Night Sky Photos -- dSLR
I'm absolutely lacking any significant experience with cameras beyond the cardboard disposable ones. I am, however, technologically comfortable and not worried about investing time in reading up on proper camera use/tips..

My question is regarding taking pictures in an outdoor, rural area, at night. In particular there would often be trees and stars in the same photo, in a low ambient light area during near full moon phases (though it's certainly not as rural as, say, Wyoming)..

Are dSLR's capable of creating an image that would be similar to what the adjusted human eye sees, in this type of setting? If so, would anyone have a suggestion on what type of camera/lens package I should aim for, considering a budget of $500-800 USD up front, with possible future purchases of accessories?.

Thank you, in advance, for your time in responding...

Comments (9)

It sounds like the subjects you are talking about do not involve moving subjects. In that case, with the aid of a tripod, any basic DSLR should be able to deliver the results..

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The above picture was taken as dawn was approaching, the stars of Orion can be seen, as well obviously as the lights on someone's camping van. This picture shows things a little brighter than they appeared to the eyes, though the stars were plainly visible..

Settings used: tripod, ISO 200, long exposure time of 30 seconds, aperture f/5.6. Camera was a Pentax K100D with kit lens at 28mm setting..

This was hardly stretching the abilities of any DSLR, the only question remains, can you work with a tripod? The exposure time need not be quite so long as this, depends on the time of day and other settings too.Regards,Peter..

Comment #1

No camera is going to be able to get anywhere near the human eye because the eye changes "aperture" according to what it is pointed at in a scene. Camera can only have one aperture per exposure..

Tripod and any DLSR with a remote shutter and a bulb shutter mode will do what I think you are looking for...

Comment #2

If you look in here,

The first 6 images are modifications of 2 night time shots. You can see from the EXIF that they were taken with a digital camera but not a DSLR. What these show is that you can take what appears to be a totally useless shot but still recover a lot of image data..

These weren't my shots, by the way and neither are they meant to sway anyone towards or away from either Lightzone or Rawtherapee as processors..

So, use whatever camera you want to and whatever you use you will almost certainly need to process the image...

Comment #3

Thank you for the responses. It sounds like my expectations may be too high, barring substantial post-processing and/or exposure times that may over accentuate "hot spots". That would certainly explain why I've had incredible difficulty finding pictures that would be a good example of what I'm looking for..

I'm ok with using a tripod, so no problem there, but I expected there would be a higher innate capability to mimic the human eye at night in the wilderness..

I suppose there's no way to use a some form of superimposing multiple takes in order to reproduce the effect of the eye, by using a night vision lens (or something similar to a "starlight scope") and a regular lens, and blending the two images?.

I'm looking to capture the beauty of the wilderness in heavy moonlight, like what you might remember if you got caught outside a little too far away from home, at night, while a child, but were lucky enough to have enough light to guide you back. Or similarly, what I might see in my backyard at night..

Thanks again...

Comment #4

How did this photo get taken with a Nikon D40?.


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Comment #5

Usapatriot wrote:.

How did this photo get taken with a Nikon D40?.


There's nothing nebulous (no pun intended) about it. A simple 43 sec exposure @ high ISO, almost certainly in an area away from city lights. The photo is small, a 100% crop would reveal motion blur - i.e. short star trails - (which is just a bit visible on this one as well).

Here's one I took from my balcony. 30 sec exposure..

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Comment #6

StorrsCT wrote:.

Thank you for the responses. It sounds like my expectations may betoo high,...I suppose there's no way to use a some form of superimposing multipletakes in order to reproduce the effect of the eye, by using a nightvision lens (or something similar to a "starlight scope") and aregular lens, and blending the two images?.

I think the trouble is that human vision is not really as close to photography as it might appear. In fact, as I understand it (and I don't claim to be an expert on vision, although psychophysics and perception are generally interesting subjects to me) it's extremely different. Our perception of vision at a given moment is built up by integrating the results of several images as our eyes make saccades across the scene. The perception we have of being able to sense our visible surroundings is based on a lot of interpretation... if we could somehow tap into the actual signal sent from our eyes to our brain over the time of a photographic exposure, I doubt there would be enough information to make a photograph..


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Comment #7

Digital photgraphy in long time exposures generates image noise..

Therefore, in observatories they use a liquid hydrogen or oxygen to keep the camera cool/cold. you and I could never afford such a rig. so the way users have got around this is to shoot MANY short exposure shots and put them together in some way. for star trails you end up shooting a series of 30-60 exposures over the time you want. (this is simpler if you camera has an intervalometer). (the new k20 has an 99 shot intervalometer built in).

Try google..

For individual shots of say jupiter or saturn you use the same idea but switch programs and use Registax. this is a software program that stacks MANY MANY short shots together to make one final image of the planet. it can also be used for anything else when you want to stack images. for Registax try google. their website has image done with the program and they are impressive.note both programs are free..

For registax the images can also be gotten by using a CAMCORDER and shooting movies. then you simply stack the individual movie shots. if youuse a digital dslr you can also do it, but tit requires many shots and of different types...

Comment #8

I'm pretty computer friendly (I was one of those 300 baud modem bbs nerds, and it never let go), so I will give that software a look over. I guess I should probably expect that I won't get quite what I was expecting, or at least not without a substantial amount of post-processing work (which is ok, as I don't have a problem spending the time after the initial shots, to try and gain a quality result)..

I think I need to spend some time reading up on exposure and available software while waiting for the xsi release (I have some older, but what seem to be, quality lenses that are designed for canon slr's, from when my father was a sea bee and into photography). I think that, in the end, I may find the image modification process to be as enjoyable as taking the actual pictures, so the limits of a how a camera works, may actually turn into a plus..

Thanks again for the responses...

Comment #9

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