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A Guest Post by Phil Hart – author of the Shooting Stars eBook (use the code DPSTARS for a 20% discount).
There are many amazing things you can do with your digital SLR, and video footage of the night sky is certainly one of them. Timelapse sequences can capture and animate the night sky in ways that audiences find truly stunning. And the good news is that you can make an impressive debut in this field with very modest equipment.
I remember the first time I saw ‘Learning to Fly’ three years ago, just one of many incredible timelapse videos by Tom Lowe. Although I had experimented before then, it was only after watching Tom’s videos that my journey into night sky timelapse photography really began.
On a recent holiday in north-east Scotland, I captured this short sequence of Dunnottar Castle with an entry level DSLR, the Canon 1100D (Rebel T3). I was using the 10-22mm lens for the super-wide field of view, but even the standard 18-55mm lens can be used to create videos of similar quality. And while I would normally recommend a sturdy tripod, this was actually captured on a flexible little GorillaPod, perched on the side of the hill, as my only tripod in the travel bag was dedicated to another camera. A little bit of moonlight illuminates the castle and some low clouds and passing ships add extra movement to the sequence.
Prior to arriving in Scotland, I had spent two months in the much colder environment of the Yukon Territory in winter. While I was in the Yukon to capture footage of the Northern Lights, this first video that I’ve compiled from that trip is primarily about the evolving conjunction between Venus and Jupiter which occurred in the evening skies at the same time.
As well as the Canon 5D Mark II, I was using a motion and exposure control system developed with my friend Fred Vanderhaven in Sydney, particularly for the smooth day-to-night transitions you can see in the video. The labelled image below shows what you can see in the first sequence. There’s a complete set of labelled images and further explanation on my website, www.philhart.com.
This Venus and Jupiter Show video is a good example of where my timelapse journey has taken me so far. But as the first Dunnottar Castle video above shows, you can record impressive sequences with even very simple equipment. Once you get the basics right, I guarantee your friends will be impressed with what you can do!