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Category Archives: Astrophotograhpy

Copyright ©2017 Deborah M. Zajac.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Great Eclipse of August 2017 was 75% eclipsed where I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I wasn’t able to travel to see Totality so photographed the Eclipse from my backyard.

I made an image every 10 minutes from just before it began until the very end. The images are unguided. In between images I moved my lens away from the sun so the sun wouldn’t be shining down my lens and possibly damage my sensor even though I had a genuine Solar Filter mounted to the lens.

This composite showing some of the most pronounced phases of the phenomenon is comprised of 7 frames. The left side is first contact, the middle peak eclipsed, and the last image on the right last contact or pretty close to it.

Partial Solar Eclipse August 21, 2017

Nikon D810| Nikkor 200-500mm @500mm| f/11| ISO 200| 1/500s – 1/320s| PS CC 2017

I’ve got my mind set on seeing the Solar Eclipse in 2024 in Totality, and will be making plans to view that early as that probably will be the last chance I get to see it live.

more to come…

 

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Copyright © 2012 -2017 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

There’s a Total Solar Eclipse event happening August 21, 2017 that can be seen in a large swath of North America. If you’re fortunate enough to be living in the center zone or can travel to see Totality, and photograph it you might want to make an image showing all the phases of the transition.  I thought this tutorial I wrote back in 2012 after viewing and photographing the Annular Solar Eclipse on blending multiple phases of the transition might be useful.  You can see my post and images on that event here.

I have been thinking about reposting this post for a month but,  actually doing so was because Joanne, the blogger of My life lived Full   said to me she’d like to know more about blending images earlier this week, and she thought others would like to understand it better as well.  I hope this makes some sense to you after reading it Joanne. 🙂

Unfortunately, I am not going to be able to travel to see Totality of this Eclipse but, I plan to photograph the Partial eclipse I’ll be able to see in my city. If all goes well with my imaging of the Eclipse I’ll be using these steps to make a blended composite image of the phases of the Partial Solar event.

There are a lot of steps, and it can be overwhelming if you’re not familiar with Layer masks, and painting within Photoshop’s environment.  Take it slow, and practice with images you already have before hand. If you already know how layers work, and have used masks and blending modes within Photoshop before this will make more sense to you.

Let’s get on with it! 🙂

How to make a composite of the Phases of the Annular Solar Eclipse

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I had some idea about how to go about assembling the composite above.

I knew there would be layers and masks involved, but how to actually do what I needed was beyond me. For days before the Annular Solar Eclipse I searched online for a tutorial but didn’t find anything close.

I asked a couple of friends and they said, “Oh, it is easy!” That was followed with, “you use a mask, and then change the opacity, move things around or you can make a selection…” I appreciated the responses, and admire their Photoshop, photographic skills, and talent immensely. Their “want to help a friend” generous spirits are why I love them. However, those answers weren’t specific or detailed enough for my brain to understand all the steps involved. I need “step by step” guidance so I went online again to YouTube to look for a tutorial on basic blending in Photoshop. I just did a search and starting watching tutorials. After watching a couple of tutorials I decided I’d give it a go since I do have a basic understanding of masking, and painting, and I’ve used blending before with other photos, and the tutorials assured me the way I was thinking was the right way to make the composite image I had in mind.

After finishing this composite I thought I’d write down the steps to help me in the future, and to help a couple of people who have asked me how I made this after seeing my finished work. There are many different ways to go about doing things in Photoshop. This is what I did.

1. Working from Bridge in CS5 Note: The steps I followed work with Adobe CC as well. I determined which photograph was to be my background layer. I chose the “Ring of Fire” – the middle image from the composite image above. I selected it, and then determined which 4 additional photos I would use to show the Phases of the Sun in the first half of the Solar Eclipse. I selected each photo by holding down ctrl + alt then clicked on each of my desired photos. Next I opened the 5 selections in Adobe Camera Raw by holding down ctrl + o.

2. Once opened in Adobe Camera Raw hereafter called ACR. You’ll see all the photos in a film strip on the left of the ACR workspace. I clicked on each photo individually rather than syncing them all at the same time. Some of the exposures were slightly different and I wanted to tweak the exposure of each Sun so all would be the same color. If all your photos are a color to your liking then you can Select All, then after making the adjustments you want click Synchronize> OK. However I did this:

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3. Click on the top photo in the film strip then make the following adjustments:

4. Exposure slider– adjusted so all the Suns were approximately the same color.

Recovery – Slide to the right so all the clipping was gone or nearly gone.

The following settings can be tweaked to your own liking. This is what I used and they should give you a good start.

Brightness– +50

Contrast– +36

Blacks– slid slider all the way to the left to recover blacks

Clarity-+20

Vibrance -+15 or just until the photo “pops” you’ll know it when you see it.

Then I went to the Lens Correction filter the 6th filter in the options bars of ACR.

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Check the box “Enable Lens Profile Correction” and my lens profile automatically popped up in the next section of the panel named Lens Profile. If yours does not pop into the dialog box then go down one section to “Lens Profile” and click on the drop down menu and select your cameras brand then from the box under that click on the arrow to open the drop down menu to select your lens or one close to it.

Then moving to the left side where the strip of all your photos are click the next photo and make the same adjustments to it, and then repeat until you’ve made the same adjustments to all the photos in the strip. Then at the top of the Film Strip you see Select All click it, Then hold down the Alt key which changes the button “open image” in the bottom right corner to “Open Copies” click to open copies. All 5 photos will be opened in Photoshop’s Editor.

5.

When all the photos are in the Editor you will see the background layer in your layers palette on the right highlighted. Go to menu bar on the top of Photoshop and click Windows> Arrange>Tile. This changes all the photos into tiles in your workspace so you can see them a bit better. Select the photo you want to place on the left of the Ring of Fire hereafter called the Background Layer. We’re going to copy that photo onto our Background layer. Click on the photo>From the Menu bar click Select>All. Marching ants are now all around the selected photo. Hold down ctrl+c to copy it then go to your chosen Background Image click on it then click crtl+ v to paste the photo to the image as a new layer named Layer 1. You don’t need the photo you copied now that it’s been moved onto the Background Layer, but before closing it I clicked File>SAVE AS renamed it Phase 4, and chose “Save As” a PSD file then closed the file. I’ll be able to find it quickly if I need it again.

6.

On your Layers palette there are two layers one is named Background, and one top of it named Layer 1 which should be highlighted. To give yourself more space to work let’s go back to Window in the top menu bar and select Arrange> Consolidate All into Tabs.

7. Next go to your Layers palette. There just above the highlighted layer you’ll see a box labeled Opacity

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Then Reduce the Opacity of Layer 1 just until you can see the Ring of Fire which is the layer underneath the Highlighted Layer. I reduced mine to 74%.

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8. Once you see the layer underneath go back to your workspace and click on layer 1 photo; Grab the Move tool from the tool box then drag your photo into the place you want it next to the Ring of Fire. I just eye balled this. If you know how to bring up the Guides from the Ruler use them to help you keep the alignment straight.

9. Then slide the Opacity slider back to 100%. Then click the Add Layer Mask button on the bottom of the Layers Palette to add a mask to Layer 1.

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10. The mask should be white. Click on the mask to make sure it’s activated then make sure your foreground color in your tool palette is black.

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11. Select the Brush tool from the Tool palette or click B on your keyboard. Then paint over the area where you know The Ring of Fire is to bring it out.

If you accidentally paint some of the Layer 1 image and it disappears change the foreground color to white and paint over the area to reveal it again.

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Once you have both the Background Layer and Layer 1 the way you want them to look. You’re ready to add the next layer.

12. Layer 1 should still be highlighted in your Layer Palette. Now we’re going to repeat the steps we just used to complete Layer 1. Going back to the top Menu bar click Window>Arrange>Tile from your tiled photos select the next photo you want to add to your composite. Click on the photo Go to Select> All>then when the marching ants are all around the photo click Ctrl+C then go to your Composite Image click on it then click crtl+ v to paste the photo to the image as a new layer named Layer 2.  Then repeat steps 5-12 until all the Layers you want to add are done.

If you want to add images to the right of the Ring of Fire Repeat the steps 1-12 using the additional photos you want to add for the final phases of the Eclipse. I chose to work in batches of 4 photos because it was easier for me to manage them.

Note: You may run out of canvas on one side or the other if you do follow these steps:

From the Menu bar click Image>Canvas Size then in the dialog box that opens

Change the inches to pixels>then leave height alone but double the number in Width and type that number into width box then change the color to Black then click Ok.. If you only want to add more canvas to the right side click the middle box in the left row with the arrow in it that is in the dialog box. You’ll crop the finished image so having extra to work with is alright.

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Elements might be slightly different – much depends on the version of Photoshop you have too. Newer versions have the Add Layer Mask feature, but older versions like Elements 7 and older do not. There are free actions you can install that allow you to add a layer mask if your version of Photoshop Elements doesn’t have a layer mask feature.

As I stated at the beginning there are a lot of ways to do one thing in Photoshop. If you know how to do something differently than I did to achieve the same result and are more comfortable with your known method use that.   May 21, 2012

I hope this tutorial helps you with your layer masking and composite images. Have a great week-end everyone!

more to come…

Copyright © 2015 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

In 2012 I shot my very first Milky Way Pano. I’ve not yet posted it…it is still a work in progress.   Since then I’ve been wanting to improve on the techniques I used in 2012 which was…I won’t lie, ” flying by the seat of my pants”.

One of the things I want to improve is getting better stitching. Even using a tripod,  and generous overlapping I wasn’t happy with the stitching.  I hoped that by calibrating my lens to find the Nodal Point, or No Parallax Point I would get better stitching results.  What is the Nodal Point and why does it matter you ask?  Do this. Hold up your thumb or pen in front of your face at arm’s length, and move your head from left to right. Notice how the background moved on one side more than the other? That’s Parallax. If you were to take two images one from the left and one from the right side and merge them the line would not be straight.  You need to either have the point of view of the pen or the background.

For a great explanation to solve this issue I turn to John Houghton, ” Ideally, therefore, when taking the photographs for a stitched panorama you need to take all the shots from a single viewpoint so that near objects don’t change their position against the background in successive shots.  This will greatly ease the task of  joining the images seamlessly to form a perfect panorama image.  Hence, the “eye” of the camera needs to be kept in a constant position when the camera is rotated to point in a different direction for each shot. “~ John Houghton

Yesterday afternoon I figured out the Nodal Point, or No Parallax Point for my 24mm f/2.8 lens.  I mounted my camera  on my macro rail, and a tripod. Making sure that tripod was level, next making sure my camera/macro rail were level,  then I lined my tripod rig up with a light stand placed a few feet away from the tripod, and a pole I have in the backyard which is further away from the light stand.

Loosening my panning knob on the ball-head I moved the camera/micro rail left and right and could see the furthest pole on both sides of the light stand I had parallax. Then I moved my camera back to the center point moved my camera back using the macro rail adjustment knob. I locked it down and moved my camera right and left again…the parallax got worse telling me I needed to make my adjustment on the rail in the other direction. I loosened the rail and moved the other direction a bit then moved the camera from left to right, and saw I was getting there; I only saw a little bit of the further pole behind the light stand now.   One more small adjustment and Voila! I didn’t see the further pole behind the light stand when panning the camera left and right.   I found the Nodal Point, or No Parallax Point of that lens!

My rail has centimeter, and millimeter marks so I made a note of the number that 24mm f/2.8 lines up with to be able to quickly set up a panorama shot with that lens again.

Now that I had found the Nodal/No Parallax Point I was anxious to test it out. The sky was supposed to be clear so I met a friend at a favorite Night Sky spot to shoot the Milky Way. My goal was to make a Vertorama/Panorama using my new measurement of the Nodal Point.

In the Light of Scorpius

I made 7 images from left to right making sure my tripod was level, my camera/macro rail were level, and that I had a lot of overlap when panning from shot to shot. Then I returned to the same place I started and panned up a bit to get more of the sky in the frame making sure I had plenty of overlap then moving left to right using the same amount of movement as before I made 7 more images ending exactly at the same place as before. (Note- When I composed the shot  I noted the degree marking on my ball-head to find my starting place and I noted the degree mark for my ending place, so I knew where to start and end for the second row. )

The clouds moved in and when they hit the city lights below they really lit up! I’ve cropped off a bit from that right side.  It was a fairly early night due to the clouds.

It’s important to note that each lens has its own Nodal/ No Parallax Point! Prime lenses are easier to figure out because you only need to make one measurement, but if you’re using a Zoom lens you’ll need to figure out the Nodal/No Parallax Point for each focal length you’ll use.

For example, I use my 17-35mm AF-S Nikkor wide-angle lens a lot so I’ll be spending some time this afternoon finding the Nodal/No Parallax Point for that lens at 17mm, 20mm, 24mm, and 35mm. I’ll also find the Nodal/No Parallax Point for my 16mm fisheye lens.

I’ll write down each measurement for each lens on my cell phone’s notepad, along with which camera was used, and I’ll upload that information to my computer so I have it there as a back-up as well.

Initial development of the images was done using LR5. Then I stitched this image in Photoshop CS6. Due to the light variation I had some seams showing. I clicked on each layer and using the clone brush fixed those.

All in all I think a very successful endeavor.  I hope next week-end has a clear night so I can get out and do this again.

14 Frames w/ Nikon Df| AF-D Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 @ f/2.8| 15 seconds| ISO 6400| Manual Priority| Mirror Up| Tripod| Cable Release

Copyright © 2015 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I made this image last week-end. Unfortunately, I’ve was pretty busy last week and didn’t get to out much, or have to much time to work on images.

I added +1 EV in post development to open up the road a bit more.   I thought I’d play and try converting this image to Black &  White for this week’s Monochrome Madness 2. I like it, but I do like the color version more. I’ll share it in a future post.

Monochrome Madness 2 16 of 52 Road to the Stars

I hope you drop by Leanne Cole’s site to view the other work that was shared this week. Click here!

Nikon Df| AF-D Nikkor 17-35mm @ 22mm| 18 frames ea. 30s| ISO 400| Tripod| Manual Priority| CS6 & Silver Efex Pro 2

More to come…

Copyright ©2015 Deborah M. Zajac  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

It was so good to get out under the stars last (Saturday) night. Especially after being sick and cooped up for weeks.

My health, weather, and schedule all were in perfect alignment to meet a friend up in the mountains to view, and spend a few hours making images of the night sky.  Even though I went up into the nearby mountains I was unable to escape all Light Pollution. The orange, and bright white on the right of the image edge are city lights to the south.  I’d have to go much further inland to escape it entirely.

To my delight when I uploaded and looked through the images I discovered I captured a shooting star in this frame! Do you see it? It’s small up above the Milky Way in the centerish toward the left.

Pondering the Stars

This outing was just what I needed!

Single Frame| Nikon Df| AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17mm| f3.5| 20s| ISO 3200| Tripod| Hoodman STEEL Ultra High Speed Digital Film| Developed in Photoshop CS6

More to come…

Update: My friend (Andy) finished an image of the Whirlpool Galaxy which he imaged last night while I was shooting stars, and the Milky Way. He posted it on his photo-sharing site. I hope you’re able to see it here.  He’s set up with a nice telescope, and GOTO system which gets him closer looks deeper into the Universe.

Copyright © 2015 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

It’s Chinese New Year today and a new Conjunction! The New Moon, Mars, and Venus shine in the Western Sky tonight.  If not for my friend Andy I probably wouldn’t have remembered this! Check him out here.  Thank you Andy!!!

I wasn’t able to venture further than my front yard to photograph it so, here you have it.  Mars is the teenie tiny red dot between the Moon and Venus.

Gung hay fat choy!
For those interested… The Year of the Sheep:
Chinese: 羊 yáng
Sheep (goat, or ram) is among the animals that people like most. It is gentle and calm. Since ancient times, people have learned to use its fleece to make writing brushes and skin to keep warm. The white cute creature often reminds people of beautiful things.

Earthly Branch of Birth Year: wei
Wu Xing (The Five Elements): tu (earth)
Yin Yang: yin

Lucky Signs for Sheep:
Lucky Numbers: 3, 4, 9
Lucky Colors: green, red, purple
Lucky Flowers: carnation, primrose, Alice flower
Lucky Directions: east, southeast, south
~http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/social_customs/zodiac/sheep.htm

Years of the Sheep
  • 02/01/1919-02/19/1920
  • 02/17/1931-02/05/1932
  • 02/05/1943-01/24/1944
  • 01/24/1955-02/11/1956
  • 02/09/1967-01/29/1968
  • 01/28/1979-02/15/1980
  • 02/15/1991-02/03/1992
  • 02/01/2003-01/21/2004
  • 02/19/2015-02/07/2016
  • 02/06/2027-01/25/2028

Nikon Df| AF-D Nikkor 80-200mm| Tripod| Hoodman STEEL Ultra High Speed Digital Film| Northern Hemisphere, USA

More to come…

Copyright © 2015 Deborah M. Zajac ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I usually check out the sky first thing when I wake up so, this morning when I raised my blinds and saw the Moon with Saturn shining in the cloudy sky I realized they would be lining up high over the lake, and footbridge.
So, I got dressed, grabbed a quick cup of tea, and slice of toast and headed to the lake.

It was still dark when I arrived. The Geese weren’t even up yet! I kept my eye on the sky and clouds. It didn’t look too good when I got down to the lake. The Moon was completely blocked by the clouds, but I hoped for pockets, and breaks and just after dawn the clouds cleared enough.

Waning Crescent Moon with Saturn over Vason Lake Los Gatos CA

I used a wide angle lens to be able to capture this whole scene so the Moon, Saturn that little white dot to the right of the Moon, and the fainter Antares below the Moon to the right are really teenie.

I was thrilled there was color this morning too.

This is a single frame processed in Photoshop CS6.

Nikon Df| AF-D Nikkor 24mm f/2.8@ f16| 15seconds| ISO 500| Manual Priority| Tripod|
Hoodman STEEL Ultra High Speed Digital Film

More to come…

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