Astrophotography- There are more stars up there than I thought.

I was recently at the family beach house in Mangawhai, New Zealand. Where we are is across the estuary from everyone else, in bush by the beach and away from too much light pollution.

Most nights when there are no clouds I will go out and lie on the cold sand and stare up at the stars. You can usually see the milky way, the southern cross and millions of other stars.  It has always astounded me to think about what is out there, I wish I could go explore it all.

I have seen a few amazing photographs of the stars. They are usually taken in the middle of some national park in the USA, or the Siberian wilderness. The images are usually made on top of the line pro gear with massive, sturdy tripods and hours of patience, not to mention the hard work of actually getting to the site.

The other night was the first time that I have thought of trying to take photos of the stars:

I set my camera to a 30 second exposure, f2.8, iso 6400 and rested my camera on the ground pointing directly up. Honestly, I was expecting a few stars to pop up, the ones that I could see, and maybe a faint trace of the milky way. When I saw the first image pop up on the back of the LCD, I was actually jumping up and down, too excited to be still to take the next shot:

All of a sudden, my camera had opened up a whole new world, a world that I didn't think was possible for me. The images on the LCD looked like something out of National Geographic and my Dad couldn't figure out how I made the galaxies stand out.

I was amazed at how much colour I could capture and the shear density of stars and solar systems and galaxies.

Yeah sure they aren't perfect but they are a lot more than I was expecting.

I was using a Panasonic 14mm f2.5 lens. I tried manual focusing on a light off in the distance as the stars weren't bright enough. In hindsight I should have paid more attention to the focus as all of the images aren't as sharp as they could have been.

The other thing that I should have done is used a tripod. Instead, I either rested the camera flat on the ground or used the LCD screen flipped out as a kind of a stand. It worked fine but it wasn't very stable and the shutter caused vibrations that you can see in the stars.

I tried to play around with foreground and background interest but it was bloody cold and I was just stoked that I somehow photographed the milky way.

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