Exploring Astro Photography

I was invited a few weekends ago to join a couple of astronomy enthusiasts up in the mountains (Amiantos area) for some night-sky watching. After recently having read a couple of tutorials on star trail techniques, I was itching to give it a try.

For this first picture, I located the North Star (Polaris) just before it got completely dark. I set my camera with my Canon 24-70 F2.8L lens on my trusty tripod and took a couple of pictures to make sure my composition was correct. After being satisfied that I had everything where I wanted them to be, I set my camera to Manual mode and dialed my settings to ISO 400, F2.8 with a 30 sec exposure. What followed was an excruciating hour and a half, where I manually took 140 consecutive pictures using my remote cable release (guess who just ordered an intervalometer!). These images were later stacked together using a simple freeware program I downloaded from www.startrails.de and then imported the image into Photoshop for some minor touches (contrast and sharpness).

The second picture was taken facing South East Рsame settings, slightly less painful shooting procedure as I only took about 75 images. 

Overall I must admit that I am pretty happy with the outcome. Key takeaways from this exercise however are:
1) A trusty intervalometer (though not a must) is definitely good to have. You just set it and then hide in your car with a warm cup of coffee while it’s doing its job. It’s not very costly (30-50 euros will get you a decent one), and it can be used not just for astro photography but for time lapse videos as well.
2) Dress warm! I completely underestimated the weather that night. Even though it was the end of May, temperatures up in the mountains can be as low as 5-6 C during the night. A warm jacket and a pair of gloves are definitely a must!