Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Astrophotography for the Unprepared

This past weekend I found myself staring up at a sky full of stars with minimal light pollution. While the view was amazing, I kicked myself for not having done the prep to capture the scene. Happy with my first-aid cheat sheet, I created a similar one for astrophotography. Now when the opportunity of shooting the night sky presents itself, I'll be ready. Here's what I did:

Step 1. Did the research to find the basic DSLR and Cell Phone settings I'd need to shoot the night sky. I found this page and this video especially helpful.

Step 2. Created a simple HTML file containing just the basic info I'd need to snap pics. You can find my cheat sheet here.

Step 3. I downloaded the .html file to my phone and setup a trivial Tasker task that invokes the Open File action. I added a widget to my home screen that that launches this task:

The last challenge is figuring out a mechanism to keep the camera steady. I often carry a Pedco UltraClamp which is a flexible way to bolt my cell phone or DSLR to an object. It was too heavy to bring backpacking, so I was without it this past weekend. There are countless ways to improvise a cell phone stand, including using a Red Solo Cup and a gift card. Heck, I grabbed a heavy duty luggage tag from a Disney trip, and bent one into a cell phone stand in just a few seconds:

So I'm confident that even without an official tripod, I should be able to work up some sort of solution to keeping the camera steady.

As long as I have my phone and way to steady it for long exposures, I'll be ready the next time I'm presented with a sky full of stars. It can't happen soon enough!

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