Amateur backyard astrophotography

Last night while waiting for the Perseids meteor shower to peak, I brought my camera outside and started shooting. I’m limited by my equipment and the light pollution in my backyard, but I was still able to learn a bit while I was out there.

Light polution (major stars: Pegasus/Andromeda)
This is a good good example of the light pollution we especially have in the NE direction. This is part of the Pegasus constellation at 11:40PM (8.0 sec at f/10 50mm ISO 800)

As you can see from the photo above, I battle some major light pollution even late into the night. I’ve found that if I experiment a bit, I can work around it. Below is one photo that was taken with the same settings above, 8.0 sec at f/10 50mm ISO 800, but I went and did a bit of light editing with Lightroom. For such a fast shot, a few seconds of adjusting got me much more of the sky. To the naked eye, I could only see the three major stars from Cassiopeia (Shedar, Caph, Gamma Cas). So both shooting with a longer shutter speed and post-editing, I was able to greatly improve my sky. Note: You can click on the photos to get a better larger view.

Before: Photo of partial Cassiopeia.
Before: Photo of partial Cassiopeia.
Edited: Photo of partial Cassiopeia.
Edited: Photo of partial Cassiopeia.

Like I mentioned, I’m limited by current equipment. I don’t have a telescope, so I can only shoot with the actual camera lens. I also don’t have a sky tracking tripod so I need to shoot in short bursts. I’m currently shooting with my Nikon D5300 with a 50mm lens and sometimes my 55-300mm. I have a wish list that grows every time I go out, but you only need a tripod, remote or cabled release, and camera to start learning.

Lesson learned from last night: the wireless remote is far from reliable for things like a meteor shower.

While I’m dying for a fish eye lens, I really just need to get a cable release for now. I’m still learning the best settings to shoot with manually along with starting to learn about photo stacking. Without learning either of these, my fish eye lens won’t do me much good.

3 minute light trail test
3 minute star trail

My tripod isn’t designed to shoot straight up so I played around with short (3 minute) open shutters. I fear that even a 5 minute shutter would get white washed with the pollution. I’ll have to test that out on another night.

As I get a bit more polished, I’ll share a list of a few starting materials that you’ll need when you go outside. For now, make sure you don’t forget your camera or the bug spray!