When you’re planning to head out for astrophotography, one of the things in your check lists it to figure out your power consumption (or it should if you haven’t figured that out yet!). Some people rely on batteries, others again have a steady power supply from a plug in their homes/outdoor observatory sites, and finally some would rely on a power generator.
To figure out how much power your equipment consumes per hour, there’s a simply calculation method. If you know your Watt-hours and Volts (most astronomy equipment is powered by 12 Volts) to Ampere-hours you can use a simple formula to discover the amount. Supposedly your Watt-hours is 240 then we get;
Now, to convert how much time would that give us, create a simple list of all your equipment and how many Amperes each one of them consumes. In my case,
Mount (NEQ6 Pro): 4 Amp
Cooling Camera (ASI1600GT): 2 Amp
RCA Dew Heaters (1 Amp each): 2 Amp
Lakeside Focuser: 1 Amp
EAGLE Pro (Mini-PC + Power Management Unit): 1 Amp
That would give us a total of 10Ah. Supposedly I’m using a Duracell battery of 20Ah, then my power consumption would end up discharging my battery source after 2 hours (20 Ah / 10 Ah).
Instead, in my case I would then need a steady powersource for much longer than that. In average my observing sessions are no less than 3 hours (on mediocre nights) or even up to 4 or 5 hours when there are really beautiful night skies making it worthwhile to stay up longer.
A battery would be enough to just observe visually, but definetely wouldn’t take me a long way for astrophotography. And to make matters worse with batteries, they shouldn’t go below 20% of their total capacity if you want them to be long lived, or say goodbye to an expensive battery after just a few sessions!
I’ve decided that, for my own personal gain to buy a power generator that would provide me a reliable power source for many hours at end, without risking killing any expensive batteries, damage my equipment or to abandon a beautiful night sky. Additionally it gives me great independence from anything when it comes to sudden power outages, people around, or ending up running out on battery sources.
The downside is of course a solid power generator would become heavy to carry around (the one I’m looking at is 48 lbs) and the other downside is of course its loudness (~50 dB which corresponds to light rainfall) when its operating. You’ll also need a long cable to avoid having it too close to cause vibrations during your astrophotography session.
Ultimately nothing beats a steady power source offered by a wall outlet… But you can’t ask to have everything right?
The International Center of Photography (ICP) has announced the appointment of five new members to its board of trustees, including renowned photographer Cindy Sherman. Sherman will act as creative advisor for the center’s upcoming 50th anniversary in 2024.
Joining the board alongside Sherman are Uzodinma Iweala, chief executive of the Africa Center in Harlem; Toronto-based gallerist Jane Corkin; real estate developer and philanthropist Robert Fribourg, of New York; and Wall Street veteran Jonathan R. Furer.
In an email to the New York Times, Sherman said, “I sensed that the organization, in asking me to participate, wanted to branch out from its more traditional roots and be seen in a broader sense of how photography is being used today,” she said.
“Everyone with a smartphone can relate to photography,” she said, “much more so than even 25 years ago, and that is why it’s more relevant than ever and why more people should discover I.C.P.”
ICP’s new Executive Director (as of 2021) David E. Little told the NY Times, in an interview, that partnering with artists like Sherman and executives like Iweala (who is also a writer and filmmaker) would help the center extend its reach beyond documentary photography and into the fine art world.
Sure, a long hike or a weekend camping trip are great ways to unwind and escape reality for a little bit, but why bother with all the bugs or the blisters or the sunburn when you could bring nature to you? Imagine it — all that majesty and mystery and sunlight and water contained in your own personal portal hanging on your wall. All without ever leaving your home.
The driving rain on your windows can’t dampen the sunshine inside. Do you live in Arizona? Well, THIS is called snow. Imagine it falling gently in your living room. Whatever escape you’re looking for, you can have it — all it takes is the right hook to hang it on the wall. Of course there is no true replacement to being immersed in nature, but why limit yourself when you can have the best of both worlds?
Whether you’re looking for an excuse to bail on your next camping trip or not, displaying nature photography in your home can have a real impact on your overall health and mood. Nature photography has even been scientifically proven to have mental and physical health benefits. No more camping and an anxiety cure? Sounds like a dream come true.
Fun Fact: Your Brain Doesn’t Know What’s Real
Apparently, your brain has the same reaction to looking at nature as it does to actually being in nature. While I feel a little guilty about playing this trick on my brain, what a cool shortcut to health and happiness, you know?
The fact of the matter is that people who live in cities and urban areas are 17% more likely to suffer psychological distress of some kind — anxiety, depression, the usual. You might be thinking you’re perfectly fine living your big city life, fulfilling your big city dreams. I’m sure you’re right. But like it or not, nature is absolutely mandatory in some capacity in order for our brains to function properly. We need it every once in a while to stay sane. Let’s face it, even New Yorkers — the definitive city-dwellers, if you will — live in a city that’s centerpiece is a huge park, meant to give them a much needed break from the high energy, high intensity lifestyle of the city.
There’s a reason why nature-based therapy is a real thing. Studies find that those who live in close proximity to nature have higher life satisfaction and a more positive outlook on life. Simply observing nature can improve productivity, concentration, and even limit the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression. Nature scenes nourish our brains in ways that the city can’t; real or photograph simply doesn’t matter — our brains respond to these stimuli in the same rejuvenating way.
Study after study show that nature lowers our stress levels and helps us feel happier. Why do you think we try to take so many activities that could be enjoyed indoors and move them outdoors? Most of us would much rather walk through a park than walk on a treadmill. I can shop at a big grocery store, but I’m much happier at a weekend farmers market in the square on an autumn afternoon.
The point is, your brain thrives when it gets a regular dose of nature. And when you can’t get out into nature as much as you might like, you might as well do the next best thing and surround yourself with it inside. Filling your home with nature photography will remind your brain of all the things it finds calming, rejuvenating, and healing about the outside world and trigger the same mental boost you might get from a tree-lined jog through the park — your attitude, your focus, and even your overall mental health will dramatically improve.
Nature Literally Heals
Quick story time. In the early 1980s, a researcher visited a hospital in a small town in Pennsylvania. The patients in the wing he visited were all recovering from gallbladder surgery in identical rooms. The surgery was simple and most patients recovered in a week or two. However, the researcher started to wonder about what caused the “or two” part of the equation. What small differences made the recovery time vary from patient to patient?
The difference was this: some rooms on one side of the hospital faced a brick wall, while others had a view of a small stand of trees. Do you see where this is going? On average, the patients with the view of the lovely wall needed an extra day to recover before getting to go home. They were also more likely to be depressed during their stay and experienced more pain than their lucky, tree-viewing counterparts. Apart from the views, the rooms were identical. Their treatment was identical. The patients were all very similar. There was no explanation other than the differing views. The bottom line: the patients who had a view of nature literally recovered faster than those stuck looking at the brick wall.
Continued studies have found that natural environments routinely speed up the body’s ability to heal; even adding houseplants to your life can speed up the process. As pretty as that Spider Plant on your coffee table is, a houseplant can’t make you feel like you live at the base of a picturesque mountain or remind you of the babble of a tumbling waterfall every morning when you wake up. Nature photography can.
If you still need further convincing, the International Journal of Health Geographics released a study that showed that nature images even provided viewers with protection from having a stroke. Similarly, in areas with fewer trees, residents had a higher risk of stroke mortality. So, looking at nature images can literally save your life. And who doesn’t want to live longer and healthier? You might even say that investing in nature photography is an important investment in your health. Who needs health insurance or a low sodium diet when you’ve got some nicely framed trees? I really have your best interests at heart, here.
All Jokes Aside
While I’m no scientist, I do experience the powerful impact of nature every single day when I head out to capture my next photograph. I know how nature makes me feel and I want to bring that to your home. I also believe in the long history of studies that have shown us the lasting impact of regularly viewing nature images and am proud to contribute to whatever benefits — health or otherwise — you might reap from owning my work.
More than anything, my goal is to show you views of our natural world in ways you’ve never seen them before. After all, displaying nature photography in your home gives you the opportunity to make believe you live anywhere in the world. And as we previously established, your brain can’t actually tell what’s real. So, if you fill your home with dramatic images of Iceland or the majestic mountains of Colorado… in a way, don’t you actually live there?
The best star trackers for astrophotography have changed the scene forever by counteracting the rotation of our planet. Until only a few years ago a long exposure of over about 10 seconds caused stars to blur. That made it very difficult to extract much data from deep-sky objects such as nebulae, but also from the Milky Way. Cue the invention of the star-tracker, which is basically a shrunken equatorial mount, but designed for cameras instead of telescopes.
Like an equatorial mount, a star tracker needs to be aligned (often with the help of a smartphone app) with the north celestial pole (the star Polaris) in the northern hemisphere or the south celestial pole in the southern hemisphere. It then keeps your camera in sync with Earth’s rotation. That way it counteracts the rotation of the Earth and keeps the target object still in a composition, thus allowing blur-free long exposures.
The best star trackers for astrophotography 2022
While most star trackers are a compromise between their own weight and their payload, the Benro Polaris is both super lightweight (at 3.3lbs / 1.5kg) and super-supportive, taking a mighty 15lbs/7kg of gear (the highest carrying capacity of any star tracker mount so far). It achieves that by using precise high torque motors and a waterproof IPX6 rating. That helps explain the very high price. It’s the first star tracker to offer built-in DSLR control and a built-in micro SD card slot. Remarkably, the Benro Polaris can even be controlled via the cellphone network. Its huge 2500 mAh battery can be recharged via USB-C while alignment is via any objects from a choice presented on a smartphone app. However advanced the best star trackers appear, there’s evidence from this electric tripod head that their days are numbered.
The incessant creep of light pollution means it’s now almost inevitable that you’ll need to travel to find the darkest night skies possible. Even if you don’t travel internationally, finding dark skies often means hiking into backcountry areas away from other humans. That necessitates a star tracker that strikes the right balance between its own weight and what it can support.
Cue the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini, affectionately known as SAM, which can take a payload of 3kg yet it is relatively easy to squeeze into a camera bag. It’s not the sleekest device ever, and nor is its SA Console app up to much. However, as we found during our Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini review, once you get used to its foibles SAM is reliable and relatively easy to use. It’s possible to get accurate long-exposure images of up to about four minutes, which makes SAM a great compromise product. Accessories include a counterweight and declination bracket to increase the payload.
The priciest and one of the best star trackers around for astrophotographers is the iOptron SkyGuider Pro. Many star trackers are made for landscape photographers wanting to save on weight when out in the field searching for wide-angle compositions that include the night sky. But there are plenty of astrophotographers that only want to use telephoto lenses to capture light from distant deep sky objects. That means bigger payloads and longer exposures, which is what the iOptron SkyGuider Pro is designed for.
Able to take about 11lbs / 5kg, it can support long lenses or even a small telescope, making this a product that in some ways behaves more like a motorized equatorial mount, though its wedge lacks a little precision. Another downside is its use of a counterweight to reach that higher capacity than average, which adds a further 3lbs/1.35kg to the product. Aligning using its electronic polar finderscope and iOptron Polar Scope app, like most of its rivals this star trackers also tracks the Sun, Moon and allows 1/2-speed motion time lapses at night.
Even smaller and more nimble than the SAM is the great value Move Shoot Move, a star tracker that’s suitable only for wide-angle lenses. That’s partly because of its limited payload of 6.6lbs / 3kg and partly, as we discovered in our Move Shoot Move star tracker review, because it’s just not the most accurate star tracker around.
While that might sound like a deal-breaker, it’s actually a plus if you intend only to take wide-angle images of the Milky Way and starfields. For such photos a rough alignment with Polaris is all you need, something that can be done easily and quickly using an included green laser pointer.
The Move Shoot Move isn’t going to accurately track Polaris for more than about two or three minutes (though the wider and lighter your lens the longer it will remain accurate enough). But if you have a reasonably fast wide-angle lens none of that is going to matter much. If you have a telephoto lens though, look elsewhere.
While iOptron’s SkyGuider Pro is aimed at deep sky photography, the pared-down and more compact iOptron SkyTracker Pro is aimed more at wide-angle nightscapes. Its payload capacity, at 6.6lbs/3kg, is a lot less than its stablemate and at 2.5lbs/1.1kg it also weighs less. As such it’s more suitable for those wanting to carry a star tracker in their camera bag during trips and travel.
It has a wider appeal than just nightscapes since in addition to tracking objects in the night sky it can also follow the Sun, Moon and has a half speed for motion timelapses. As a bonus, its internal battery can run for 24 hours. Accessories include a counterweight and declination bracket to increase the payload.
The Vixen Polarie isn’t for deep-sky astrophotography. In the world of star trackers, it’s always a trade-off between size and versatility, and the Polaris compact size means it can support a payload of just 2kg. Therefore, it is best used with not only wide-angle lenses but fairly lightweight models, though using a mirrorless camera body will give you more flexibility. Alignment is via a supplied compass, a built-in latitude meter and a polar sight hole, so you will have to know how to find Polaris and/or the south celestial pole.
On hand to help are both red light illumination and the Vixen PF-L Assist app for smartphones. As well as long exposure astrophotography the Polaris can track the Moon and the Sun (the latter useful for solar eclipses) and its half-speed allows motion time-lapses at night. Its short two-hour battery life can be augmented by instead attaching a portable battery to its micro USB slot. Optional accessories include a counterweight to boost the payload to 6.5kg, a polar axis scope and a time-lapse adapter.
Best star trackers for astrophotography 2022: What to look for
However, star trackers — which sit between a tripod and a camera — are not all the same. They have varying weights and designs but also manage different payloads. While some are ideal for telephoto lenses pointed at specific targets, others can only handle wide-angle lenses for capturing the Milky Way. Both the maximum payload and the accuracy of star trackers vary. They are often fiddly and time-consuming, but at their best star trackers can deliver addictively good images.
As well as weighing your camera body and lens before making a purchase do remember to take into account the added weight of a couple of ball-head mounts and the load-bearing ability of your tripod. If in doubt, go for bigger capacity mounts because as a rule of thumb it’s best to have your rig’s total weight about half the capacity of the mount.
Here’s everything you need to know about the best star trackers available for astrophotography and night-scape photography.
How we test the best star trackers for astrophotography
In order to guarantee you’re getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best star trackers for astrophotography to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every star tracker through a rigorous review to fully test each instrument. Each star tracker is reviewed based on a multitude of aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as an imaging instrument and its performance in the field.
Each star tracker is carefully tested by either our expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who know their subject areas in depth. This ensures fair reviewing is backed by personal, hands-on experience with each star tracker and is judged based on its price point, class and destined use.
We look at how easy it is to set up, whether the star tracker mounts are reliable and quiet if a star tracker comes with appropriate accessories and also make suggestions if a particular star tracker would benefit from any additional kit to give you the best astrophotography experience possible.
With complete editorial independence, Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on telescopes, whether you should purchase an instrument or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.
They met in middle school… and according to Becky, she fell for him right away and “it took a bit of chasing for him to notice me, but once he did we were inseparable.”
And so their middle school relationship began. But when Becky’s family moved away, their relationship at the time couldn’t go the distance (they had *not* having their licenses to thank for that).
Years later, on Kenny’s 21st birthday, he texted Becky to say hello… completely out of the blue. They talked that entire night. A few days later, she was out with friends when she randomly saw Kenny’s face on a poster, advertising an upcoming event he’d be playing guitar at. Having just spoken with him, then seeing his face on that poster, she decided that was the sign she needed to go see him play.
As you can imagine, the rest is history… they hit it off and it was like no time had passed at all. <3
A few more years of dating later, and it was just before the holidays when Becky was slammed at work, managing three accounts from sun up to sun down. When Kenny got back from work, he told her he was surprising her with a dinner out to her favorite restaurant because he knew how stressful her week was. She was reluctant at first to go because of her workload, but Kenny managed to convince her. On the way to what she *thought* was the restaurant, Kenny pulled over and said he wanted to give her a Christmas gift. Just then, she noticed they’d stopped in front of their middle school. As they walked up to the school, Kenny started with “I’ve loved you since we were 13” and proceeded to get down on one knee and ask Becky to spend forever with him. To which she responded an “obviously yes” !!!
EVERYONE is counting down to this long awaited day in store, next summer at The Farm at Eagles Ridge and I’m so honored to be the one to document it all!! For now, enjoy a few of my favorites from their engagement session! Xo
For Photographers: Love creamy skintones & soft colors? Learn to edit light & airy here!
For many nature and landscape photographers, the need to travel to distant exotic locations is paramount to the process of being able to create a diverse body of work that has a lasting impact, surprise, and depth. Surely trips to Iceland, Patagonia, Tibet, the USA National Parks, Greenland, the Faroes, and Indonesia can yield some incredible photographs; however, what if your home is a 167-square mile island and you choose to never leave your island for photography?
Cousteau’s influence on Andre’s work is quite prevalent not only in subject but also in how “exploratory” it feels to the viewer.
Do you think you can muster what it takes to produce a body of work that is compelling, personally expressive, interesting, and creative? The subject of today’s essay, Andre Donawa, based on the island of Barbados – a country with a population of just 287,000, has set out to do just that – create a body of interesting landscape photography solely from his home island.
Andre’s photography origin story is not unlike many of our own – in 2012, he picked up the camera to take some photographs of food for his family restaurant and the magic of pressing the shutter just overtook him like a virus. Armed with a degree in biology, Andre revisited local haunts on his island with a fresh perspective through the camera. His early inspiration as a photographer was Jacques Cousteau, the famous oceanic explorer, filmmaker, and co-inventor of the modern-age SCUBA diving systems. Cousteau’s influence on Andre’s work is quite prevalent not only in subject but also in how “exploratory” it feels to the viewer. When I first came across Andre’s work, I was instantly transported to Barbados and visually invited to feast on the peculiarities of his discoveries on the coast and in the water of his island. To be perfectly frank, I was quite surprised I had not discovered his work sooner. Andre’s work is filled with personal expression and conveys a unique take on a place he has become quite familiar with.
Certainly, a photographer can gain a tremendous advantage through the intimacy of place. Andre is no exception to this idea; however, I think below the surface (pun intended), there’s more to discover in his work. Through his imagery, I see a passionate familiarity with the subject that enriches his photographs and exudes creativity and conveys a subtle playfulness. I strongly believe that revisiting familiar locations and subjects repeatedly, while potentially boring on the surface, can force a photographer to develop a long-term relationship that will eventually yield more creative work that feels personal and expressive to the photographer (and viewer!)
The advantage of this approach is that one never truly gets tired of making images, and there is always a new challenge to explore with a familiar friend in the landscape. I have done this myself with mountain and autumn photography in Colorado, and I never grow tired of engaging with these places every single year with fresh eyes. Andre’s approach is one to take note of. I encourage other photographers to implement something similar in their own work – either through revisiting the same locations or by photographing the same subjects. The results will come over time.
Through his imagery, I see a passionate familiarity with the subject that enriches his photographs and exudes creativity and conveys a subtle playfulness.
Magic in the Mud
One aspect of Andre’s work that I have come to personally enjoy as a viewer is his wave photography, which seems to convey a multitude and range of emotions and states of being, from happy, excited, nervous, and curious. It is hard to believe that photographing waves and wave patterns from your home island can express such a wide range of emotions and feelings, but Andre has pulled it off! I’ve also come to enjoy his more intimate work that showcases interesting smaller scenes found on his coast, including stairs that seem to lead to nowhere, to a shoreline filled with a wonderful colour story and juxtaposition of the subject.
I would be remiss not to talk about two of his images that immediately struck me. The first is a visual power ballad of complexity and emotional impact showcasing massive crashing waves over a smaller wave. I was dumbfounded upon first seeing the photograph. The second is a very fascinating image of an oceanic sunset or sunrise that features waves and a wonderful colour palette.
The Great Wave
Waves of Summer
These unique and expressive images are generally only obtainable when a photographer has a very good understanding of his or her subject and has an energetic attitude towards it. I highly encourage you to think about what subjects or situations create the same in your own photography and to focus more of your energy and attention on that thing because the result will undoubtedly be an improvement in the overall impact and quality of your work. The trick is that it takes time and commitment to keep going back repeatedly, but the payoff is monumental, in my opinion.
If Andre’s work interests you, I encourage you to take a look at his book, Edge of Bim, which features photographs all captured from his island of Barbados over a 3-year period.
If Andre’s work interests you, I encourage you to take a look at his book, Edge of Bim, which features photographs all captured from his island of Barbados over a 3-year period.
These are the types of personal projects that inspire me, and I hope that it does you as well.
If you enjoyed this article and want to listen to my conversations with other great artists, consider subscribing to my podcast, “F-Stop Collaborate and Listen,” on your favourite podcatching application.
Do you know someone you feel has yet to be discovered and should be featured here? Send me an e-mail – I look forward to hearing from you.
November is here, which means the best Black Friday camera deals are now ramping up. But you don’t need to limit your attention to cameras – because plenty of lenses will also see some big discounts over the next few weeks.
Photography isn’t a cheap hobby or career at the best of times, so finding some great discounts can make all the difference, particularly when we’re going through a cost of living crisis.
Black Friday 2022 is on November 25, so we still have a few weeks to go before we know for sure which lenses will be on offer. This is therefore a great time to do some research around what could work for you and your shooting style, so that you know where to look when the day arrives.
I’m currently looking to upgrade to one of the best full-frame cameras, so I’ll need some full-frame lenses to go with it. I primarily shoot seascapes and landscapes, so lenses with a wider focal length will be at the top of my wishlist, followed by a telephoto for those tighter shots and perhaps a prime lens or two.
Whatever style of photography you do, there’s bound to be a lens for you on offer – not to mention that Sony is also offering winter cashback with many UK retailers, giving you the opportunity to save even more money. The company hasn’t said how long the cashback offer will last, but calling it “Winter Cashback” suggests it’s going to be around a good while.
Which Sony lenses were reduced last Black Friday?
Last year’s deals can offer a good guide to what might also be discounted this year. In 2021, we found some great discounts on the best Sony lenses at Adorama, Amazon and B&H, while UK retailer Wex was also offering fantastic savings on Sony lenses. Generally, the more expensive the lens, the bigger the saving, so this could be a great time to splurge on that big lens you’ve always wanted, or to stock up on a few smaller ones while the prices are low.
Taking a look back at last year’s deals, the Sony FE 24-70mm F/2.8 G Master lens was discounted by $400, taking it from $2,199 down to $1,799 – and not only is this lens now a year older, but Sony has also released an updated version of it, so chances are the original model will see even bigger discounts than it did last year.
Similarly, the 70-200mm F/2.8 G Master has also been updated. Last year, this lens was discounted to $2,299 down from $2,599, so there’s a very good possibility that the first version will be much cheaper this year, too.
Do be mindful when looking at offers, though, as some retailers will inflate their prices right before a sale starts, making it look like a better deal than it actually is. CamelCamelCamel (opens in new tab) can be a very useful site for checking price history, and we will of course also be sure to tell you whether a deal is really as good as it seems.
With that caveat out of the way, here are some Sony E-mount lenses to keep an eye out for in the Black Friday sales this year.
The best Sony lenses to look out for on Black Friday
Sony FE 24–70mm F2.8 G Master Lens
If I could only have one lens in my bag, it would be this one. Not only is it a fantastic quality lens, it’s also extremely versatile, covering a good range of focal lengths and making it great for travel and everyday shooting. Sony has released a newer version of this lens, meaning you can pick up the first model for even less. In fact, it’s already reduced on Amazon US. Right now, it’s sitting at $1,698 (down from $2,138), which is already $100 less than the Black Friday deal price last year.
FE 70–200mm F2.8 GM OSS Lens
Another lens worth checking out on Black Friday is Sony’s beast of a telephoto lens – the 70-200mm F/2.8. If you don’t mind the fact that it’s massive and very heavy, this is a great lens to add to your kit, as the quality is just incredible. I’ve shot with this lens before and you can crop a 200mm image down so much and not sacrifice any image quality or detail at all.
Right now, this lens is $1,998 on Amazon US (was $2,433) – already $200 less than last year. For UK buyers, this lens is on Amazon for £1,949. This lens would be a great investment for any style of shooting, but particularly for wildlife or sports photography, and it’s so good that you won’t need to buy another telephoto lens for a very long time.
Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens
If you’re happy to look outside of native Sony lenses, you can find some great deals on third-party lenses too. For instance, the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 is on Amazon for $364, down from $620, which is a massive saving already. In the UK, it’s on Amazon for £349, down from £449. This lens would be great for landscape and city shooters, and also for astrophotography due to its wide focal length and fast aperture. It’s a pretty niche focal length, but for the price this would be an absolute bargain.
Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 G Master APS-C Lens
For any Sony shooters who don’t want to make the switch to full-frame just yet, this incredible 16-55mm f/2.8 G Master Lens is probably one of the best lenses you can put on your camera. I bought this model earlier in the year and the quality is astounding. It’s currently on Amazon UK for £1,039, which is full price, however I have seen it drop as low as around £800 in the past, so there’s a good chance it could go lower during Black Friday. All of Sony’s lenses also hold their value really well on the used market, so you could definitely sell it on for a good price when and if you do switch over to full-frame.
Sony 20mm F/1.8 Prime Lens
The 20mm f/1.8 prime lens is a very popular lens among Sony shooters because, although it’s a prime lens, it’s actually quite versatile. While it wouldn’t necessarily be a good choice for wildlife or sport photography, it’s a great lens for any type of travel or photojournalism and it’s also a very popular option for landscapes and cityscapes. Many photographers I know also use this lens when getting into astrophotography, as it’s wide enough to capture foreground and a big chunk of night sky, while the fast aperture means you can let a lot of light in. While professional astrophotographers would probably choose a 14mm lens instead, this model would be a great way to dip your toe into this style of photography. If this lens is reduced on Black Friday, it’s definitely one to consider picking up.
Fabiano Dossantos is a Brazil-born nature photographer currently living in Boston, Massachusetts – USA. In his words about nature photography “I’ve Always loved nature and being outside. Birds, animals, beaches, mountains, forests are an attraction to my eyes. Over the years, I realized that this love for nature, made a perfect marriage with my love for photography. The sunrise and sunset are a divine painting. Photographing nature is a kind of connection with our creator. I am a religious person, and that’s how I fell when I am photographing Nature.”
Thanks, Fabiano for accepting our invitation. Please read on…
#1 Few words about you?
My name is Fabiano Lacerda Dos Santos. I am 48 years old, married and I have two children. I was born in Brazil, in the city of Criciuma, state of Santa Catarina (south, near Argentina). Since i was a child i have always lived in an environment where family members worked in the construction industry. Today I live in Boston, Massachusetts – USA. I have a company that provides services in the construction area.
#2 How did you develop your interest in photography?
My mother has always been passionate for photography. She was a seamstress, but in her spare time, she liked to photograph me and my sister. She was always positioning us correctly, so that, the photo had a good composition. When I was 8 years old, an uncle came to live with my family. He was a professional photographer, and turned his own bedroom into a Darkroom Lab. That’s when my interest in photography started to spark.
For me photography was “magic”, where a piece of paper that was deposited on a tray containing liquids, which I didn’t know what it was, soon turned into an image. This was very fascinating to me. Since then, photography has always been something I enjoyed doing.
#3 How did you get interested in nature photography?
I’ve Always loved nature and being outside. Birds, animals, beaches, mountains, forests are an attraction to my eyes. Over the years, I realized that this love for nature, made a perfect marriage with my love for photography.
The sunrise and sunset are a divine painting. Photographing nature is a kind of connection with our creator. I am a religious person, and that’s how I fell when I am photographing Nature.
#4 What is that catches your eyes to produce such wonderful photographs?
The color, the shadow, glow, the combination of light and colors. Sometimes, I like to photograph what goes unnoticed, what not all eyes perceive. I like to see a beauty where it didn’t exist before the photo.
#5 Could you please share your post-processing techniques?
For every photo, a different situation. I don’t have a strict line of post-processing techniques. Most of my photos are edited in Lightroom. I always try to lower the highlights and shadows and increase white, sometimes color saturation for vibrant colors. That’s all, nothing too special.
#6 Your favorite photographers?
Sebastiao Salgado and Serge Ramelli
#7 One thing you have learned through photography, you would want to share with our readers?
I learned that photography is magic, is Art. We are not only photographers, but Artists, we create Art with what is already an Art. A different way to transform a moment in life into an image.
#8 What is the best compliment you received so far?
To be honest, it’s very gratifying to receive compliments, but the ones that cheer me up the most are when someone says: ” This photo looks like an Art painting”, or ” You should work for a magazine”.
#9 Any favorite photography books?
Photography essentials: A visual Guide. By Serge Ramelli.
#10 What’s your personal motto?
Beauty can be in all things. Transform beauty into Art, the Art of recording a moment in life that will never be repeated.
#11 Other than photography, what are your hobbies and interests?
I like to cook. Just like photography, I think cooking is an open window to invention. I also like to hike, travel and visit new places, but also to return to places already visited that attract me for their beauty.
#12 Thanks again for providing 121 Clicks with this opportunity to interview you. Any final thoughts for our readers?
Photograph everything that you think is beautiful. Your way of seeing the world is peculiar, is your way, not mine. Try to make something peculiar, something that is yours in a new scene created by you, by your angles, your compositions, because this moment will not be repeated. You have the power in your hands to freeze this moment forever.
Copyrights: All the pictures in this post are copyrighted Fabiano Dossantos. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owners.
Anthony Onyango is the 2022 Mkapa Awards Conservation Heroes winner. He will take home a grand prize award of $5,000 (Sh607,000), and a large, specially-commissioned stone elephant sculpture.
The winner was announced at a ceremony and exhibition held at the Kenya National Museum in Nairobi last week.
This year’s competition, which was organised by African Wildlife Foundation and Nature’s Best Photography attracted 9,500 entries from 57 countries including entrants from 16 African countries.
The competing categories include: African Conservation Heroes, Coexistence and Conflict, African Wildlife at Risk, Fragile Wilderness, African Wildlife Behavior, African Wildlife Portraits, Africa’s Backyard Wildlife, Art in Nature, Creative Digital, Mobile, Africa in Motion/Video, and two Youth Photographers of the Year, one inside Africa and one international.
Each of the category winners will receive $1,000 (Sh121,000) and a stone elephant sculpture.
The 77 prints and four videos shortlisted for various prizes will travel to other global locations throughout the year. In addition, all winners’ photographs will be displayed in large-format prints and high-definition video, along with Highly Honoured finalists at the museum in Nairobi through February 2023.
AWF chief executive Kaddu Sebunya said the competition and other strategic partnerships will help define and refine the African conservation agenda for development through these voices.
The awards are named in honour of the late former Tanzanian President, H.E. Benjamin Mkapa, for his dedication to conservation education throughout Africa, and his impactful support of AWF programmes across the continent.
“Nature photography goes beyond just taking a picture but informing and inspiring people to protect nature. It is truly an honour to be among the winners this year and it is a testament that we Africans have what it takes to emerge among the best,” Onyango said after receiving the award.
Which is better: many short exposures or fewer long exposures? 120 x 1 minute exposures or 10 x 12 minute exposures? Questions similar to this one get asked really often and they probably receive all kinds of different answers. People talk about the camera, faintness of the signal, dithering, stacking, light pollution etc. etc. So many factors creep into the discussion that sooner or later it will seem like a personal choice, almost like a matter of opinion. Is this really a matter of opinion and/or complicated? Or can we find some definitive answer to the question if more shorter exposures are better than fewer longer exposures? Actually, it turns out that although there are formulas for ideal (theoretical!) exposure times, personal preferences and opinion and practicality will come into play in reality when determining the exposure you want to be using. Knowing how the subexposure time will impact the SNR of your stacked image will help you to determine the exposure time you choose to use. Please bear with me while we explore the way to determine this optimum exposure time, which will include quite a bit of math. I find that going over the math and actually calculate the SNR for a few different scenarios helps greatly in my understanding of this matter. So I encourage you to follow along with the math. For those who are mostly interested in the key take aways I’ll start with those in a short summary, before diving into details and the math further on.
Key take aways
When you are imaging under light polluted skies, you should not worry about your exposure times. It will make very little to no difference if you are using subexposures of 30sec. or 3minutes. It’s the total integration time that matters. If you are imaging under dark skies, you will benefit from longer exposures in terms of SNR. However, it’s not worth it to go to extremes and keep in mind the cost of throwing out a subexposure due to poor tracking for instance. Only increase exposure time if you can reliable track accurately for that long. If you don’t use darks and/or want to use dithered (bayer) drizzel integration, make sure you get at least 10 to 15 subexposures.
Now that we’ve learned not to worry about subexposure time under light polluted skies and give subexposure time priority under dark skies, let’s see why this is the case and how we arrive at these conclusions.
Read noise and background sky flux
To determine the optimum exposure it basically comes down to these two factors; read noise and the background sky flux. The read noise is the noise that occurs within the electronics of the camera when we convert the electrons coming from the sensor into digital units (ADU) and store them. The background sky flux is the signal coming from the light pollution, moon light and/or air glow. The background is never completely black and the value of the background signal is the background sky flux.
If the read noise is swamped by sky background noise it becomes irrelevant and it doesn’t matter how long our subexposures are
If we wouldn’t have read noise, it wouldn’t matter if we take one very long exposure or many shorter exposures with the same total integration time. If we wouldn’t have background sky noise but do have read noise, the longer exposure would always have better SNR than many shorter exposures. In reality we always have to deal with some sort of mixture of these two scenarios. There will always be some background sky noise and read noise is always a factor to take into account. Especially for us DLSR users. So how should we take those two factors into account? Well, it comes down to determining the point where the sky background noise will make the read noise irrelevant. Whenever this is the case, it doesn’t matter any more if we take many shorter or fewer longer exposures. So if you are imaging under strong light pollution this probably applies to you. Alternatively, if you are using narrowband imaging and/or if you are under truly dark skies, it will be practically impossible to reach this point and so the longer exposures will always be better. Now let’s research why this is the case and look at some test results;
Adding multiple exposures and SNR
Let’s look at what exactly happens to the SNR when we add multiple exposures and when we expose longer. We will dive into some math here and I will try to do this step by step and as clear as possible. I know lot’s of articles will skip steps and rewrite formulas without explaining how or why which I’ll try to avoid.
The SNR is simply the Signal divided by the noise. Sounds simple, but with different noise sources we need to dive in a bit deeper and see how we add noise. But first let’s define the term Signal exactly: S = signal per second (s) * time of the exposure (t) * number of exposures (N). So To be clear; this is the total amount of signal recorded over multiple exposures. Next let’s consider the noise sources we are dealing with here: Object shot noise, sky (shot) noise, dark current noise and read noise. Whenever we are dealing with detecting photons we deal with shot noise. This shot noise is the square root of the number of photons. This noise is also building up over time just like the signal. So in terms of the object shot noise, it is the noise associated with the signal of the object(s) we are imaging and is the square root of the signal.
For sky shot noise it is the square root of the background signal coming from the sky over time.
For the dark current noise it is the square root of the thermal signal (dark current) build up.
The read noise is different in the sense that this doesn’t build up over time but it does occur once for every exposure. This is important to realise. The total read out noise (RonTot) is:
We can sum random, uncorrelated noise by adding them quadratically so we get the following formula for the total amount of noise:
Remember the fact that the shot noise is the square root of the Signal source. So if we add this quadratically we can rewrite the Noise in terms of the signal like this:
Since the number of exposures (N) is present in each term we can rewrite this as:
So the formula for the SNR is:
Notice we have N as a term present in both parts of the division. Since we can rewrite the above formula into:
Now we have written the formula down for SNR in this useful format, we can explore what the impact of the background sky flux and the read noise is on the SNR.
Scenario with no read noise
Maybe you start to see now what we said earlier; if we wouldn’t have read noise it wouldn’t matter how long we expose as long as the total exposure time is the same. Let’s just take out the read noise (RN) out of the above equation. Without read noise the SNR will be:
Since we have t present now in every term we can group it:
which is the same as
and as we’ve seen before we can write this down as
Now we can see it doesn’t matter for the SNR how we fill in values for N and t as long as N*t = the same value. So only total exposure time matters (N*t) and not how we divide it in subexposures. But wait, what about really faint signal? Don’t you need very long exposures for that? Well, not in this case where we don’t have read noise. You just need (very) long total exposure time. If we look at the above formula this is clear, but if we think of stacking and consider that we are averaging there this might seem less intuitive all of a sudden. Because, the average of a few electrons collected by many frames is smaller than the average of a few electrons in one frame right? Well, sure that is correct of course. However, this is only considering signal. And it is not useful to talk about signal alone, we always need to talk about SNR. That alone determines if you will have detected signal that will stand out in an image or not. And if we consider the fact that SNR = simply signal / noise you’ll realise it doesn’t matter in how many frames we detected the signal, since we’ll only end up dividing both terms of the division which doesn’t change anything ((a*b)/(a*c) = (a/a) * (b/c) = 1*(b/c) = (b/c)) So yes, it’s true that if read noise wouldn’t exist it doesn’t matter what exposure time you use and how many exposures you take, all that matters is the total integration time. And even with read noise included in the formula, you can see that once the other values are much much bigger than the read noise, the same will apply; the read noise becomes (almost) irrelevant and we are left in the situation where it doesn’t matter what exposure time you use.
once the other noise values are much much bigger than the read noise, the read noise becomes (almost) irrelevant and we are left in the situation where it doesn’t matter what exposure time you use.
Scenario with little to no sky noise
Alternatively, consider the scenario where we are under a truly dark sky with no light pollution, no moon light and only a little sky glow; we have very little background sky signal (Sky_s). Let’s consider the SNR formula again:
Now let’s say the DarkCurrent_s = 0.15e-/sec (which I found reported for the Nikon D7000), Sky_s = 1e- / sec and read noise = 3e- (Nikon D7000 @ ISO200). If we take a very faint signal that’s similar to the sky flux we will see the following SNR values for different number of exposure times but same total exposure time: Let’s compare scenarios with a total integration time of 120 minutes and compare 120x1min and 12x10min.
Ok, so SNR is higher indeed as expected. What if we take this to the extreme and just take 1 image of 120min?
Hmmm, that’s a really small improvement over the 12x10min exposure. Clearly this is a case of (quickly) diminishing returns. I made a graph showing the SNR gains compared to a 30sec exposure SNR for exposures between 30sec and 120min to show the benefit of exposing longer in this scenario:
This graph paints quite a clear picture I’d say. In case of a dark sky, the gains in SNR while exposing longer is quite big in the beginning and reaches a 10% improvement already at 3,5minutes exposures compared to 30sec exposures. The improvements tail off quickly as well though, reaching only a further 1% improvement at 8 minutes compared to the 30sec exposures. To be clear; in this scenario, the difference between exposing 3.5minutes and 8 minutes (with the same total integration time) is even slightly less than 1% improvement. Please note that these gains are dependant on the signal coming from our target object as well. So if we would take a much fainter object with a flux of only 0.2e- compared to the 1e- we just saw, we get the following graph:
Wow! we can see the same strong curve with diminishing returns, but the SNR improvements for a fainter signal are clearly much much higher! Let’s look at the same minute marks as before: using 3.5 minutes exposures compared to 30sec exposures gives you an SNR improvement of 26.3%. Going from 3.5 minutes to 8 minutes gives you a further improvement of 2.86%. So even though we still see strong diminishing returns, the improvements remain significant up till longer exposures as before. In this scenario, the improvement in SNR between 8 and 15 minutes still is 1%. Please note that we’re talking about signal coming from the sensor here. So this includes scenarios with slow optics as well as using fast optics on very faint signal.
The role of read noise in SNR To make it really clear what the role is of the read noise in the scenario’s we just ran through, let’s take a look at the role of read noise specifically and how it adds up when we add more exposures. Let’s look at the SNR again for the same situation as described before, 12x10min subs versus 120x1min subs and rewrite it a bit just to see what is happening to the noise terms: For the object shot noise, sky noise and dark current noise we get the following: 12x10min:
which is; =
and for the 120x1min this then is; = So you see this is exactly the same, just as we could expect and have seen before in the scenario without read noise.
Now, let’s see what is happening with the read noise; which is simply 12x10min: 120x1min:
So the read noise is growing with the square root of the number of exposures in our integration, while all the other terms simply grow by total exposure time alone. So for a given fixed total exposure time, the read noise will be smallest with the least number of exposures.
Read noise is growing with the square root of the number of exposures in our integration
To see it’s impact in the total noise let’s run the actual numbers. Remember, uncorrelated noise adds up quadratically, so the total noise we get in these situations is; 12x10min: 120x1min:
Now we can clearly see how big the impact is of the read noise in this scenario. Next let’s see what these numbers and the impact of read noise looks like in case of a bright sky. Let’s say sky background flux is 50e-. For the time dependant noise sources we get: =
If we add the read noise: 12x10min: 120x1min:
This is a totally different situation and the read noise could simply be considered irrelevant. In fact, this looks very much like the hypothetical situation without any read noise we saw earlier.
So we can conclude that the exposure time only is relevant when the read noise is relevant. And the read noise is only relevant if the sky is dark enough.
The exposure time only is relevant when the read noise is relevant. And the read noise is only relevant if the sky is dark enough.
Determining optimal exposure time
Now we’ve seen the scenarios above you might wonder what would be applicable to your specific situation. As we just concluded this will be dependant mostly on the brightness of the sky you are imaging under. There are formulas to determine the optimum exposure using the read noise and sky flux as input. There is also a script in PixInsight which you can use to give you an ‘ideal exposure length’. (Scripts->Instrumentation->CalculateSkyLimitedExposure) However, as we’ve seen in the graphs before the benefit in SNR is one of diminishing returns. This means it is not possible to give one absolute answer to the question what the optimal exposure time is. Assumptions need to be made about how much contribution of read noise to the total noise you will tolerate. And the differences in this assumption is often huge (factor 2 differences). Furthermore they don’t take practicalities into account. So I’d like to just show you a few more scenarios and the SNR corresponding gains for longer exposures compared to using 30sec exposures in a situation where we use a total exposure time of 2 hours. I’ve listed the ‘95% improvement mark’ for exposure time for each sky brightness.
The most obvious thing we can learn from this chart is that there is a huge difference how much you benefit from longer exposures under a dark sky versus brighter skies. Furthermore, the 95% improvement mark seems to be awfully close for all scenarios. However, I’m not sure how useful this number is since the next step up in exposure after this mark under a dark sky will still give you 0.05% increase while this improvement is only 0.0012% in the brightest scenario. To make this even more clear; for the brightest scenario the SNR for 30sec. exposure was 11.83, while all the way at the end with one exposure of 120 minutes the SNR was 11.86. So we could safely consider this a scenario where subexposure length is completely irrelevant.
Remember we saw earlier that the SNR improvements were much larger if we are dealing with faint signals. So let’s look at the SNR improvements for different sky brightness with the previously used faint 0.2e- signal
The impact of the sky brightness is very clear again in this chart. Although we do benefit more from longer exposures when dealing with fainter signal also from brighter skies, the difference is negligible for very bright sky and is really huge for the really dark sky.
Based on these graphs we can conclude that if you are imaging under a light polluted sky you should not worry much about your exposure length. Every sky brightness between 5e- and 50e- basically has a total SNR improvement between 0.2% and 2% for which you’ll reach 80% of maximum SNR increase already at 3 minute exposures.
Other practical considerations to take into account
Next to the read noise and background sky flux, we need to take some practical factors into account as well when we want to determine the optimal exposure length. The ability to guide accurately for longer exposures for instance is of course really important, as well as the cost of loss of data if you need to throw out a subexposure. Remember that the total integrated exposure time is most important for SNR, so there is a real significant cost when you need to throw out subexposures. Furthermore you might want to use (bayer) drizzle integration, which will need a minimum amount of (dithered) subexposures to give proper results. These are all very important things to consider which might change things completely in terms of the optimal exposure time for you personally.
Light pollution and narrow band filters
I got asked a lot about the influence of filters. I haven’t tested this out myself, but the book The Astrophotography Manual covers a comparison between different light pollution filters and concluded that in his test it didn’t effect the background sky flux all that much (which was surprising). As always, test it out to know for sure, but I think the effect of light pollution filters is minimal on the read noise contribution to the overall noise. Narrowband filters on the other hand will basically change even a light polluted sky to a dark(er) sky in general. So with narrowband filters you will benefit a lot from longer subexposures. Of course there will always be exceptions to this, like OIII imaging with full moon, and exact details will depend on the speed of your scope and the quantum efficiency of your camera for instance. However, the generalisations will hold true in most situations.
A comparison from a dark site
Let’s look at the following data that I shot while I was in Namibia. There is practically no light pollution there and this was shot without the moon present. The only bit of background sky flux was the sky glow and perhaps a bit of zodiacal light. The data was shot during 3 different nights so some variation is to be expected based on conditions for that particular night. There were no noteworthy differences between those nights so I have no reason to believe this is influencing the comparison much. I had used different exposure lengths: 8, 12 and 15 minutes. For this comparison I made three integrations that all had the total integration time of 120minutes. So 15 frames of 8 minute exposures, 10 frames of 12 minute exposures and 8 frames of 15 minute exposures. No processing is done to these integrations. Just a STF applied to make the data visible. Based on what we learned before we would expect the fewer but longer exposures will have the better SNR. Let’s see if this was the case:
Hard to tell from this wide shot, so let’s zoom in a bit.
Here we can already see some difference in the amount of noise. Let’s zoom in further to have a better look.
The differences in SNR are clearly visible now and we see indeed what we expected: the 8x15min. integration looks (much!) better than the 15x8min. integration. This is even better visible in the dark region of Barnard 44A:
So visually we can already draw the conclusion that we were right: longer exposure has better SNR in this situation where we are clearly read noise limited. Now let’s check the numbers to confirm. First let’s look at the amount of noise:
Noise is higher in longer exposures which is expected. The question is; did the signal grow more than the noise? The SNRWeight measure (to be clear; this is a relative measure and not reflective of the actual SNR differences)
So yes, it clearly did.
Unless you are under dark skies, the subexposure length won’t matter much once you are using 2 to 3 minute exposures.
Conclusion and final considerations on sub exposure time and number of exposures
With all that we learned and the simulations we looked at and the real world dark site test we have quite some information about the optimal subexposure length. However, I bet you still are wondering how this impacts your particular situation and what the optimal subexposure length is. That will remain difficult to answer exactly, and much of the details go right out of the window if we need to take other factors like drizzle integration and guiding errors into account. However, I feel the most important conclusion probably is the fact that the exposure length is only relevant when the read noise is relevant. And the read noise is only relevant when you are imaging under a dark sky. With most moderately to strong light polluted skies, the subexposure length won’t matter much once you are using 2 to 3 minute exposures. Let me know in the comments below if you agree or disagree or still are left with questions at this point!