All the way from his home in Lytham St Annes, Pete Colley told us all about photographing the night sky on 14 January. And what a lot of practical information there was!
Illustrated with his own stunning images, Pete provided a stream of tips on equipment and techniques for best results on different aspects of the night sky.
For moonscapes you're best with a 400mm+ lens and focus stack images to get more detail. A partial moon exposes the detail better.
Star Trails over the Observatorio del Teide
Star trails are best captured with a 14-20mm lens combining about 14 exposures at 5 minute intervals. Time lapse techniques are also very effective.
Essential kit includes a sturdy tripod, remote control, spare battery and red head torch. This can extend to an intervalometer or equivalent phone app. Shoot in RAW and practice camera adjustments in the dark. Lens misting can be prevented by using a dew strap and/or a kagool over the camera.
Preparation is key to improving your results. You need to consider darkness of the sky, light polution an visible lights at your chosen location. Also detailed weather conditions and phase of the moon. Fortunately there are now very useful apps to help with this - e.g. clearoutside.com and Photographers Ephemeris. See Pete's full list under "Useful Links" on the web site.
There are endless subjects in the sky. From shooting stars, aurorae, noctilucent cloud, zodiacal light, comets and the Milky Way to the major galaxies. Stacking hundreds of shots using specialist software improves the signal to noise ratio and hugely improves images.
Heart and Soul
Pete assured us that all of the above is possible using reasonably common equipment. Then you can get progressively more serious with Equatorial Tracking Mounts, Refractor Telescopes and Reflector Telescopes. He even recommended some reasonably priced items to start the journey with.
M42 Orion & NGC 1977 Running Man Nebulae 2
What stunning images and surprising colours! A tremendous amount of food for thought, specially during lockdown. Don't forget the warm clothes and flask of coffee, though.
Milky Way with Gamma Cygni
Our thanks to Pete for a fabulous inspiring talk!