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Tag Archives: Astro-imaging

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

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Copyright © 2015 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Venus and Jupiter are pretty close together tonight: just 1.1º.  Also visible with binoculars or a Telephoto lens are Jupiter’s Moons. Europa, Io, Ganymede, and Callisto.

Venus is the brightest low planet, and Jupiter is next brightest object diagonally above Venus. The little dots around

Jupiter are its Moons. Tomorrow they’re be even closer together, just 0.6º apart!  If I’m lucky I’ll find a spot other than my yard without tree branches in the frame. 🙂 The best time to see this is after Dusk looking West.

Venus Jupiter and Moons Conjunction_9054Nikon Df| AF-S Nikkor 300mm| f4| 1.3s| ISO 1600| Tripod| Single Frame| Developed in Photoshop CS6| Cropped in about 50%

More to come…

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

I had a fun night of imaging with my friends Dali, and Andy.

We had a few venues planned because there was a possibility of fog, and a partly cloudy sky.
Our Plan A was to shoot the April 4th Total Lunar Eclipse over St. Ignatius Cathedral in San Francisco since this Eclipse fell on Passover and Easter Week-end it would tie in perfectly.

Starting with Plan A. We arrived just before 2AM, set up, and began shooting our images. I had planned my shooting position so that I could capture the reflection of the Cathedral in the little pond, and the glass wall of the library, but they had left the Library lights on so the reflection wasn’t good, and I didn’t think I’d be able to get the Moon reflection, but one can always hope.   We were well into our series, and talking then shortly before 4AM the lights on the Cathedral shut off. We were disappointed when that happened so, we decided to move to our Plan B position for Totality since we still had an hour to go.

We figured we would be making  at least one composite image from all we had shot already so, if we shot Totality at our Plan B location we could composite it in to an earlier image(s) from St. Ignatius for our “What If we stayed” image.

So, we moved to Plan B:  The Palace of Fine Arts. To make this image I used my Nikon Wide Angle 17-35mm lens for the foreground, and just before Maximum I quickly switched lenses to my Nikon 80-200mm lens and made several images of just the Moon in Totality with it. This image is a composite with one frame from each lens. I resized the Moon from 200mm to look the same size it did to my eye at Totality or Maximum.

Totality-Lunar Eclipse over The Palace of Fine Arts San FranciscShooting with the Wide Angle lens the magnification is so little that the Moon looks tiny. For this 3rd Lunar Eclipse in the Tetrad I wanted to have a nice foreground interest along with the Moon at Totality becasue the two prior Eclipses I focused on the Moon and used only my Telephoto lens.

Earlier I mentioned that this was the 3rd Lunar Eclipse in the Tetrad. What is a “Tetrad” you may be asking?
Lunar Tetrad
“Total lunar eclipses are rare – only about one in three lunar eclipses are total. About four to five total eclipses can be seen at any place on Earth in a decade.

Lunar eclipses usually do not occur in any specific order. However, every once in a while, four total lunar eclipses happen in a row. This is called a lunar tetrad. The total lunar eclipses happen 6 months apart. There are at least six full Moons between two total lunar eclipses in a tetrad.~ TimeandDate.com

Here’s my “What if we had stayed” composite image from St. Ignatius. 2 frames Nikon Df one frame for the foreground and one for the moon. The Moon has been resized to look how it would have looked.
What If I had Stayed Total Lunar Eclipse over St Ignatius Cathed

Here’s a partial sequence of how the Eclipse looked over the Palace of Fine Arts- This is 8 frames of the The Total Lunar Eclipse from partial to a minute until Maximum. All 8 frames were shot with the same camera, lens, and settings. I was manually timing the frames at 2 minute intervals except the last one which is about a minute from the frame before.

Nikon Df| AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f2.8@ f8| 8 seconds| ISO 400| Tripod.

You can see how small the Moon is when shooting this close to the foreground interest with a wide angle lens. This was shot at 17mm.  Knowing how tiny the Moon would be is why I wanted to use my Telephoto lens to shoot the Moon at Maxium and composite it in in development.  The way our eyes can see a scene like this is pretty amazing. My eye saw the Moon much larger than my lens can.

Total Eclipse partial sequence over The Palace of Fine ArtsOne last image of the Moon/Eclipse at Maximum- Nikon Df| 80-200mm @200mm| f8| 0.8 sec| ISO 1250

Totality Lunar Eclipse April 4, 2015 at 200mm

Not only was it a fun night, but we were really lucky with the weather. It was windy, and chilly, but the fog stayed at sea, and there were no clouds, and I learned some things too…

-I wish I hadn’t switched lenses  just before Totality and stuck to my original thought of taking at least one image with my wide angle lens  of Totality before switching lenses so, I would have had a complete sequence to stack at the Palace of Fine Arts.

-If possible take 2 rigs and shoot long and telephoto, and/or a time-lapse.

-The lights finally clicked in my brain about focal length, and distance and how it effects the size of the Moon in the image. This knowledge will be used again, and again when I make images of the Moon in the future.

-Determine my shooting position at the venue and don’t move unless absolutely necessary. ( I moved while at St. Ignatius which messed up my sequence)

…and last but not least …we could have stayed at St. Ignatius. Our lighter images in the beginning of the series would have kept the image from being too dark once stacked into the final image.

I’m hoping we can turn all these lessons into something good in September for the fourth and last Total Lunar Eclipse in this Tetrad. That date is September 28, 2015, but for me on the West Coast (California) it’s September 27, 2015.

You can see Andy’s images from the night here, here, and here.  Dali hasn’t posted his images from Saturday night yet, but you can find his other work here. 

More to come…

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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