Astrophotography with Nikon D750

© Dave Whenham

Nikon D750 with 14-24 f2.8

I have toyed with photographing the night sky on a few occasions in the past with limited success so I am not expecting a great deal from last weeks trip. However, Lightroom on my computer proved a far better bet for processing than it’s iPad sibling and I’n reasonably pleased with how this one turned out. It’s a start as they say!

We were away for three nights and on the first night the sky was totally covered in clouds. Night two brought some breaks in the cloud and between 10pm and 11pm I was able to get out with the camera for an hour. The third night alas brought more cloud although there were the odd break so I went out anyway for the practice as much as anything – more in hope than expectation I believe the saying goes.  On reading further this morning I should probably stayed up longer and gone out around midnight but thats all part of the learning process.

Dave Whenham

Neither night was totally cloudless

My previous research suggested an aperture of  f2.8, a thirty seconds exposure and pushing the ISO dial upwards to ensure sufficient exposure. In the end I opted for ISO 800 knowing that the RAW files from the D750 could take being pushed a couple of stops or so in post processing. A tripod and cable release completed the set-up which shows just how little equipment is needed to make a start.

© Dave Whenham

Luck plays a big part too

It seems to me having now compared the RAW files with the iPad edits and those done in Photoshop/Lightroom that post processing is a vital part of astrophotography.  The top image was reprocessed using a black and white layer blended to control colour luminosity and the results (below) whilst very subtle at this size was subtle but still very noticeable at full screen size. The crop helps of course as everything appears to be bigger in the frame but the subtle changes to luminosity help bring out some of the detail in the lower part of the sky.

© Dave Whenham

It’s all in the edit

I’m going back to the same spot at the end of August, the tail end of prime “Milky Way season” here in the UK. This gives me plenty of time to research further and of course brush up my processing skills.

Starry, starry night …

© Dave Whenham

Newton Bowland – April 2017

Back home after a few days relaxing in the Forest of Bowland, where we sat, read, ate and took the odd snap along the way.  Oh, and looked at the stars. I have never seen so many stars as I saw on the one clear night we had whilst we were there; even well known clusters such as the Plough became harder to pick out amongst such a multitude.

© Dave Whenham

Not perfectly clear on the last night but lots of stars to see all the same

I was aware of the Forest’s status as a Dark Sky Site so had read up on photographing the night sky before I left home. I just need to work out how to get the most from the files which is my job for tomorrow. In the meantime, still stuffed from three man-sized breakfasts and three family-sized evening meals I have posted these few to be going on with.

© Dave Whenham

I actually watched this streak across the sky!

We are going back in August =- and as for where to stay – easy ..

http://www.clerklaithe.co.uk !

Anytime, anyplace, anywhere …

© Dave Whenham

First time on a train

It never ceases to amaze me how much fun these Fuji X-series cameras are. The X-Pro1 screams “pick me up” every time I walk past it and the X100T is simply a reliable and surprisingly versatile friend that slips discretely into a jacket pocket. The Easter school holidays are here and I’ve had the job of amusing a five-year old all week whilst his parents go to work. No time for bags of kit, simply pop the X100T in my pocket and get on with walks along the canal, first train rides, bus rides and meeting Grandma for lunch amongst other delights.

© Dave Whenham

Not too shabby for the first bluebell shot of the season

Over the course of five days I shot some street photography in Manchester and also nearer to home, bluebells and general landscape views on the Calder & Hebble Navigation and various photos of said five year old both posed and candid. The only time the X100T struggled slightly was auto-focusing at very close distances, such as the bluebell above which needed to be focused manually.

© Dave Whenham

Stoop, capture, walk on!

I have eulogised about the X100T before, but it bears repeating – this is a cracking go-anywhere, anytime camera. A martini camera perhaps? Anytime, anyplace, anywhere – to recall a very cheesy 1980s TV advertisement.

© Dave Whenham

Mozz was ‘ere!

Two images

Two images posted for no other reason than to say I am still functioning. The schools’ Easter holidays have meant full time grandchild minding but Senior Management and myself are off for a few days at the end of next week with camera in tow! Both images taken this week, one when he was in bed the other … well you will see.

(C) Dave Whenham

Nikon D750, Sigma 105mm and SplashArt II

(C) Dave Whenham

Fuji x100t. Processed with Snapseed on IPad

 

An Oldie but a goodie

(C) Dave Whenham

Fuji X-Pro1 and 35mm f1.4 wide open

It may be getting a bit long in the tooth now, especially compared to more recent models, but there is something about the venerable X-Pro1 that screams “pick me up!”  A bit like Alice in Wonderland finding a bottle labelled “drink me” whenever I see the X-Pro1 sat on the side I have the urge to pick it up and make photographs.

It happened half an hour ago; I walked down the stairs and spotted it on the blanket box that occupies part of the first floor landing. “Pick me up!” And I did. It is warm and sunny today with one of those bright blue skies irritatingly devoid of even a wisp of cloud, hardly a day for moody monochromes or sweeping landscapes, at least not in terms of how I like to record them. So a close up of the pear blossom it is.

(C) Dave Whenham

Fuji X-Pro1 with 35mm f1.4

The same thing  happened last Thursday when Zac and I got in from school. This time it was on top of the display cabinet by the front door; it seems to move around the house with a will of its own. “Snap!” A simple little shot of Zac, still in school uniform, running around in the front garden before tea. It may not focus and track like more recent models but experience and anticipation help to bridge the gap.

I think it’s this versatility that is part of its appeal. From photographing the grand children to recording blossom in the garden it will turn its hand to most things and with the array of lenses Fuji have provided, some specifically made with the X-Pro1 in mind, it is well capable of turning out decent images time after time. The X-trans sensor and processor have been superseded and improved upon undoubtedly but this little camera still produces JPEGs with that certain, indefinable “something” to my mind.

It is also a lovely, tactile camera. I enjoy holding and using it, there is just something about the user experience that again I cannot define nor articulate fully. My Nikon D750 is undoubtedly technically superior and I enjoy using it but it does not have the same magic that the X-Pro1 manages to give. The Nikon with the Sigma 105mm macro lens would no doubt have produced a technically superior image of the pear blossom above but there is just something about firing the shutter of the X-Pro1 that the Nikon cannot equal.

It is almost the difference between a film SLR and a modern DSLR. When I take a photograph with the X-Pro1 it almost feels as though I’m using one of my old film cameras. Perhaps that is it – a digital camera that feels analogue in some voodoo-magic way?

Whatever the reasons, the £150 I spent buying this Fujifilm X-Pro1 body last year was one of the best photographic buys I have made since I bought my first “serious” camera in the mid 1970s. It was also one of my best bargains and whilst I have now two newer Fuji bodies in my kit bag I still reach for this one on a regular basis for the pure joy of using it.

An Oldie perhaps but very definitely a Goodie in my eyes.

SRB’s Elite Filter System

After having introduced the Elite system in my blog post on 21st March I did not as hoped get the chance for a proper play with the new system the following weekend. Indeed, I am still waiting!

However, it might be worth sharing a few initial thoughts until I do get a chance to test it properly. With a two week school holiday starting last night the chances of me getting the time anytime soon have evaporated!

© Dave Whenham

Clarence Dock, Leeds – Fuji X-T1, 23mm prime lens and Elite 10 stop ND filter

Build quality is good, it feels robust in the hand and will be more than capable of taking  everyday knocks and bumps. Fitting (screwing) the polariser or ten-stop ND filter into the central part of the holder was slightly tricky until I realised there are two knurled lugs with need to be held whilst screwing the filter in to stop the inner thread rotating. Initially a little fiddly I quickly got the hang of it although I think I will fail miserably at the task with gloves on so it might be a little more problematic in really cold weather. That said the arrangement does seal the holder and filter nicely and I had no irritating internal reflections to deal with. It is not an arrangement for speedy removal of these circular filters though, at least not for me, but in reality how often do we need to “urgently” remove a filter?

© Dave Whenham

Leeds Waterfront, Fuji X100T and polariser

The polariser worked well, and with the usual caveats about not using polarisers on extreme wide angle lenses, I found that being able to clip the filter holder on and off very quickly meant that I used it more than I might have done with a traditional screw-in filter attached directly to the lens. I left the adapter ring on the front of the lens, the polariser was screwed into the holder and when not in use I dropped it in my jacket pocket. As my reader will know I do not do technical reviews, there are plenty of those here on t’web, but assess kit from a practical perspective; how usable have I found it. On this count the polariser worked well, combined with ND graduated filters nicely and from a practicality perspective scored well. The image files look good to me and I will definitely be using this combination on my travels.

© Dave Whenham

Fuji X-T1, 23mm lens and Elite 10-stop ND filter

The 10 stop ND filter works well too and as expected from the reviews I was not unhappy with the colour rendition of this filter. Definitely a warmer colour cast compared to my Lee Big Stopper but I was happy to leave Auto White Balance set and tweak during RAW conversion. Popping the filter holder off to set up and focus the composition was easy and it was then simply a matter of popping it on before taking the shot; no gently easing it down and hoping the gaskets line up with the holder as with the square filter. A very pleasant user experience.

There is a “but” coming however. You sensed that I’m sure! The slightly problematic moment came when I decided to try to tame the extremely bright upper part of the frame with a soft ND grad. Not easy when the ten-stop ND filter is attached – and if you unscrew the ND filter to line up the graduated filter you need to remove the graduated to replace the screw-in filter.  Perhaps I have missed something obvious here (and if I have please tell me) but it was frustrating to say the least. On the day I went out it was very sunny, in fact I had to work around harsh sunlight for most of the afternoon, and I was ably to see, dimly, on the Fuji’s live-screen view and line the graduated filter up reasonably well but not with confidence. On another day when the sun was perhaps not quite as bright I strongly suspect I might have had even bigger problems.

So with that in mind, and bearing in mind this was a quick test on an afternoon when I was mainly using the X100T to take street photographs so not using the filters extensively, how was my initial impression shaped by using the filters? Well, still very positive; it is well-made, well-priced and functions as it should. The niggle about lining up graduated filters when using the ten-stop screw-in filter may or may not be a deal breaker, only time will tell, but as an affordable and efficient entry to the world of filter systems it was a solid purchase.

Postscript:

I had a query this week regarding vignetting with this system on a 12mm Samyang lens. I’ve just quickly put the Samyang on a Fuji X-T1 body to check. So long as the filter holder is ABSOLUTELY square then there is no vignetting visible in the viewfinder. When the filter holder is turned even slightly off-true then there is a little bit of vignetting but I sense that it would be very easily corrected in post. Looking at the RAW files on the computer there is a tiny amount of corner vignetting visible, more so with the lens wide open than stopped down but it is nothing to be majorly concerned about in my view – if needs be I might frame a fraction wider than I need and crop in later. Caveat: I’ve not properly tested this “in the field”; this was a “quick and dirty” visual inspection stood in my front garden pointing the camera at a bright blue sky

If I was taking the Samyang 12mm out for “serious” landscape work I’d take the Lee 100mm filters to use with it.  HOWEVER if you want to travel light then based on this very quick and very subjective and un-scientific test the SRB kit should work well I think. I will certainly not have a problem carrying and using the Samyang/SRB filter combination for urban work when I’m travelling with just what I can fit in my pockets or a very small bag; I use a Fujinon 23mm f2 prime for urban shooting on the Fuji X-T1 with the 12mm in my pocket “just in case”.