. All we got to do here is come up to here, "Export". Come up the "File" in Photoshop, "Export" and "Save for Web". Then we can make this. Here it says, it's a 6.275-megabyte photograph. We want to get it down to Web 3, so all we got to do is just bring the quality down, bright it down to a 25 and see what that brings us. A little bit more, maybe 20. Now we've got 2.6 megabytes and that's perfect for a web. All you got to do is click "Save". Again, by just typing in the same information and labeling your photo. You can save it. You have, again, a nice 2.6 megabyte for web posting. That's it for the Light Panel 1. Next, we want to touch on the drawing-like painting, editing and I'll see you over there in that portion of the course. Okay, bye.that 11. Drone Blending: Here we are back in Bridge where we have our photos organized. Let's go into the drone blending session. Here, you see those same situation, a bunch of direct exposures, and then we have some different looking exposures, which are the ones of the drone lights. Very quickly, what we're going to do is the first thing I usually do, I will take all of these drone images, and basically in Bridge, we can go to this tab called "Tools" and go to "Photoshop" and "Load Files into Photoshop Layers". What this will do is will load them all into one middle palette that we can work with in Photoshop. While we're doing that, we can go back in the Bridge. You can see here for the drone light painting, there's lots of light trails in the sky, and I'll show you how to move those after, but you can see my camera settings are much different. I'm shooting in an F7.1. Usually, I shoot between 6.3 and F8, my exposure is 20 seconds, and my ISO is actually 100. You're going to see that there isn't literally no noise in these photographs. I think this is why I just love illuminating the photos with a drone so much because it's just amazing the quality that you can get, which is very, very difficult to achieve when doing astrophotography. Now come back into Photoshop and see that all of our photos from the drone light painting have loaded in. You'll notice that we can only see a little part of the image, that's because we're shooting with F7.1 and 20 seconds and ISO 100, we're leaving a lot less light into the camera. But the drone lights are actually pretty powerful. If we zoom in here, you can see that the quality in the image is incomparable compared to shooting at higher ISOs and lower F values. Now we want to make this whole image come together. What we're going to do here is basically scroll down to the bottom there, and holding Shift, just click on the bottom layer. Now we've selected all of these layers. Very simply, we're going to go to this little box here. It says normal and this is the blending mode for the layers. We're going to click it, and then this drop-down comes down and we're going to go down and go to "Lighten". Now, click on "Lighten", and you can see we have beautifully exposed foreground with just a mess of lights and [inaudible]. Now, there is couple of things we can do here. We can just say not to bother with this and leave them there, or if we want to clean things up a little bit, we can just add layer masks to all of these layers, and then come back up to the top and then click on the eye icon here. It shows where the first drone trail is and simply click on the white box, which is the unmask. With the black brush selected, you click in B, we can just come in and painted that light trail. Just keep doing that as we progress through the photograph. If you can't find the lecture this time you get the icon on and off for the visibility, and you can see where each one is. Now we have a very beautifully exposed house. What we can do now is, I'm really happy with how this is exposed and how it is illuminated. This one I did last summer actually. Sometimes you might find there could be some hotspots, so what you can do is if you think that one side is a little bit too bright, you can just go through and find that section. Let's say this side of the field at the side of the house is too bright or there's an illuminator on the top of the roof there, and if you think it's too bright, what you can do is just reduce the opacity of that individual layer, and what will happen is you'll see there's our moon here. It adjusted the brightness of just that section. Now I'm quite happy with this. Looks really good. What I'm going to do now is do the same I do at the beginning, Shift and click on the end one, and just Command Shift or Alt Shift E, and that will make that one layer. You can see that this is like [inaudible] , but really happy with that. Command Alt O for open. Let's go through a Drone Tiff folder and click on Noise [inaudible] and click on a noise photograph, noise reductive, reduce photographs. Again, by typing D on the keyboard, or this icon up here for the move tool, just click and grab and drag it on to a foreground. You can actually see the Big Dipper right there over the house which is beautiful. Now we're going to do the same as we did in the last tutorial, pressing W. I'm just dragging with the Quick Selection Tool around the bottom part of this photograph and then we're going to go back up. Or select the mask and we're going to refine the edge. So let's zoom in a little bit. Again, this icon over here to a fine edge to it. Because press on the keyboard. We're just going to rush in and around the edges and in around where it's adding trees along the horizon line. You can see here where this guy is in between the leaves. We can just paint and brush in there. I'm going to zoom here and then come across the building that the edges look really good and then the same along here. Adjust the contrast a little bit and extending little bit tighter. Hit "Okay". Zoom out, and then again this little box icon with a circle in it is a layer mask. Add a layer mask and now it looks kind of odd. So what we're going to do on this layer mask, Command Alt I, and now we have a blended sky on top of our nice clean foreground. We can zoom in and see that everything just looks really, really nice. There's no lines around the edge. You see here that we've missed a little bit, so all you're going to do is a little brush. It's just move that back in and begin a new type. Do that nice and easy. Then if you go on to the next like that, and make a mistake like that. Just by hitting X, we're going to change this back to [inaudible] and we can paint it back in. It's really handy. Same if you do it on the house, going to make mistake, just press X and we can brush that back in nice and easy. 12. Drone Editing: Now, we can do what we did before. Command or Alt "Option Shift and E" and make a new layer. Do what I like to do is "Command Alt J" and then the same with "Command Shift and L and B". Just to have a look. You don't have to go with it, but just to see what it does. It's a cool way. I like to start off with this Auto Tone and Auto Color. If you don't know the shortcut, you can come up here "Image" and you see "Auto Tone" and "Auto Color" here. It will give you the shortcuts. Whether it's on PC or Mac. You can see the difference here. I like what it did, but I don't want the full effect of it. What we'll do is we'll just reduce the opacity on that layer to zero and just bring in a little layer of it. Not a lot, just a little. Somewhere around there. Then we can merge that layer and make a duplicate layer and "Command Shift" or "Alt Shift A" to bring this into camera roll. Again, we can do our adjustments here. We can make things a little bit cooler or warmer. Add more tint. Bring the highlights down a little bit. Add some contrast. Shadows up or down. Add some dehaze to bring some contrast into our sky. Don't go too crazy because you will see what it does around the actual foreground. Puts this halo around the house a little bit. A little is a lot, in these situations. Again, you can adjust these as you see fit. Totally up to yourself. You can see what gets affected. You can add more luminance to the grass there, made the green on the house part lower, if you like. These tails are very user-friendly. Just go and adjust them, the way you see fit. Click "Okay". Now we can come into [inaudible]. Do a color correction if you like. It hasn't done a whole lot there, because it seems [inaudible]. It works the way it is. Now you can also saturate things or desaturate different colors. You can make things warmer, as I said before. You can also come in here, and go to "Color Lookup". Here's the drop down in this adjustment layer and you can add these other presets. Some of them can be a bit intense, funky, but all you got to do, really, if you like the look of one let's drive it all the way back to zero on the opacity here. Then just add a little bit, if you like. Just eight percent, just to tweak it, just a little bit. Just finish that and then come back into the [inaudible] Let's do the Magic Green Lands again. I really like this because it's just a group of effects that I really like to have on my images. It's just a quick way of getting done because we can go through all of these different things in Photoshop manually, it just takes a long time. Especially if you are well-versed in photoshoping. I'm not super well-versed in Photoshop, I know what I know to get things the way I like them. There obviously is a whole lot more I could learn, but for now I'm really happy with where I'm at with my editing [inaudible]. As before, everything's come to be green. Just click on this little drop icon, scroll down, and delete the "Boost Greens" and it will bring you back in the original color and the opacity little bit full on, so just bring everything back to normal. Bring the opacity back to zero and just push it a little bit in. You'd see where it takes you. Now, I would like to have discovery maybe a bit more blue here. So all we do is "Command/Alt", we see "Option Shift and E" with the top layer selected. It's going to make a base layer again. Now you can come up somewhere like here and make a little bit of the color. If you don't like that, you can make it even cooler again. Which is what I wanted, but now the building looks a bit too cold. As before, what we can do this by pressing "Option" and clicking and dragging on the "Layer Mask" from the very beginning of the edit. Holding it and just dragging it up and just dropping it on there. It will return the house to its original form and keep the sky the way we want it. "Command or Alt E'' Unless you're really happy with that. It's a very different effect, it's a lot brighter. Again, if you think you made it too bright then just take it to camera roll which is "Command Shift A" or "Alt Shift A". Just scroll up and just drive down the highlights a little bit. I like [inaudible] then come down to the secondary here and by the S curve. Like this, or you can use these ones here. Again, just adding just a little bit. Click "Okay". That's it. Again, a different way of lumining our foregrounds. Which you can see, it has quite a difference between the one that we had in the light [inaudible] versus [inaudible] 7.1. Huge difference. The whole way of developing this method is just when you're editing, just take things a little bit beyond where they should be. However you think they should be, so oversaturate things or desaturate things or add lots of contrast. There's so many tools here that you can get lost in them, but just by using these adjustment layers they're non-destructive. When you click on one, it's going to add a layer mask. It doesn't actually inhibit the final image. You can just add S curves. I think I like it there, but maybe it's very intense. You don't want to adjust this anymore. We can just drag it back and then drag it in again. That's just made it a bit more delightful, just for this demonstration. Again, I think that's a bit too full on. Bring it all the way back to zero the opacity and then you can just drop it in a little bit. Again, it's all down to personal taste and it's all about finding what you like. Now you can go Command + Alt + Shift + E to collapse all of these. Now let's go and press the crop tool here. Excuse me, because I'll straighten this out a little bit and just grab the column to rotate in the direction you need. Hit Enter and you have a looking straight. The thing I like about the draw lighting is you can actually add this yet because with a light pattern you'll find that it hits the floor and front a bit more here. The drawing you can actually obviously promoting a lot better. It's not in this image and let's go to the File, Save, click. Let's change it back because I'm pretty sure and then 16 bits. Yes I am, so change it back to 8-bit channel "File", "Save", "JPEG" and it would be let's take it back into the drone IP portion. Let's seen this my Safe Senders is 14.7 megabytes versus a 33 bit because they're getting a different camera back down pedestal. Then it says image. "Okay" we're going to go "Export", "Save for Web". And now, I'm just going to come down here to see that the image is set on an 788 kilobytes. What I will do is come back up here and just increase "Quality". If you bring up to maybe 40. That's 1.6, so we can go a little bit more to 60. Now we've got a three megabyte photograph. Click "Save" for web as we have it here. Hit "Save" and that's that. And then using [inaudible] , we can go click "by Height". Because this image is a little bit smaller, maybe make it 2,500 pixels on the long side. It'll deal it's auto sharpening and it'll change it to SRGB, which is for web. Then delete this one. Then we can see this image is looking really good. Now, it looks pixelated. As you remember, because we've resized that. Don't worry if it looks like this, because when you zoom out, it's going to look fantastic and it looks like normal. That's "Command or Alt E" and apply those, come up through our layer, flatten image. Again "File", which is "Command S", or you can get it from the drop down just to save. We will call this "web2". Click "Save". And now we have this 3.3 megabyte image. That's it. Hopefully, you can navigate that nice. It's easy to follow. You can just re-watch the lessons again and again and just go through it and just go step-by-step. The main concept is to get the stars noise reduced and to have a foreground blended with the stars. Then after that it's just a matter of you taking the edit where you want it to be by adjusting it as one image. I would advise that when shooting to have your white balance not set to auto because the white balance parameters could change between sky and foreground. You want everything looking the same. Even if you shoot everything in Sony and everything's super warm you can change the white balance after Photoshop. But if the white balance from the sky is matching the white balance from the foreground. It's just a lot easier to work with. As I said, the main reason we're doing this is to reduce noise and have really clean images dash. You can have confidence in perhaps selling or just blowing up to hang on your own wall. That's it for now. I hope you really enjoyed this editing section of the course. I will see you all very soon. 13. Ambient Light Blending: Hello, astrophotographers, and welcome back. In this lesson, we're going to talk about ambient light for our foregrounds as opposed to using a light panel. Ambient light is basically just using the light that's available to you without using any light panels, any torches or headlamps or any of that kind of stuff to illuminate your foregrounds. This comes in handy when you're in a situation where the landscape is too vast or the light panel just won't cut it. What we need to do is open up our cameras a lot more than normal. You see here, we have a bunch of exposures. They all look pretty similar, except for this one here down on the bottom right. These are all my sky exposures which were 30 seconds at F20.8 ISO 4,000. But this one is different because it is a 128 second exposure at F2.80 ISO 1,000. What I did there was I put my camera into bulb mode, which is a mode that would keep the camera open as long as you have the shutter held on the camera or as long as you have it opened via wireless cable release or transmitter of some sorts. Basically, what you want to do is ideally, if you do have a cable release, it's really convenient. You can click it once and keep the shutter open and click it again and keep it closed. There have been some hacks in the past where I've seen people sort of taping an eraser to the camera's shutter just to keep it open, but an app or a cable release or a wireless release will definitely do the trick. What we're doing here is getting a relatively clean image with low noise elements in the photograph. So we go into Photoshop or is it already have this image opened, and this is our 128 second image. You can see already that it's actually pretty nicely exposed. If we go back to one of our sky images and open that in Camera Raw, you're going to see that it's actually rather dark in the foreground, even though the sky does look nice and exposed properly. We even have some of those Milky Way dust there. What we're going to do is here just as an example, we're going to bring the shadows up, and bring up our blacks, and just increase the exposure of the image all around. When you zoom in and you're going to see that there's a terrible amount of green in the foreground and a lot of color casts. It looks actually rather green. We're trying to eliminate that. Our workaround is to do an ambient exposure and work with a longer exposure for our foreground. Here we are in Photoshop, and we call this image foreground. Now, what we're going to do is we're just going to take it into Camera Raw. By doing that, what's going to show you the difference in the quality of the image. You see it's actually already almost pretty well exposed. We're just going to bring up the shadows a little bit here in the foreground. You're going to see you like that there's way less noise, and that the color casting is actually very even and more well-balanced. This is some coarse bush that we have here locally and so on, all times and stuff. At this time of year through very dried out and there's not a lot of color in it. So this is our foreground image and I'm really happy with how it looks. You can make it as bright as dark as you want. We'll also do a little bit of noise reduction here. Nothing too crazy because you don't want to lose that detail in the brick work. What I like to sharpen around 60 and masking a little bit, and then just add a little bit of noise reduction. It doesn't have to be anything crazy. You can see that we already have a decent-looking foreground. In the back there we've got some nice greens and a little bit in the front here as well. So I'm quite happy with that as my foreground. So we can hit Okay. Now we can open our tiff files in Photoshop and call that sky. Now with the move tool, which is V on your keyboard or this icon here. Click and drag it onto our foreground image and line it up. It looks pretty good. Now we're going to make our selection. So press W on your keyboard or this icon here, which is the Quick selection tool. Then from the bar underneath knew bottom corners just click, hold and drag up. It'll make a pretty good selection of the foreground and this chimney stack and the two buildings, which you see that I hasn't done a really good job around the edges here. So we're going to fix that. So we're going to click on Select and mask. Now with the refine edge tool selected, which is this one here, we're just going to brush everything in that hasn't been selected. Same here for this window and this gap here. Then we'll just move across the horizon line here. Brush in, and here, I just hadn't been selected. Now it looks pretty good. Maybe shrink the selection with a little bit of contrast. Smart Radius and one pixel. Click Okay, and it's done a pretty good job. It's missed bits here, but honestly, sometimes it's just hard to get every little branch and leaf. So with that now is going to come down here to this panel and layers panel on this new rectangle is struggling as a layer mask. Add a layer mask and it doesn't look right. We don't want the sky and we don't want this foreground. So what we're going to do here is invert this layer. The easiest way to do that. There's a couple of ways you can do it. The best way to do it is simply by pressing Command or Alt and I with that layer mask selected. Now we have our sky and our desired skyline and our desired foreground. It's done a pretty good job. Around here is a little bit of an iteration here. Well, we can fix that a little later. It's not too bad, not too worried about it. But for the sort part, it's actually done a pretty good job. 14. Ambient Light Editing: So now we can combine these layers. You can also edit them a little bit more if you like. Just if you want a color match if you find out they're a little bit off. For here, you go Command Alt J, Command Alt, Shift, and A. We can make the foreground a little bit warmer and a little bit cooler and just add any adjustments you deem suitable. I'm happy with the way it looks really because it looks natural and add the same with the sky. If you want to make it if you want to do is Command on a Mac Alt or on the PC, Shift and A. We can make our sky a bit brighter, just to bring out some more elements, more stars and bring the highlights up or down, whichever you see fit. I'm happy with the way it looks. Bring the stars up a little bit just to introduce more stars, click Okay. Now what we're going to do is we're going to blend these two layers, merge them and make a combined layer of these two. So we're going to press Command on a Mac or Alt on a PC, Option Shift, and E, and now we have one layer. That were we doing on me to edit on and from here I like to go Command or Alt J. Then we can come up here and just do a quick auto tone and auto color and see how we like it. If you don't like that, you could step back. Well, I like the auto tone, it looks pretty good. Then I'd like to just merge that one and then make a duplicate layer again. If you were a Pro, we can do a color correct and see what kind of effect that has on the image. It did make it look a little bit warmer. I like it but maybe it's a bit too warm so we can just bring the opacity back all the way down if you want and then you can just introduce a little bit of it, something like that and that looks pretty good. If you don't like it, just delete the layer. Same thing you can do this color correct tree and see how that looks. It makes it a bit more green. But I'm happy with how it's looking here at the moment. Again, you can make it look colder and you can make it look warmer. It's totally up to you. There's no right or wrong way, it's all in your vision. You take away what you want to take it. I'm quite happy with that. So let's add that layer once again Now, we can add, there is two things we can do, we can stick with layer Pro or we can go into the NIC collection here. I like to usually go the Pro contrast because it does give me a pretty decent representation of what it feels the correct color casts should be. Again, you don't have to agree with that. You can just take whatever you want, but this is just one tool that I like to use just to see how it looks. Dragging the podcasts all the way over and I like that again, the buildings seemed to be just a little bit on the warm side for my liking. But we're going to go with that for now and then we can slightly just tweak the contrast a little bit and click Okay. Then you can see what it has done to our image here. It's actually making it pop a little bit more and makes the sky more on the cyan end. Again, you can just take it all the way back into sleek. A little bit of an entity if you like, just bringing in the opacity. Merge that layer and again, make a duplicate layer. We're going to just add a bit of an art and effect here and let's go on and affect bright and see what happens. The megapixels on the camera is 46, so there hit Okay. It's pretty bright and it's pretty strong. So I don't think I want to go with that one, I don't really like it. So we can just delete it. You can come down here and go through that and I really like is magic green lands. This is a bunch of actions all in one group. You're going to see that it looks very green. So in the action and just I'll drop it down and come down to the blue greens and delete. Then we can play around with how we want this because I don't really like it on the foreground. The image doesn't make a bit more rich looking. What we can do is just reduce the opacity a little bit and just bring it in to where we like it. Somewhere under a scope, that's crucial to me. Now we're going to combine all these to make our new layer. So Command on Mac, Alt, on PC, Option Shift, and E. Now we have a new layer to work with and let's duplicate that layer Command Alt J. I'm thinking it's just a little bit on the yellow side in here. So what I'm going to do is just on the buildings in the adjustments panel, get the hue saturation layer adjustment. Click on this little hand here and just keep right-clicking here, it's going to select the color that you've just clicked on. If you click here, it pick reds and vice versa. So like all we want to do is click and hold and just drag it down a little bit because here it's very yellow and here, it's very desaturated. So just bring it back in somewhere about there. Now you notice that the grass has been desaturated quite a bit. So what you can do is with a black brush, just brush all that back in and merge that. That's pretty much it. I'm pretty happy where we are with this at the moment. Again, to clean the chromatic aberration doesn't really handy action in the right Pro panel and it's called Cleaned CA. Let's click on that and hit Okay. Then with a white brush, you just paint along these edges that have this aberration on this blue fringe, and that's it. There you have your final image. I'm really happy with how it looks. It's nice and clean. Our foreground is nice and clean. This, again, if you don't have the use of a light panel, just by opening up your camera and lowering your ISO settings a bit, you're going to let in more light in and hit that sensor and things look nice and clean. It's just another way of blending sky and foregrounds. It's also a very natural look too if that's something that you want to strive towards. So now what we're going to do is we're going to save this image now, you can save everything as it is as a TIF file so that when you reopen it, you can come back and work on it some more and not loose these layers. You can also just collapse everything and save it as a JPEG and you can save for web and all those kind of stuff. Right now we're just going to save it just to have a high res JPEG and get it ready for the web. So what I'd like to do here, so Command on a Mac or Alt on a PC Shift and E, and that will collapse everything. Then we can come up and flatten our image. Then it's just simply Command or Shift Option S, and we can save it wherever we want to save it on our computer, change it to JPEG. We'll just save it in here in my Ireland Astro folder. Now again, we're on 16 bits here. So we're going to come up here, mode, eight bits and Save. We'll just save it in here as a JPEG. Then you have a nice 50-megabyte image. However, the megapixel camera [inaudible] when you start adding layers, the image will get bigger and bigger. So I'll click Okay. Now what we're going to do, there is two ways we can do this and that's, we can resize for web because if you upload a 50 megabytes photograph onto Facebook or Instagram or something like that, it's basically just going to crush your photograph. Maybe you want to get a lot of banding in here and lot of pixilation, and we don't want that to happen. So one way to do it is in Photoshop, go to File, Export, and Save for Web. Then what we're going to do is up here we have a quality slider and down here we have a representation of if you've saved at this quality, that's how big the file is. So we want to get it down between two and three megabytes is usually a pretty good place. So just slide it down a little bit more and that will adjust and even more. Let's bring it down to 10 and that should be good enough, I think. Yeah, that's fine. Then you can save as and you have a nice 3.6 megabyte image that won't get crushed on Photoshop, or on sorry, on Instagram or Facebook. The other way to do it which is really convenient in the layer of Pro panel is click Filters and Finish. Here we have a sharp and resize for the web. So by clicking by height, because this is a vertical photograph, it's going to ask you how many pixels you want to be on the long side are usually go 2,000. Click Okay and it's also changed it to sRGB for web. Then it's going to give you a bunch of sharpened layers here. I tend not to use them that much. Usually, I'll use if I need just the first one and we can collapse that, flatten it. Then the same thing, Command or Alt and option S, save it as a JPEG, and I add it in my Ireland Astro folder and hit Save. Then we have a nice three pi one-megabyte photograph that's ready for posting and sharing with your friends online. So this portion of the course is taken care of. I hope you enjoyed this section and I'll get back to you soon. All the best. Bye-bye. 15. Conclusion: This is one message that I want to get through to everybody is just have fun with it. There's no pressure here to take this world-class photo. It's just have fun, go out, experience the world and the stars above you at night, when there's probably nobody else around, and just engage that because it's a really beautiful experience. If you don't have time or in the immediate future, you can't go to shoot a night sky, head out to your local area where there's a rural community, head out, bring your tripod, bring your camera gear, and start messing around with long exposures. What that's going to do is it's going to get you used to your camera settings and where everything is so by the time you go out shooting in the dark, you are going to know where everything is and you're not going to be fumbling around. Also, my first challenge for you when you go out to take photos of the night sky is just take one photo. Just one photo with the settings that you're happy with and put that one aside. When you come back, take that one photograph and edit it in the same way that I've edited in the workflow. Then, you'll go and take the other photos and edit those. Then you put those photos side by side and you're going to see a huge difference. That's it for now. I would like to thank you so much for coming along on my astrophotography journey. Stay tuned because I most certainly will be adding a milky way course in the very near future. That, again, is going to take your astrophotography to even the next level, so that's something to strive for.