Todays topics –
We get the awesome opportunity to visit with Ian Norman of LonelySpeck.com. Ian is a fellow night photographer and his Lonely Speck web site is a treasure trove of information on astrophotography. His YouTube channel has so much great information on Milky Way photography that is should be required viewing for anyone interested this subject.
Today’s Guest –
Ian Norman and Lonely Speck
We start by picking Ian’s brain for brilliant ideas on how to work with light pollution using his Lonely Speck PureNight filter. Ian looked into using “color intensifier” filters which have traditionally been used for making fall foliage colors more intense. These filters are made from a special glass which contains didymium, a rare earth. Didymium glass filters reduce yellow light, which is produced by sodium vapor street lights. But those filters are sometimes hard to get. So he looked into sourcing this glass and getting filters made specifically for reducing the light pollution caused by sodium vapor lights. You can order the Lonely Speck PureNight filter from Ian. He tells us there’s just over 100 left!
Ian shares his experience with seeing and capturing the reentry of a Chinese satellite with his Sony a7s while out in the California desert. It’s an amazing bit of video which you can see on his YouTube channel.
He tells us he tested out a Haida filter holder and he found it was surprisingly good.
Ian Norman talks about the “Exposing to the Right”, ETTR, technique. He compares how ISO, shutter speed, f-stops and how this all fits together in night photography. Then he discusses the differences between Canon and Sony sensors. Canons need high ISO settings, even up to 12,800, while Sony can sometimes get way with ISO 800. It’s a balance game between ISO noise and dynamic range.
Then he tells us we should all be using a 50mm lens more in our Astrophotography. You can use it to get higher quality photographs with more resolution by stitching more frames together. Ian recommends trying a panorama with a 50mm lens and then do a series of 8 exposures to make a 4 frame wide pano. And you can find fast 50mm lenses, like f/1.2, which will collect a lot of light. The downside is you need to do panoramas.
Day-to-Night Time Lapses
Finally he shares more tricks of the trade to do with stacking, panoramas and how to record a seamless Day-to-Night Time lapse. Ian runs through the math involved in calculating how fast the earth rotates and why you should set your tracker to 15 degrees per hour. He also describes his technique for ramping his exposure while doing Day-to-Night time lapse transitions – he does it manually! Ian makes one-stop exposure changes starting with the shutter speed. When he reaches the 500-rule point for star trails, he then ramps the ISO. It takes a lot of patience as it takes many hours to make the transition.
Ian recommends using LRtimelapse to control flicker. One cause of flicker is the lens aperture blades not closing to the exact same diameter with each exposure. Ian tells us about the time he unlocked a lens to force the blades to lock in place. The only problem with this trick is that he had the lens fall off his camera!
SharpStar2 Precision Focusing Tool
Lonely Speck created the SharpStar2 focusing tool achieving critically sharp focusing of stars. It’s a optical plastic filter that comes in a square filter shape and it has precision laser etched lines on it. The lines form a pattern called a Bahtinov mask. This mask diffracts the light that passes through it. When looking at a star through a Bahtinov mask, the diffracted light creates a series of 3 lines over the star. Two of these diffraction lines make the shape of an “X” centered on the star. The third line lies somewhere in the X pattern, and it moves to the right or the left as the lens is focused. The lines will converge and overlap so that the third line aligns dead center with the X when the lens is properly focused.
The SharpStar2 is compatible with Lee, Cokin, Formatt-Hitech, and other similar filter holders that come in 67mm, 75mm, 85mm, 100mm and 150mm sizes. You can order the Lonely Speck SharpStar2 filter here.
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