Astrophotography

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This Tilt-Shift Photo of Andromeda Was Shot Using a DIY Adapter

The Royal Observatory Greenwich’s Insight Investment 2020 Astrophotographer of the Year, Nicolas Lefaudeux, has revealed his technique and the simple DIY adapter that made his award-winning image of the Andromeda galaxy possible.

As some photographers were locked in a discussion about whether or not the French optical engineer and part-time astrophotographer used Photoshop techniques or genuine photography to capture his acclaimed photo, Lefaudeux took to his personal website to share his method.

Constraints and hardware limitations forced Lefaudeux to think outside the box and work with what was available. The result? A stunning new perspective on one of our closest galactic neighbors.

“Shooting Andromeda was a consequence of having the hardware that I had,” Lefaudeux explained to me by phone from his home in France on Monday. “With the telescope I have, which is not that big, you end up with not that many potential targets. Andromeda is the first one that comes to mind… it’s a natural object to choose for it.”

Andromeda’s width would fill the field of view of his telescope. With his target in mind, he turned to creating the blur effect that would fulfill his creative vision.

Software effects like Photoshop blurring didn’t provide a satisfactory look for Lefaudeux, so he got to work fabricating an appropriate mount to connect his camera to the telescope at enough of an angle to create a tilt lens look.

With its orientation, Andromeda offers the perfect plane to try this effect, he said, and by aligning his focal plane with the galactic center, he was able to simulate a foreground and background comprised of defocused stars.

But the small diameter mount of his Sony a7S camera limited the angle with which he could create the focal plane thus constraining the depth of field.

“The bayonet [flange] is super tight… at a certain angle, you begin not to see the sensor, because the bayonet is higher than the sensor and it blocks some part of the sensor,” Lefaudeux says.

Because of Sony’s narrower mount, he saw shadows on the sensor while it was tilted away from the telescope’s eyepiece, at worst blocking the image entirely or creating a harsh vignette. Larger flanges would offer steeper angles, he said, resulting in a shallower depth of field.

The solution came with a unique, yet simple, angled camera to telescope adapter. By implementing a modest 25-degree pitch to offset the camera sensor, Lefaudeux had enough tilt to allow the line of focus to include the plane of the galaxy while creating a foreground and background of blurred out, multicolored orbs.

The adapter in use between the camera and telescope.

For those who still contend that Lefaudeux used a filter, or software technique to create the effect, he offered some insight to explain why the camera technique is possible, and ultimately better than using Photoshop to emulate it.

“When you know a bit about how the effect is obtained, you understand why it [software] is not giving this effect,” he said. “The stars don’t get saturated, and when you blur them you don’t get their real brightness, they just appear darker than they appear in camera.”

“For bright, colorful bokeh you require defocus acquisition,” he said, adding that the idea is similar to lens-whacking with a cheap lens to achieve defocus. He illustrated this point on his website, where he demonstrated an attempt to create the effect in Photoshop compared with the image in question. The contrast was obvious: defocus was clearly superior.

Though the idea itself seems simple enough, he added that the winning image required hundreds of long-exposure frames compiled in a stack to bring out the detail and color of the final shot.

A single uncalibrated frame shot using the adapter.

Lefaudeux’s technique and final image were enough to earn him the title of Astrophotographer of the Year and net him a cash award of £10,000 (~$12,800). Asked what he intended to do with the prize money he offered only a neutral reply, “It opens possibilities…” he said.

Expect to see Lefaudeux chasing eclipses around the world once travel restrictions begin to lift, and keep up with his work at his website.


If you’re interested in hearing my conversation with Lefaudeux in its entirety, you can listen to Episode 3 of my photography podcast The Image File.

You can also read Lefaudeux’s blog post to find out more about the technical details of this DIY adapter and how he created the winning photo.


About the author: Chris Koehn is a former newspaper journalist turned videographer. With independent documentary and corporate video production experience, Chris helped newsrooms adopt video content strategies as media convergence and DSLR film making transformed the online news landscape. His video work earned nominations and national news awards in Canada for election coverage. Chris is now working in independent journalism and documentary while freelancing for Canadian news outlets. You can connect with him on Twitter.


Image credits: Photographs by Nicolas Lefaudeux and used with permission

You Can Shoot 96MP Pixel-Shift Astro Photos with the Panasonic Lumix S5

The Panasonic Lumix S5 has just been released in New Zealand, and I received mine a few days ago. Last night, with clear skies, I took it to the south coast of Wellington, New Zealand, to see what the new advances in High Resolution mode included in the S5 could bring.

This mode takes 8 images, shifting the sensor between each image a tiny amount, to create a final image with four times the pixels of a single image (96 megapixels compared with the sensor’s native 24 megapixels) and with lower noise than a single frame.

In the past High Resolution mode (on the S1 or S1R for example) has allowed for ISO up to 3200 and exposure duration up to 1 second – not really conducive to Milky Way imaging. However the Lumix S5 extends that limit significantly…

The S5 allows for High Resolution mode with ISO up to 3200 and duration up to 8 seconds per image, so I started imaging the Milky Way at 8 seconds (with a Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN lens at f/2.8). That led to some star trails in the final image further away from the celestial south pole, so I backed the exposure time down to 2.5 seconds and tried again.

After processing the resulting image with Affinity Photo (which can read the RAW files; Adobe Camera Raw can’t yet, though I’m sure an update is close), I was very happy with the result.

I did have to push the exposure a bit more than three stops given the short exposure time per image, but because the final image is automatically generated from a combination of 8 individual images the final result still had reasonable noise characteristics — certainly very useable.

100-megapixel (well, nearly) astro imaging is a reality with the Lumix S5.

Other than High Resolution mode, for single-shot imaging the sensor is very nice and clean at high ISOs. I’m a very happy S5 owner today.


About the author: Jonathan Usher is a landscape photographer based in Wellington, New Zealand. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Usher’s work on his website.

This 550MP image of the Carina Nebula merges 208,000 photos shot through a consumer telescope

I have only recently begun to discover astronomy, but it’s an even more expensive hobby than photography. So, I’m really happy to see that you can take stunning photos even through a tiny consumer telescope. And I mean, really stunning! This 550-megapixel photo shows star clusters and nebulae in great detail, and it was taken […]

The post This 550MP image of the Carina Nebula merges 208,000 photos shot through a consumer telescope appeared first on DIY Photography.

Canon EOS R5 vs R6 Astrophotography and High ISO Comparison

Photographer Brent Hall recently went out to shoot a comparison video that a lot of Canon shooters are eager to see: the brand new EOS R5 vs the EOS R6, for astrophotography, at high ISO. Does the lower resolution sensor of the R6 give it a low-light advantage?

The answer, at least according to Hall, is yes. And he’s got the photos to prove it.

But first, a few disclaimers that he wanted to throw out there. When we spoke to him about sharing this video and his resulting images, he shared two bits of information that he said we may want to include now that the YouTube commenters have gotten their hands on his comparison and started to (uncharacteristically… of course) tear it to shreds.

Enter Brent:

  1. I didn’t downsize the R5 images in the video (and this made a few viewers quite upset, lol) as people were quick to point out that it wasn’t a fair test because downsiziing the R5 images would have reduced the noise and made it more comparable. Well, I did do that after the fact, and while, subjectively, it may have helped a bit, I still has the same results, that the R6 (again, subjectively) looked a bit cleaner at the higher isos (6400 and up).
  2. On the note of the R5, I totally forgot to take into account the NPF rule for the high megapixels, so the 500 rule doesn’t apply with high mp cameras, and it should be more like the 300 rule (you can see evidence of this with the 20 sec 3200 iso R5 images having slight star trails when zoomed in, and the trails are gone with the 8 sec 12800 iso image). Of course, like I said in the video, that has no bearing on noise levels, just me defending myself against the lovely critics of the YouTube world.

With these two points in mind, here are some (almost) full resolution sample images that Brent was kind enough to share with our readers (click to enlarge). In each of the pairs of images below, the EOS R5 image comes first, followed by the EOS R6:

20 sec, f/2.8, ISO 3200

15 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400

8 sec, f/2.8, ISO 12800

So… how did it go? The good news is that both cameras performed admirably, even at 12800 ISO. And while there is a difference to Brent’s eye, the difference is surprisingly small given the fact that the R5 is more than twice the resolution. That’s good news: those who want the R6 are getting slightly better high ISO performance at a much lower price; and those who want the R5 are getting surprisingly good high ISO performance despite the bump in resolution.

To dive deeper into the images, explore them at 100%, and hear Hall’s thoughts on this test, be sure to check out the full video up top or pixel peep the samples for yourself.

(via Fstoppers)


Image credits: Photos by Brent Hall and used with permission.

Extraordinary photo of Andromeda Galaxy wins Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2020

The Earth hasn’t really been the best place to live on for the past year or so. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been fantasizing about moving to some other planet. Stunning photos from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest definitely make these fantasies even more vivid, and I’m happy to share with […]

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