Zodiac Light Home

Getting Started

You can get started with some very basic equipment depending on what you want to achieve.   The first decision you'll have to make is to decide what you want to photograph and how.   The following table shows you different methods.  They are sorted in order of increasing cost (time and money).


Options for you include:

Wide field pictures of the sky
Point your camera skyward
Starry Skies: Set your camera to take a long exposure (15 seconds or more).  Aim it at an area of the sky with a lot of stars, and just go "click".  See what happens.   Many of today's modern digital cameras will yield pleasing results.  You'll need to set the camera to its maximum light sensitivity and configure it to take a long exposure (15 seconds or more).  Some cameras are equipped with a "B" (for Bulb) setting.  This keeps the camera shutter open when you click and doesn't close it again until you either let go of the button or click it again.  You can see that this is the best type of camera because very long exposures are possible.   The quality will depend a lot on how good your camera is at capturing detail in the dark.  If your camera can't take exposures lasting at least ten seconds then a good result is not likely.   Set your camera on a tripod for the best results, holding the camera by hand is not the best because you won't be able to hold it steady enough.  Use a tripod or a high fence post.  Unless you buy an equatorial mount or you build a Barn Door tracker you will get star trailing. 

You can even use no tracking at all with very short exposures and a very sensitive camera like this.  The linked photo was taken with a Canon 350D sitting on a block of wood.   The 30 second exposure (ISO800) produced a good result which shows the Milky Way, Southern Cross, the two pointers, the Coal Sack, the Eta Carina Nebula and a heap of stars).  The exposure is so short and the field of view (18mm lens) is so wide that star trails are only just visible.  This sort of experimentation is what gets you started.

Star Trails
Star Trails

Star Trails: Take a long exposure photograph (30 mins or even 3-4 hours) of the night sky and capture a photograph of light trails made by the stars as the sky spins around during the evening.  The only equipment you need is a camera that has a "B" (bulb) setting so you can take an exposure of several minutes or more, or hours if possible.   An old manual (not automatic) 35mm film camera is an excellent choice for this.  If you have a modern digital camera that has the "Bulb" option then you also have an excellent chance of success.  A tripod is good but if you set the camera on a fence or a tree stump that'll work too.  HOlding the camera in your hand is not an option.
The Moon in a twilight sky  

Sky Art: Set your camera for a long exposure and photograph the moon as seen through thin dimly lit cloud, trees or over buildings.  Think Artistic thoughts.


The Moon through a telescope.

The Moon: If you have a telescope of any sort  you may be able to capture a shot of the moon by just holding the camera to the telescope eyepiece and taking a photo.   Long exposures are NOT necessary for the moon.  Usually we are talking around 1/250 second but this will depend upon the size of the moon (full, half or crescent) and the sensitivity of your camera.  Digital cameras are best for testing this option because you can try different camera settings and quickly see what works best.  Experiment with different camera shutter speeds and check the results.

Through a telescope, prime focus, afocal or eyepiece projection

If you wish to photograph planets, double stars, nebulae or galaxies this will require several new web pages (coming soon) to explain in detail.  

You must also be willing to part with some hard cash so you can buy stuff.

Compared to fishing astronomy is cheap (think boats, rods, reels, petrol, four wheel drive, etc..)  Heck, you're saving money.

If you already have a good equatorial mounted telescope, and you want to know how to get started in astrophotography then click here.



All images and content of this website are copyright (c)2005 Bill Christie.  All rights reserved.

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