If you’re a fan of shooting timelapse and have been wondering how to get stunning videos of the night sky, this tutorial will make everything crystal clear. New Zealand astro-photographer Mark Gee gives a super-detailed explanation of each step, from setup and location scouting to post-processing:
Getting great star shots is a lot easier than one might think, and there are numerous apps and programs out there to help you every step of the way. Gee uses two in particular for getting his setup just right:
- Photopills provides a comprehensive moon schedule and a two-day Milky Way planner, so you can see the positioning of the Milky Way from any location at any time.
- StarWalk uses your phone’s GPS to give you a clear picture of what stars should be visible from your location on a clear night.
The editing software Gee prefers is Adobe Lightroom and LR Timelapse. LRTimelapse is a separate program from Lightroom and offers much better compression options for exporting, as well as numerous other effects. There are many other timelapse programs to choose from, but these offer a great starting place. And if you’re already using Lightroom, there’s not that high of a learning curve.
Much of how you set up, shoot, and post-process depends on your equipment. Gee is using a full frame Canon 6D. If you’re shooting with anything different, you’ll need to consider that both the “500 rule” and the ISO settings may need to be adjusted. Gee is also shooting with a 14mm lens, but really any wide angle lens will do. Just remember that you’ll be wanting to shoot at the lowest f-stop possible and the higher the quality of lens, the lower the f-stop available.
- Canon 6D
- Canon 14mm Lens L Series
- Syrp Ballhead
- Syrp Magic Carpet Slider
- Syrp Genie Motion Control Device
- Long Exposure Noise Reduction off (reduce your noise in post-processing)
- Auto image review turned off (saves power on your battery)
- WB: Tungsten or Incandescent
- Manual focus
- Exposure: 30”
- ISO 3200
This video has a lot of great Lightroom tips and tricks, especially if you’ve been sticking to the basics. To get the perfect white balance, Gee pumps up the saturation to 100 percent and then checks out the results against the various slider options. (I have to say, out of all the different ways I’ve been taught to get the perfect white balance, this has never been one of them! I’m a bit eager to try it out.) He also uses Lightroom’s graduated filter tool to add some pop to the sky.
All in all, this is an excellent tutorial for anyone wanting to make basic, high-quality star timelapses. Of course, it’ll help if you’re already working with a Sryp Genie and Magic Carpet (or have the means to get them). But even if you’re working with a much simpler setup (or DIY), much of the information in this video is still relevant to anyone who wants to get their hands on the sky (figuratively speaking, of course.)
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