Saturday, 30 December 2017

Composite Images part 1

Glad to say the Night Sky course I was delivering for Shetland Adult Education went very well,  I know some folk need extra support and I can understand why, you are learning two big subjects- Astrophotography and Astronomy

I am covering a wide variety of subjects, these include Aurora, Stars, Milky Way, Moon, Star trails, Time lapse, Meteors and other things you can see in the night sky & equipment.

The main things are correct focusing at night, this is a must and which most people struggled with before the course. In addition camera settings & dealing with noise with some processing in Lightroom.

The course is over 6 sessions but may be extended  from the next learning year. This extra content will include Stitching, composite photos and practical use of some free astrophotography software.

The weather in Shetland has not been suitable for any night photography, with lots of gales and a Hurricane + 36mph (109mph) winds the other week, although it was clear and I could actually see the Plough and Orion from the house despite nearly getting blown over. Now its snow and ice so difficult getting round, a couple of clear nights would be good

I was out the other night but no sooner than i set up than snow began to fall and it got worse. The aim was to take a photo of the Oil rig at Dales Voe i did get a few photos

Composite images

Taking two or more images and blending them together solves so many problems. As with most night sky photos you use the lens wide open so hardly any depth of field. You have to get back far enough to get the nearest object in focus, this will depends on which lens you use.

When taking a single star photo you always focus on the stars, this way taking two photos you focus on the foreground and then on the stars, which overall will give an overall sharp image and a bigger file as well, good for printing large.

Many people use Composite images, they either stack images, use HDR or merge two photos for other reasons. You may have tried to replace someone's head, or tried to create a fantasy image but i suppose the end result should be that they look real. Composite images tend to be very compelling.
You could blend impossible elements into your photo, pigs flying or recently Father Christmas etc

For night sky photos even NASA do it, they produced a great photo of the earth but when it comes down to it this was data acquired over a nine day period then combined.

The images on this page has been originally processed in Lightroom then combined in Elements 2018, but this is only an 8 bit images, in Photoshop you can do this as a 16 bit image. All the images on this page have been taken by me at some stage. As you can see i have used the same background on different landscape photos.

So then it comes down to ethics, never pass a Composite photo off as genuine

I hope you all had a great Christmas, join us on facebook at Shetland Aurora Hunter for more information and photos- just send me a request to join

So what do you think of Composite images, please let me know
More to come on the next post

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Early KP8

The weather forecast for Tuesday had not been good before 9pm so when photos started to appear on Shetland Aurora Hunter at 6pm we decided to head straight out.

We had planned to go to a different location but as time was ticking by we went across to Bigton and onto St Ninian's isle about 10 mins away.

You could already see the Aurora in the sky and it was covering more of the sky than usual. Setting up quickly the green  in the sky was spreading.

Activity started to begin with a curtain stretching across from St Ninian's isle to the east side of the  mainland.

Strong coloured pillars started to appear, along with brighter green in the curtain a sign of an active Aurora. You could easily see the green and the pillars with the naked eye, but the camera sensor always picks up more colour.

I rushed down to the beach from the top carpark just as green blobs started to appear, it was becoming one of the best Aurora's for a while.

No one else appeared so it seemed that most folk would be missing this peak activity. You have to react quickly, so within 1/2 hour since leaving home it was at its peak. This lasted about 10 more mins before activity reduced just as someone else arrived.

The height of the green was also reducing although still high compared to most nights. It was one of those nights that will stick in my memory for along time. Folk in other parts of Shetland were not that lucky with the weather as heavy cloud affected the west and north.

After about 1.5 hours the cloud started to roll in and activity reducing all the time. Back home stats confirmed a big one , a KP8 which ended up being visible down in the south of England. It peaked again after midnight but by then I was just dreaming all about the experience.

With nearly 1500 members it time to come and join Shetland Aurora Hunter on facebook, on the 16 November we will have been going just one year so thanks to everyone who has joined. Lots of good phones, camera settings and information available

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Beach Aurora

Tuesday this week had a reasonable Aurora Forecast, the weather forecast on the other hand was mixed.

I headed down to Bigton where the sky was reasonably free from cloud compared to the east side.

I was looking for a different angle so headed down to the beach. The Moon had just set so it was dark and the milky way showing well.

The Aurora was visible to the naked eye, a wide green band stretching across the sea from Ireland

The other good thing was that it was still which was a pleasant surprise after recent gales. The tide was well up and provided a nice foreground.

The Aurora was only visible for about 1/2 hour before the cloud rushed in from the South west and totally swallowed the green band

I was surprised to find that no one else was about, its usually a popular spot for Aurora's. I am still looking for other sites away from light pollution but looking north. It needs to be fairly close as sometime you get little notice that the Aurora is developing

As it was dark I was using  ISO 6400 at F/2 around 6-8 seconds, its a great setting on the Sony A7s  showing only a little noise. Even Nikon and Canon cameras would show a lot of noise at this ISO

Shetland Aurora Hunter on facebook is the place for up to-date information, just send a request to join

# northern lights, # mirrie dancers , # Shetland Aurora Hunter