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Photographing The Night Sky With Your Nikon Camera And Nikkor lenses

Photographing The Night Sky With Your Nikon Camera And Nikkor lenses - Here are some top tips for having a go at night sky photography with your Nikon camera and Nikkor lenses.

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Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED in Interchangeable Lenses

Image by David Clapp

Image by David Clapp 

The nights drawing in again provides an excellent opportunity to have a go at some star photography with your Nikon camera and Nikkor lenses, if the skies are nice and clear of course!

In September there are great opportunities to view the planets, including Neptune, Venus and Jupiter. A quick visit to a reputable stargazing website should give you all the information you need to set yourself up in a position to see these spectacular planets in all their beauty.  Here are some top tips for star photography with a Nikkor lens: 


Head out into the countryside

Lighting in towns or cities can create an orange glow which can ruin night sky photos. You'll need to try and get out into the countryside where there's less light pollution to get a better shot. It may seem like an obvious thing to say, but you'll be sat still for a long time so it's an idea to wrap up, take a warm drink and be prepared for the cold!

Nikon AF S NIKKOR 20mm 1 1 8G ED N Lens (4)

Let in the light

You might think that a telephoto is the best lens for star photography as it will get you closer to the sky, but in truth a telephoto can limit the amount of sky you can fit in your shot. To get the most of the vast sky, and even some landscape in the bottom of your shot, a wide angle lens will be better to get a feeling of the hugeness of the galaxy from your shot. Plus, in the dark, you'll want a Nikkor lens that has the capability to let in a lot of light even if you're not using it at maximum aperture. So something like the AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G will be ideal. 


Use a body with good low light capabilities

A camera like the Nikon D3400 will be great for this as it has excellent low-light performance and a wide ISO range, as well as all the manual features you'll need like a really slow shutter speed to absorb all the light needed for astrophotography.

Set the camera up for the night sky

You'll need to use a relatively high ISO, say around 800 or 1600, and surprisingly, a large aperture. You'll also need to set the focus to infinity. Use bulb mode so you can control how long the shutter is open for. If you don't want to capture star trails, that is the stars creating lines as they move across the sky, you can use the rule of 600. By dividing the focal length of the lens by 600, you'll get the number of seconds you can leave the shutter open without star trails appearing. You'll need to take several images without moving the camera, why you need to do this is explained below.


Stack your photos for real impact

Your images will most likely look a little plain on the camera screen, but don't panic. You'll need to stack your images together in post processing and bring the colours up to create that stunning night sky image. When you've stacked the images you need to merge them into a TIFF file. You can then edit the curves and levels in Photoshop to bring out the colours of the sky that can't usually be seen with the human eye. 


It might take you a few attempts to get a good final image, but don't give up! 

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the 600 rule should actually be the other way round - divide 600 by the focal length of the lens to get the time. so a 600mm lens is about a second, a 50mm lens is about 12 seconds and the 20mm lens discussed would be about 30 seconds.

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