Wide Angle Static Star Photography (Starscapes)

This is a short "how to" photograph  stars and get similar images to the ones I have shown on this website. I'm calling these images wide angle static star images. I'm not going to deal with star trails or other astro-photography.

Shooting Conditions

For starter you need close to the following conditions:

  First and formost a very dark sky. This means an hour and half past sunset or before sunrise. 
  Little or no light pollution. Light pollution from man made lights, specifically cities. A good source for determining the level of light pollution in a specific area is a website called Dark Sky Finder you can find it here; Dark Sky Finder
  Few or no clouds. Weather Reports use NOAA at www.srh.noaa.gov
  No moon or sunlight. Moon Phases use Lunaf.com at www.lunaf.com
  Season and timing. Sun & Moon Rise/Set times use USNO at aa.usno.navy.mil/data/
  Tide Condition when near water. Tides Charts use Salt Water Tides at www.saltwatertides.com
  Know where celestial objects are. Use a night sky chart try Stellarium Program at www.stellarium.org

Gear and Settings - This is ideal, try with what you have
 Camera with manual settings
 Camera with ISO settings to 3200
 Lens Fisheye to 28mm
 Lens f 2.8 or better (Ideal)
 Tripod, headlamp, flashlight, shutter release, lens cloth, bug spray.

Focusing
 Manual Mode
 Use live view at 10X
 Tape off focus at infinity in the light

Test Shot for Composition
 Set Highest ISO on your camera.
 Make sure noise reduction is OFF.
 Shutter to 10 - 30 seconds
 Set manual focus, focus at infinity
 Aperture wide open.
 Set 2 second timer
 Shoot horizontals and verticals all around
 Review test shots

Final Settings - Don’t forget to experiment

Planning
 Know your camera and equipment.
 Scout your location in the daylight.
 Give yourself plenty of time.

Field Work
 Slow down and enjoy the night.
 Don’t get lost.
 Let someone know were you are.

Composition
 Use light pollution or shoot away from it.
 Use clouds.
 Light paint and or put light in places.
 Look for light areas.

Experiment
 Play have fun.
 Add land based objects that fit the composition.
 Look for light.

Light Painting
 Use very little light, start with a one second sweep with your flashlight.
 Its art not science
 Try different kinds of light.

Post Processing
 Check levels
 Adjust white balance
 Create contrast with curves
 Apply noise reduction
 Apply chrominance
 Sharpen for output.

Other Resources
  Multi-colored LED flashlight at www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/lights/
  Useful ipad applications Star finder at Apple App Store search “Star Walk
  Useful iphone  apps “Phases” and “tideapp”
  Download a free trial of Photoshop Lightroom 3  at https://www.adobe.com/cfusion/tdrc/    index.cfm?product=photoshop_lightroom

Click here for Images