Star Photography: Essential Gear and How to Use It | Jason Heritage | Skillshare

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Star Photography: Essential Gear and How to Use It

teacher avatar Jason Heritage, Adventure & Landscape Photographer

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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

6 Lessons (17m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Choosing your gear

    • 3. Choosing your settings

    • 4. Choosing your location

    • 5. Demo

    • 6. Choosing your photos

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About This Class

New to astrophotography? Learn what you’ll need to take amazing photos of the stars!

As a teen I spent countless hours trying to capture the wonders of the night sky on camera. However all too often I was left with images that were less than stellar. Through a lot of trial and error and further study, I’ve learned exactly what’s needed to take awesome star photos, and in this class I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned with you.

In this class we’ll cover:

  • The gear you’ll need: I’ll explain the difference between DSLR/mirrorless, point and shoot, and camera phones, and which one is best for astrophotography
  • The best settings to use: I’ll go over shutter speed, aperture, and ISO sensitivity settings
  • How to choose your location: I’ll show you the tools I use to find an ideal location
  • A live demo: I’ll take you with me on a trip to photograph the night sky over Mount Rainier, and show you the practical application of everything we’ve learned

This class is for the beginner astrophotographer who wants a deeper understanding of all the components that go into taking an amazing star photo. A basic understanding of shutter speed, f-stop, and ISO will help you follow along with this class but it’s not required.



Light Pollution Map

Meet Your Teacher

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Jason Heritage

Adventure & Landscape Photographer


Jason Heritage is a nationally published outdoor photographer specializing in adventure and landscape photography.

Helping push his love for photography to the next level, Jason received a positive critique by National Geographic photographers, Frans Lanting, Art Wolfe and Tom Mangelson at the 2013 Masters of Nature Photography seminar in Denver, Colorado. Just a week later Outdoor Photographer named Jason the Grand Prize winner of “4th Annual Great Outdoors Photo Contest.”

Since then he has been featured on National Geographic, the National Park Foundation, Outdoor Photographer and Backpacker Magazine for his work with adventure and landscape photography. Additionally his work... See full profile

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1. Intro: so much to see in the night sky. But her eyes were limited. What they could detect. Astra Progress is a great way to capture the beauty and expansiveness of yours from practically anywhere to my first star photos from just outside of Philadelphia when I was 21 years old, I set up my tripod and camera in the backyard and experimented with the settings until I got photos that excited me. Over the years, I find to my skills and technique, and my goal for this class to teach you had kept your own amazing photos walking through the basics of the gear you'll need, what camera settings to use and some helpful tools and tips also show you how to find the best visibility and how to put it together to make amazing Asher photography photos. I'm Jason Heritage, a nationally published landscape photographer. Welcome to my class 2. Choosing your gear: Hi, everyone. Welcome to my start photography class. Walking through the basics of the gear you need to take photos of the stars. What camera settings to use and an important rule of thumb also show you how to find the best visibility and how to put it all together to create an amazing Astro photography photo that's first. Review the gear You'll need to take photos of the stars. OK, first thing's first. You'll need a camera. There are three popular types of camera out there. A DSLR or merely camera, a point and shoot camera on a camera phone. The DSLR Amir list camera strength lies in two main areas. Its ability to switch lenses and its large sensor size. The ability to switch lenses is important to any shooter. Fixed allows them to be ready for any situation. Sensor size also plays a huge role in your ability to capture the stars. The larger the sensor, the more light and so again, which allowed to get more detail on your photos and most DSLR or merely cameras, you'll find one of three centers. Micro 4/3 a PSC or full frame micro. 4/3 comes into the smallest that the mentions of only 0.7 inches by 0.5 inches. The A P S C sensor is a bit larger, roughly the size of a postage stamp, at 1.1 inches by 0.93 inches. And finally, the full frame sensor is the largest of the three. It measures 1.7 inches by 1.4 inches. The best sensor for star photography is the full frame, usually professional level. DSLR and Mirrlees cameras coming full frame sensors, while consumer level cameras come with the micro 4/3 in a PSC sensors now on to point and shoot cameras. Their biggest strength lies in their compact size, which makes them great for travel and shooting on ago. Some higher end point and shoot cameras have high quality lenses, but most come with lower quality lenses. They can't be removed. Camera phones have the same advantages and disadvantages appoint shoot cameras, although their sensor size is even smaller so that $1000 iPhone won't get the job done. Of these three types of cameras, I recommend a DSLR or merely camera. It tend to be pricier, but with their larger sensor size and the ability to remove lenses for sure to get the stunning photos that you want. The next item you'll need is a lens. This magical device will funnel light from your surroundings to your camera sensor. All cameras need lenses, but just like sensors, they're not all the same. In the same fashion is sensors you wanna lend. Settle it in the most amount of light. There are two things to look out for when buying a lens for Astro photography, a low aperture in a short, put, willing generally actors or F stops range from F 22 F 2.8. They can even get as low as one. You want a lower number because the lower it is the white of the opening in the lens and the white other opening is the more light that will pass through to the sensor. This lens is in F 2.8. Another factor for getting light onto your sensor is the focal length of your lens. On the focal length, a shorter, more light is captured from a larger area of sky, and more of the scene is captured. I recommend a focal length of 14 millimeters 35 millimeters for Star photos. The final item you'll need in the tripod Tripods come in all shapes and sizes. All you need is a tripod innkeeper Camera study. It doesn't need to be fancy, but it does need to be started. I first started. Take star photos on a cheap plastic Dr Odd. Some additional gear that's helpful but not necessary are wired or wireless remote in a headlamp with the red light sending to recap. Here's a low gear you'll need to take amazing star photos. 3. Choosing your settings: high class. Welcome back the last section. We talked about the gear that you need to take star photos. Now we'll discuss the camera and lens settings that work best. There are three areas it will cover in this section. Shutter speed, aperture and ISO sensitivity. We'll focus on a DSLR since it's the best option for Asher photography. Some point and shoot cameras function similarly, although not all of them have adjustable settings. Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutters open and letting light through to the sensor. For Astro photography, you want the shutter remain open for an extended amount of time because you need enough like to get in in order to expose a proper picture as your experiment and leave your shutter open longer and longer, you'll notice that without a tripod, your photos start to blur. Sometimes, when taking photos of the stars, you may notice that they come out blurry even when you're using a tripod. This is because the Earth is constantly rotating in your camera is capturing the stars movement across the sky. These are called star trails to help avoid star trails used the 500 rule to determine your shutter speed. This is the five minute rule. Divide the focal length of your lens by 500 you'll get the longest exposure before the stars start to trail. For example, if I did 24 millimeter lens, I divide 24 by 520.83 ID. Round this to 20 and this tells me have roughly a 22nd exposure before the start trail start becoming noticeable in the photo. Next up is after, which is the fan like opening in your lens like shutter speed. Aperture determines how much like gets into the sensor, and the size of the opening is determined by your lens. Remember that the lower the number, the wider the opening and for Astro photography you want the opening to be a swine is possible. Certain lenses only allow you to open the aperture part way. As you can see on this lens, it reads 18 0105 millimeter F 3.5 to 5.6. This means that the lowest aperture possible on this lens is 3.5. Well, this is not bad. It's not ideal for start photos in order to get the best star photos. I recommend purchasing a lens with 2.8 or lower. Now let's talk about ISO sensitivity. I so sensitivity refers to your camera sensor and how sensitive to light it is for Astro photography. You want to set the ISO setting based on the sensor that your camera has for a full frame camera. I recommend a nice so setting in the range of 1600 to 6400 for a PSC camera. I recommended I so setting of 800 to 2000. One thing you want to try not to do is to turn the ISO setting above the recommended ranges . This is because the higher that I so setting the noisier your photo will get the term noise were first of visual distortion in lower ISO setting all but say 100. What call? It's very little to no distortion. Whoever this setting is an ideal for dark situations. A higher ISO setting is great for low late situations. Fucking cause more distortion. Figuring out the best isil setting is a bit of a balancing act. We want our photos be crisp, unclear, which calls for a low ISO setting, but We need our sensors to absorb more light, which requires ah Hirai So setting This is a trade off that all ash photographers deal with Experiment to see what works best for your camera might produce the highest quality results . And don't worry if you end up with a noisy photo, Sometimes the only way to get the shot is the push, the ISO setting all the way out. 4. Choosing your location: high class. Welcome back in the last two sections, we talked about the gear you'll need to take photos of the stars in the optimal settings for your camera lens. Now I want to show you how to find the best time and location to take photos at night. One thing you always have to consider with Astro photography is the amount of light pollution in a given area. Light pollution is up, writing of the night sky caused by manmade sources Such a street lights and this can obscure stars from your photos. An excellent resource for finding dark skies is JD shine dot nets. Dark Sky Finder. This tool maps out like pollution in United States, Mexico and Canada. When you visit the site, you can see what appears to be a heat map. Overlay it onto Google maps. It's super easy to use, and we'll show you exactly what areas have the lowest amount of light pollution. The areas that are bright white have the most minute light pollution in the dark gray areas have little to none. You can take star photos at any level of light pollution, but in darker areas, you'll be able to capture more stars in your photos. If you head to one of the darkest areas on the map, may even be able to get a photo of the Milky Way. Another thing to consider before going out taking photos is the lunar cycle. When there's a full moon, it can look like there's a giant flashlight, this guy securing the stars in your photos. For this reason, I recommend taking photos either on or around the new moon. During this lunar phase, the moon either doesn't reflect the sun's light or it's beneath the earth rising, giving the dark skies you need for awesome photos. The best way to determine the phase of the moon Issa simply Google Lunar cycle in a date that you're planning to take. Photos. The new moon lunar phase and limited light pollution will give you the best chance of capturing it. Truly amazing photo of the night sky 5. Demo: I class. Welcome back. We just covered camera gear, camera settings and some helpful tools and tips. And now we're gonna put it all to the test for salt use of general location and check the amount of light pollution. I'm choosing the area around Mount Rainier because I always want to get an awesome start photo there using Dark Sky Finder. I can see that the areas north, east and south of Matt Rainier have the least amount of light pollution. Let's see if there any easily accessible spots to take photos. Here's Crystal Mountain Resort definitely a bad spot for Star photos because of how much light it puts out we go. Any farther north will start running into even more light pollution from two comma. But it looks like there's a lookout in between that might work. Okay, some top. Look out. Let's see what we can find out about it. It looks like the latest trail reports say that I should be able to drive nearly all the way to the top. I think they will make a great spot for start photography. Next, let's see what the new moon lunar phase will be perfect. Luckily, for me. It's gonna be this Friday, so any time this weekend will be great whether dot com also says We're looking at Clear Skies all night. So with my date and location said, I need to pick out my gear for this trip. I'll be using my Nikon D 800 a full frame sensor camera in my night court. 24 millimeter F 2.8 lens. This combination should set me up nicely for star photos. Now all I need to do is pack up my gear charger and batteries and hit the road this weekend . I recommend arriving at these 30 minutes beforehand so you can scout the location. Picked out a spot to create a good composition. Just arrived in a vehicle location. I think it's pretty good. I set up my camera on my tripod. I'm using the weight of my camera bag for added stability. This will prevent any gust of wind from pushing my camera. Now what we need to do is wait for the sun to set and then I'll teach you how to focus on the stars. Next, I'll take off the lens cap set. My average were wide open and set my shutter speed for 20 seconds. Remember, this is based on the 500 rule. Also set my eye soda 1600 to start as I begin taking photos on just my settings. Until I'm happy with how the photos look, not the sunset, I will need to focus my lands on the stars. To do this. Start with setting your lens to the manual focus mode. This will eliminate the issue of refocusing every time you press the shutter button. Next, you want to aim your camera lens at the brightest star in this guy's. There are two ways to do this, and it will depend on your camera's capabilities. The first option is enable live view mode on the camera buyer and live view mode. Zoom in on the brightest star. Begin to manually focus your lens you want the star to be is well defined. It's possible on the screen. Once you've done this exit live view mode and take a test photo. Review the photo and repeat the focusing process until the stars are as clear as possible. Option two takes a bit longer. It works. Justus Well, why your lenses aimed at the brightest star spend the focus will manually on the land to infinity and then bring it back one notch. We want to bring it back one notch, because the infinity setting is often a touch out of focus for distant objects like stars. Once this is done, take a test photo. Review the image you just took and zoom in on the stars in the photo. If you don't see well defined stars, repeat the process until they become more clear. This process will be tedious, but it could mean the difference between a fuzzy photo on a photo you want to share with all your Instagram followers. Two things to note. My head lamp has a red light built in. This functionality is key for seeing in the dark while taking photos. This is because at night, red light is not easy. Absorb. I came our sensors, meaning using it generally won't affect your photos. However, keep the red light on for too long. During your exposure, the camera might start to pick it up. I'm also using remote, but this I don't have to physically touch the camera or tripod were significantly reduces the chance of the blurriness caused by vibrations. We don't want a remote. Mostly a sellers have a built in self timer for the shutter. Turn this on. Press the shutter release button and back away. Okay, I think I've got some awesome shots. Let's go take a look at them on my computer and review what we've learned. 6. Choosing your photos: high class. Welcome back. We just put everything you learned to the test. Now let's take a look at the photos that I got proposed processing. I like to use Adobe Light Room. There are other programs out there, but most of them provide the same functionality. I use a W light room because it's included in my subscription to the Adobe Creative Suite. As we look through the photos, you can see that the first few out of focus and the Milky Way has a lined up with Mt. Rainier. Yet here at the end, the Milky Way is directly above Mount Rainier, which is the photo I was planning to get. Let's take a look at the settings for this photo. My aperture was said, the F 2.8, which is is Why is my lens can go? Remember this setting is what allows a lot of like to get it. I shutter speed was set for 20 seconds, which is what the 500 rule specified. I also ended up using, and I saw 2000 because there was so little light available at this hive and I so the photo will be noisy in greeny but I'll be able to remove some of it using light room. So using the GM principles discussed in this class, you'll soon be able to take your own amazing start photos. Thanks for taking this class. I hope you enjoyed it. The last project is to take what you've learned and go out and shoot some practice photos and submit your photos in the class project section and I'll be sure to provide to be back . See you next time.