Telescope Camera Lens

You don't need a telescope to take beautiful and even dramatic photos of the stars and the night sky. You just need a camera and film. In this article I give you tips and techniques for taking great night sky pictures.

There are two basic types of star photos you can take. The first type is a fast picture with an exposure of less than 30 seconds. This type of picture shows the stars as stationary. The second type of picture you can take is a star trail picture. If you leave the shutter of your camera open for an extended period of time the stars will form long tracks on the picture as they cross the sky. Both types are attractive and easy to do. In addition to simply taking pictures of the sky you can add landscape features into the picture. This tends to make the picture very dramatic and especially appealing.

The Equipment you need

  • A camera that has the ability to leave the shutter open for long periods of time. This function is often called the bulb function. The camera should have either a B or a T setting. This can be difficult to find with newer digital cameras
  • A roll of high speed film - 800 speed film is good but if you don't have easy access to this film then 400 speed film will work reasonably well
  • A camera tripod or some other means of keeping your camera very still
  • A baseball hat or a piece of heavy dark cloth

How to take the pictures

  1. Before you go out load your film into the camera and take one indoor picture. This sets the film properly so the developer can see the frames
  2. Bring all your equipment outdoors for at least a half hour before you intend to take the pictures. This allows the optics of the camera to adjust to any temperature or humidity difference
  3. Set your camera firmly into your tripod
  4. Hold the baseball hat or piece of heavy dark cloth over the lens of the camera without touching the camera
  5. Activate the shutter button so the shutter opens
  6. The camera is now live and the film is ready to be exposed
  7. Remove the hat or cloth and this begins the exposure
  8. Count off how long you want the exposure to be - A good place to start would be with a ten second exposure
  9. Replace the hat or cloth so the lens is once again blocked
  10. Close the shutter by releasing the shutter button

That is the whole process of taking a night sky picture. We use the baseball hat because activating the shutter will cause vibration in the camera which could distort the delicate picture you are taking. Just the motion of you pressing the button or the motion of the shutter moving can be enough to ruin the picture and take away the pinpoint sharpness of the stars.

You might be wondering how to keep the shutter open without holding the button down. You can use one of a few different solutions. The first solution is something called a shutter cable release. This is a cable that connects to the shutter button of the camera. (Newer cameras might not have this option) You press the button on the end of the cable and then lock it in the shutter open position. The second solution is to use a rubber band or some other type of setup to actually hold your shutter button down. I have used a rubber band successfully on a basic 35mm camera.

About the Exposure lengths

You should take a notebook with you and keep track of the exposure time for each picture you snap. This way you can judge which exposures worked the best and when you try again on another night your pictures will be improved. Remember to start out by taking a picture of a household object so the first picture on the frame will be correctly set for the developer. Then take your night sky photos with different time intervals starting at 5 seconds. Then progress to some 30 second shots and 1 minute shots.

Depending on what part of the sky you are taking photos of once you get over 30 seconds the stars will start to leave trails on the film. You can take exposures of several hours to get really long and attractive star trails. A minimum of about 20 minutes will leave a detectable and attractive trail.

Improving your Star pictures

To get the best pictures try to get the darkest skies possible. Light pollution from houses, streetlights and other city sources can wash out your picture. Also you can add earth bound objects to the picture. Silhouettes of buildings trees or other land based objects under a starry sky can make a very attractive picture. If you have a nearby object that you want in the picture but it is too dark you can even shine a flashlight on it while the film is being exposed. This will illuminate the object with a soft glow but not ruin the picture.

When bringing your film to the developer make sure you tell them that you have taken night time star photos and that all the pictures should be developed and printed. As a minimum you should make a note of this on the envelope you put the film in. It will avoid the developer thinking none of the pictures came out and not making any prints.

Astrophotography is the art of taking pictures of night sky objects and there are lots of possibilities for you to experiment in this art without a telescope. All you need is a simple 35mm camera, some high speed film and a few hours under dark skies.

For more fun and interesting Telescope and Astronomy stuff visit the authors site: TelescopeNerd.com

For other fun, creative and interesting projects including how to make a catapult, a trebuchet, a terrarium and even a video game visit his site at: StormTheCastle.com - Creativity with an Edge

what kind of telescope do i have to get in order to be able to use a camera,?

i want to be able to take pictures of what i see through the lens

The question is, why kind of camera do you get in order to be used with a telescope?

Any 35mm with a removable lens or a place to screw on an adapter to the lens and any digital camera or web cam with the same feature. You can also buy a CCD camera especially made for astrophotography from companies such as Meade and Orion.

Any telescope with removable eyepieces, a sturdy equatorial mount, and motor drives on the mount can be used for astrophotography.

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