By the light of the super pink moon

Thanks to overdoing it, I was up after midnight on Monday (technically Tuesday, then) when the moon was full. Supposedly a ‘super’ moon and the ‘pink’ moon, but really the moon is the moon, whether April or June.

So I took some pictures with the Canon 1Ds. ISO 1250, 8 second exposure, f1.4 (except on the direct moon image where I stopped down to f16) with the 50mm Super Takumar. Post-processing to reduce exposure as it was all a bit bright (the 1Ds screen is useless for previewing images) and unsharp masking to enhance detail. And of course reducing to “Internet size”.

Looks like daylight, doesn’t it? The white blobs in the sky are stars.

See? Stars.

Tree and stars.

Stars and tree.

Stars and bare branches.

That ol’ devil moon.

There are three things that would make this a better nighttime camera: 1). higher ISO ability; 2). higher resolution sensor; 3). better LCD screen for previewing. All of these are available on more modern cameras, but at 10X what I paid for this one!

I don’t like getting up in the middle of the night so I’m not likely to do more star pics for now. Unless I find I am up at night anyway. Still waiting for the road to be clear enough to get to the cabin so I can try this camera on some landscape shots. On the whole I like it, but it’s not a “first choice” device. Great with set-up shots and the manual lenses, though.

1 Dark sky

Further night experiments with the Canon 1 Dark sky. (Okay, you see what I did there.)

Changes from the last experiment including switching to the 50mm f1.4 Super Takumar lens and reducing exposure time to 10 seconds from 30. Note that you can tell if your exposure time is too long by looking at the stars in the picture close up: they will be elongated by the motion of the planet if the shutter is open too long. As a rule 20 seconds is the maximum to avoid this, but it depends on where you are and what you are trying to achieve. I found the star traces were about 3X as long as they were wide, hence cutting the exposure time to 1/3.

Although an interesting look, this image shows that the moon is a lot brighter than the stars.

I question the value of getting up at 11:00 PM to make photos like this.

It’s easier to do this in Winter around here, when the sun sets by 6:00 PM.

Despite very good noise reduction, some of the ‘stars’ are still actually noise.

This one I’m sure you’ll recognize.

The two moons of my world.

One of the hindrances of this experiment is the small (64MB) CF card I have: half a dozen pictures and the card is full! I’m shooting at Hi-res JPEG of course because I’m after pinpoints of light. I hate to think what RAW would allow me. Probably three pics. Fortunately the 8GB CF card I ordered has arrived, which will allow me to take more shots all at once with varied settings to see what ones work best. Providing I can convince myself to get up in the dark again.

If only it were Springtime

Of course 19°C (66°F) is pretty Spring-like, but watching the satellite picture says there’s still snow out at the lake. The forecast says no lows below freezing now, so perhaps another week …

In the meantime I have started working around here as there are a few things to deal with. That’s why I moved 600 lbs. of stored papers out of one shed and into another; so I can get at other stuff and perhaps make enough room to complete the modifications the local Mafia, er government, wants to a shed that has been standing for years without incident. I am and engineer you know. Bureaucrats need to prove they have power over everyone, though.

Papers away! (G11)

All that off to one side, I tried out the Canon 1Ds on some night shots and need to do some tweaks before I take more. First of all, the 64MB CF card is horrible for hi-res as it only holds <10 pictures. Can’t do much experimenting with that. Second, the camera’s maximum ISO of 1250 is real but pretty low for star shots. That can’t be helped, so either I take ‘trace’ shots (30 second exposures are about 3X too long to prevent this) or do lots of enhancing post-shoot. I need to try it with the 50mm f1.4 lens I was using the 35mm f2 because that’s what was on it when I woke up in the night and decided to try. It’s one more stop of exposure anyway. I can see where a real ISO of 3200-6400 would be of great use here, but the camera hasn’t got it. At least it does a good job at the speed it has, and the ‘noise reduction’ (second image method) is more effective than with any other camera I have. The biggest problem is that it’s not really dark until 10:00 PM now, so night photos interfere with my sleeping habits.

Nighttime is little light time. (1Ds)

Many other things are going on around here right now, some of it rather stressful. Vaccine? Nope. Surgery? Ha! Our hospitals are full-up with COVID patients (cases are out of control and the government isn’t even trying to stop the spread now) so that’s not happening. I need to get equipment ready for this year too (including fixing the trailer), and … well just all sorts of things.

In storage. (G11)

I had fun doing the IR photos and still have some more experiments to conduct with the 1Ds but they will have to wait for now. I have even toyed with the idea of selling it and everything else I’ve got to go for a 5D, but I suspect my equipment wouldn’t bring enough to cover the cost. C’est la vie photographique!

Ghost plane. (P610)

I’m still using the Nikon P610 a lot, and it is still malfunctioning. But it hasn’t quit completely. Yet. Which is good because I can’t afford to replace it. I still want to shoot more with the G11 and now that the weather is better I should be able to. Previously every time I’d go to town it was so miserable and cold that taking pictures was right off the list.

I’ll be looking at the moon …

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Taken with Nikon P610 at ISO 6400

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Taken with Canon T100 at ISO 6400

In a rare moment of no rain, the full moon (at 3:30 AM). When cranked up to ISO 6400 the Nikon presents images that look like oil paintings. The Canon fairs better due to its larger sensor. Further proof that those high ISO claims are just numbers, not anything you should count on.

Nice though the pictures are, none are as beautiful as the scene actually appeared.

Stars in my eyes

The weather changed from cloudy to clear. This gave me an opportunity of one day to shoot some pictures. Unfortunately it was also the only opportunity I had to get some work done, and work takes precedence over play. I mean photography. Anyway the night was clear and the temperature was falling (from 10 down to -5) so I took advantage of it to shoot some more star shots. I did not do as much as I would have liked because it was cold and without gloves … well it takes several minutes per picture to take these, what with setting up and the long exposure and processing times. I still want to do some 1+ minute shots but they have to wait.

The equipment here is the Canon T100 with the 28mm f3.5 Super Takumar manual lens. Manual lenses are ideal for star pictures because AF and AE aren’t going to work anyway, so twisting the focusing ring to ‘∞’ and setting the aperture eliminates two operations per shot. Exposure here was ISO 800 (the Canon will handle higher but mostly it just adds noise – more than is worth the stops gained even with noise reduction at full) and 20 seconds, save the last one that was 30 seconds. No post-processing other than shrinking the dimensions.

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stars2

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I particularly like the little cluster in #3. All of them could do with longer exposure or some processing enhancement, but I wanted to show them as basic as possible. How do they look on your screen? They actually look better on the camera’s LCD than on my laptop! Here’s the final one ‘enhanced’ a bit:

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The added noise problem is an issue, and the only way around it really is a larger sensor which is truly more sensitive to light so that it gets the dim stars without adding in false image. I don’t think I’m going to run out and buy a 24MP camera just to take star pictures with though. Here’s a slightly different type of enhancement on pic #2:

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As you can see the base pictures can be altered in many ways. Desaturating to black & white, for example, would produce a different ‘feel’ altogether:

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There’s no end to the fun you can have!

Are there stars out tonight?

On the few recent clear (and quite cold) nights we’ve had here I took the Canon out to do some star pictures. This camera has some advantages over the Nikon when it comes to shooting in the dark. For one thing it has a shutter time of up to 30 seconds, plus bulb if you want to go longer, which is not dependent on the ISO. It also has a higher ISO rating, but that isn’t particularly important. In short you have more exposure options available.

Another advantage is that the Canon has interchangeable lenses, which is a real blessing. In the dark looking at the sky, autofocus doesn’t work and I for one can’t see well enough to focus manually. The Canon’s kit lenses don’t have markings on them for distance either, so you can’t “set and forget”. However I have some very nice old Pentax Super Takumar lenses which do have distance markings; twist to infinity and you’re done. Since there’s nothing in the foreground in these images depth of field is not a concern, so you can use the lenses wide open (the 50mm is f1.4 for example). The old lenses are also better resolution and higher contrast than the new ones I have. In fact I found the 50mm to be favourite for these shots, the 35mm and 28mm were a bit too wide. I did not get a chance to try the 135mm Vivitar entirely as the first attempt did not go well and then the weather got nasty on me so I couldn’t make changes to the methodology and try again.

One thing was common across all: there was no way I could see to frame the shots, either with the optical eye-level finder or the LCD screen. I literally looked up at the sky, pointed the camera (on tripod of course) in approximately the same direction, and pushed the button. By the way, it helps to use the self-timer on short countdown to eliminate camera wiggle when you do this – although the very long times mean any initial shake has minimal effect and the timer trick works better for slow-speed shooting (1 sec to 1/60) rather than long exposure (over 1 sec).

Now here’s the thing. There are three different ‘realities’ in photographing the stars like this. The first is what you see with your eye. Up here at 3200 feet of elevation when our skies are clear they are very clear and we can see a lot of stars, even if we are freezing while gazing. In fact in daylight our skies are extra blue and the colour temperature needs adjusting to get the white balance right; auto or daylight settings won’t be right.

The second reality is what the camera ‘sees’. Since it can accumulate light over time, which eyes can’t, it can pick up fainter stars that we won’t see. It can also detect near-infrared and ultraviolet to some extent which adds to the starlight potential.

The third ‘reality’ is the unreality of what the camera reproduces. High ISO and long exposure both add noise to the image, making it full of ‘stars’ that aren’t really there but are just in the camera’s ‘imagination’. The Canon has noise reduction settings for both high ISO and long exposure time. I find them not terribly effective, to be honest. They do slow down the image processing time, making for quite a wait before you see what you’ve got. As it was I used ISO 800 as a maximum because I couldn’t stand the extra noise that is generated by the higher sensitivities; not worth it for a couple of extra stops exposure. Even ISO 400 contributes a noticeable amount of noise even with reduction turned on.

But this doesn’t matter! In fact I was not going for pictures representing what the sky looked like to the eye. Instead I wanted images that appear to have been taken with the Hubble Space Telescope of distant galaxies that our eyes will never see. I think the results are not disappointing.

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That last one is, I feel, the best.

How much of it is really stars and how much camera noise? I don’t know. And frankly I don’t care. I like the end results, and that’s what matters.

Picture 2001

The moon was full and interesting last night as the clouds of the day were slinking away leaving the radiating orb with its aura. I hadn’t expected it, but when I stepped out with the dogs there it was in the dark glowing like a mystic symbol. I dashed in, grabbed the Nikon, and shot a couple of views. The ol’ P610 made its usual complaints about focus and exposure and of course in the significant dark I couldn’t see the controls to make any adjustments.

So I dashed back in and grabbed the Canon and tried again. It too complained about exposure and focus but the controls are in more sensible places on the T100 and I took a few varied shots. I hadn’t been paying attention that the image counter was nearing 2000, but in this series it went over. That’s since I got the camera back in June. This makes it the camera with the most shots in the least time. Ever. Out of a field of hundreds of cameras I’ve owned. Yes, I quite like this one; it’s a lot of fun.

As it turned out Picture 2000 is, well, a little white disc in a field of black as I fiddled with settings to try to get something interesting. I did not succeed in capturing exactly what my eyes saw (such is rare in low light), but this is the best of the bunch.

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It’s interesting how much things changed in the short time between the first Nikon shot and this one with the Canon. Here’s the first, with the misty glow that messed with focus (I am dependent on auto focus because my eyes don’t):

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Remember: no matter how much experience you’ve had, how good your equipment is, or how well-versed you are in photography … it doesn’t always work out.