Star Trails and Nigh Photography


I am going to Scotland once again more specifically to the Isle of Skye regionj right up north in the highlands. Staying right opposite within stone throw from this castle here

I will b going in late August and thought it would be a good place to try for the first time (given the remote location lacking light pollution) to try some star or milky way photography. I have never done this before, I suspect the ilky wayu is unlikely as geographical postion/time of year has a big factor in this is suspect?

I would really appreciate tips, gear, set up steps etc… also post processing advice!

My gear is as follows…

Sony A7R MK3
Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8
Zeiss Batis 25mm F2.0
Sony G Master 24-70 2.8
Sony G Master 85mm 1.4
Sony G 70-200 F4

I’ve only done it a couple times, but one thing is you’ll want to use the largest aperture possible to let in as much light as possible.

A general rule is focus to infinity, but try manual focus as well. Make good use of that EVF, and try focus peaking if your camera will pick it up.

Don’t be afraid to use high ISO’s. You will have to use high ISO to keep the exposure time down, otherwise you will get star trails due to the rotation of the earth. There’s nothing wrong with star trails if you want a lot of emphasis on them, but they will ruin anything else that’s in the sky (like the Milky Way). I was doing 30-second exposures at f2 and ISO 3200 on my X100T and got decent results with no trails. You should be able to produce cleaner results at those settings with the A7R III because it’s full frame.

I’ll post a photo of mine once I have some time.

Also don’t be afraid to tweak a lot in post. If you get the Milky Way, it won’t be anywhere near as cool straight out of camera as what you see online.

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Thank you for your advice, would appreciate a sample photo when you get time :slight_smile:

This is from the time I was using my X100T.

I don’t really like how the stars turned out. They are very large, either due to a tiny bit of movement during the exposure, or too long of an exposure. Two things I would have done differently.

1 - Use a real tripod. I was using a Gorillapod and it wasn’t very sturdy.
2 - Try a 20 and 25 second exposure instead of 30 seconds.

And these are my settings. I usually just hit auto to get a good starting point and then tweak from there. But keep in mind, auto will over-compensate in some situations. In this photo it tried to bring back some color in the trees, and in turn it made the sky super bright, so auto was not extremely useful in this situation.

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Some tips:

  • Stellarium is great for mapping out how the night will look., it looks like it will be full moon out in late August so try and find a time where the moon is below the horizon utilizing Stellarium. The moon will honestly fuck up your exposure.
  • Shutter speed should be influenced by the focal length you are using. Wider you go, longer you can keep it open as you won’t get as much trailing (if that’s the look you’re going for).
  • I would personally find the best focus points BEFORE going out and attempting to take photos at night. Some people will use two pieces of gaffer tape - one on the body, one on the focus ring (if its big enough) and make a mark between the two so when you’re out at night, you don’t have to fiddle and try and focus.
  • If you’re out there at night and having trouble focusing, chose not to mark up your lens, w/e - focus on the brightest star. lol
  • Because of light pollution in that country, I would be researching dark sky “parks” to check out. [1] [2]
  • If you haven’t already, watch everything by Lonely Speck. I’m not joking. He’s a pro: