Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Milky Way over Lake Panorama National G.C. - Edition II

Equipment Used:  Nikon D750, 24-120 f4 lense, SB-700 Speedlight & Vanguard Abeo Plus 363 CT Tripod

After capturing the Panorama Days fireworks on the main basin of Lake Panorama, I could tell the Milky Way was starting to show itself in the clear sky so I traveled over to the golf course at 11 PM. I got in a golf cart and drove to #5 and #7 to capture the Milky Way over those golf holes.

The D750 was fitted with the 24-120mm f4 lense with VR and auto focus shut off since I shot everything from the Vanguard tripod. Aperture was at f4 in manual mode with 10 or 15 seconds being the shutter speed. ISO ranged from 3200-6400. Instead of using a remote to trigger the camera, I set the camera to 3 second self timer mode.

I used a single SB-700 Speedlight to throw light on the golf hole using manual power and rotated the Speedlight has I trigged the flash. This allowed me to expose the width of the golf hole. To help light up the flag stick on #5, I even stuck a small LED flashlight into the cup and pointed it up to the sky.
Processing these starry images started in Capture NX-D by adjusting the white balance to direct sunlight or leaving it alone. The picture control was changed to landscape or vivid and the astro noise reduction feature was selected. Adjustments to exposure compensation and contrast/saturation sliders were also made to help bring out the stars.


In PSE 11, I first cloned out unwanted objects such as water hazard and yardage stakes. If needed, I combined the sky with a different exposure of the hole using layer masks and the brush tool. Additional adjustments using levels and brightness/contrast layers were also used to help bring out the stars. The unsharp mask filter was used to sharpen the image after cropping and straightening once all adjustments were done.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Milky Way Astro over Old Barns & Cribs

Equipment Used: Nikon D750, 24-120mm f4 lense, 35mm f1.8 lense, SB-700 Speedlights, led flashlight, Vanguard Abeo Plus 363 CT Tripod & Viltrox Wireless Remote Control

The Exsate Golden Hour app on my phone says “Someone told you the most beautiful stars are in August? You have to check!” I ventured out to see if this was true from August 1 – 3 when the sky was clear between 10:30 to well after midnight. I traveled to four different locations to capture the Milky Way.

The D750 was fitted with the 24-120mm at f4 and the 35mm at f2. It was the first time I used the 35mm lense to capture the stars and I was pleased with how much light it gathered but need to fine tune the manual focusing. The camera was placed on my new tripod that is sturdier than my previous one and also easier to set up in the dark. Settings on the camera were manual mode with exposures ranging from 10 to 30 seconds at ISO 3200-8000 with VR off on the lense and high iso nr set to low. For the best in post processing and enlarging the files, RAW was used as well. While my camera was exposing for the milky way, I used the SB-700 in manual mode to throw bursts of light at the foreground which included the barns I was trying capture.

Capture NX-D processed the RAW files into Tiffs with adjustments to enhance the image. Exposure compensation was increased while white balance was either left alone or changed to direct sunlight or incandescent. The picture control was changed to vivid or landscape or also left alone. The contrast, saturation and shadow sliders were adjusted if needed. Lastly, I clicked on the astro noise reduction button to help reduce the noise in the sky.

In PSE 11, I first cloned out unwanted objects such as a line of light from a plane in the sky or a lightening bug flying through the image. Additional enhancements included contrast, saturation, brightness and levels layer masks brushed into certain areas of the image. The unsharp mask filter was used to sharpen the image after cropping and straightening once all the adjustments were done.

I took two different series of images to combine into star trails using StarStaX which lasted about 10 minutes between the first and last image took using the interval timer on the camera. The time between each shot was five seconds. It sure seems like a longer time when you are setting in the dark. Hopefully in the future, I’ll be able to do an image that is a few hours long which would allow the star trail to start on one side of the image and finish on the other side.

With these images complete, I have to say I agree with the Exsate Golden Hour app has the stars and Milky Way shine bright in these photographs and I’m very happy with how they turned out. The D750 continues to impress me with its ability to capture the scene. 

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Lake Panorama's 4th of July Fireworks 16

Equipment Used:  Nikon D750, 24-120 f4 lense, Silk Pro 500DX Tripod & Viltrox Wireless Remote control

Over the 4th of July weekend, Lake Panorama had their firework show so I headed down to Boulder Beach with my camera and got to the point along the shore to get a good view. Last year I was at the same location and had some good images so hoped for more of the same this year. I had planned on using both the D750 and D90 on tripods but when I started sitting up the equipment, I didn’t have both tripod plates.

So I put the D750 on the Slik tripod fitted with the 24-120 mm lense and hooked up the remote control as well. Manual focus was used along with turning off VR on the lense. Manual mode was set to bulb and I adjusted the aperture between f5.6-9.  ISO was 400.  Exposures ranged from 5 to 15 seconds to capture the fireworks.

I started processing the images in Capture NX-D with adjustments to exposure compensation, white balance, picture control and highlight/shadow sliders. White balance was changed to direct sunlight and picture control to landscape. I increased the shadow slider to help lighten up the area of the boats on the water. I also made a copy of the RAW file to further lighten up the area of the boats using the exposure compensation.

Using PSE 11, I merged files together using layers and the brush tool to help get a great looking firework burst along with the boats being exposed in a better manner. After that, I used the clone brush tool to get rid of unwanted objects such as a cell phone towers red light in the background. I than straightened the image if need be and sharpened it as well.

The sky wasn’t quite as good for taking firework shots as last year it seemed when viewing these images but I still was able to capture some cool bursts. Next year I’ll be looking for a new location to shoot from to hopefully get more of a look down towards the boats. 

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