Astrophotography Timelapse - My First Night Out





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Published on Aug 30, 2011


I have always been a sucker for really well done astro timelapse from people like Tom Lowe, TSO Photography and Randy Halverson.

This past weekend I drove up into the mountains for a camping weekend with my oldest daughter. Every so often my wife and I like to split up our girls so we can get some one on one time with each girl. I knew we would get a chance to talk and tell ghost stories around the campfire.

My photography goal for this trip was to try my first time lapse of the stars, I had ideas of grandeur of quality equal to Tom Lowe and others, and I was even more excited to try after I watched Tom Guilmette's awesome BTS video about Timefest.

When I packed up the car in the morning there was not a cloud in the sky, however as we drove up to RMNP the clouds started forming. The previous weekend with my other daughter I got rain out at night and didn't want a repeat performance from Mother nature. By the time we setup up camp it started to drizzle. It rained on our hike but after that the clouds started to break up giving me some hope that we would have a clear night sky.
Long's Peak

The object of the timelapse was Long's Peak. Years ago I climbed this 14,256' mountain with a friend in what turned out to be the nasty night camping ever, instead of starting out at 2am to start the hike with a day pack and head lamp on, my friend and I decided to take heavy packs in the afternoon and camp in the boulder field just below the sharp cliffs you see at the top. That night it rained and then started to snow and the wind was blowing at least 50mph, both of us didn't get any sleep.

After we made s'mores around the camp fire I started to get ready for the night's timelapse, during the setup I noticed that I forgot to pack the most important item.

It looked like my hopes of achieving my goal were dashed, just as the clouds started clear. Then I remembered I had Magic Lantern on one 4gig card. However that 4gig card had shots from the day's hike. I then had to do some math to see if I could fit the timelapse on the already used card.

After knowing the number of shots required I went back to see if it would fit on the card.

Now that I am back in business with a card with enough memory and ML providing the remote timer function I started looking for my composition.

I wanted to keep it simple, no motorized slider, just a static shot with no moon, and since I don't have an iPhone app no idea where the Milkyway might appear. I am mostly worried about exposure, focus and composition for my first attempt.

I studied Randy Halverson's meta data on Flickr which is giving me a good place to start, 2.8 ISO of 1600 30 second exposure. However Randy was using wide lens like the Tokina 11-16 where my choice of the 50mm created star trails at 30 second shutter. These star trails created a smeary look to my timelapse.
Shutter Can be Loud

At 11:30pm I started the timelapse, it is dead quiet no crickets nothing, just some wind in the trees. Almost all the fires were out and people are very quiet, but the camera is much louder than I thought, about 15 minutes after I start the next door campers return I am can hear a whisper of what is that over there? So I got up and put a sleeping bag pad around the camera and that helped a lot with the noise.

For the next two hours lying in the tent, trying not to remember the story the park range told me about the bears that visit a couple times a week.

At 1:30am two hours later I call it quits and brought the camera back in the tent to scroll through the timelapse.

And check it I was luck enough to capture the hikers headlamps transversing just below the peak, pretty cool.

I don't think I would hear the words bleeping Epic for Tom Lowe if he saw my first timelapse because of my lens choice and shooting jpg instead of RAW. Also I not sure what these vertical lines are that you can see forming are.

But I learned a lot and had a great time with my daughter.


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