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Starting Astrophotography? How to Get Started

Three-part mini-series with Harold Klein

If you've ever been curious about how to capture the night sky, then you are in the right place! With a new moon coming up in a few weeks, now is a great time to start gathering the gear you need and practicing how to use them. Today's post is the first of a three-part series with professional photographer Harold Klein where he shares his insights on the essential tools you'll want to have when shooting the night sky.

As you get started, make sure you have these helpful tools that will make tracking down ethereal elements of the sky MUCH easier. The first tool is an app called PhotoPills.

This invaluable app will help with planning in advance where you need to capture the night sky; for example, we can find where the Milky Way will cross the horizon, at what degree, and, most importantly, what time. With this knowledge, you can scout out ideal locations for your shoot during the day and avoid fumbling around at night in the dark.

The next app you'll want to include in your arsenal is Clear Outside. When it comes to shooting the night sky, you'll want to know about any clouds in the area. Clear Outside allows you to see what the weather conditions might be like on the day of your shoot. Make sure "current location" is selected at the bottom of the app to get data based on your where you're at.

Now that we know the when, where, and time for our astro shoot, you'll need a reliable tripod. Harold recommends the basic Benro tripod with a ball head and arca swiss plate. Arca swiss plates are great because they are universal and work well in other applications. The other piece of gear you'll appreciate having is a good compass. Whether physical or digital, your compass will make location finding easier.

Now let's talk camera gear. You can easily capture beautiful Milky Way images with any Canon Rebel EOS, Nikon 3000-5000 series, or any of the earlier Sony bodies. Most camera kits come with a primary kit lens that will work (ex: 18-55mm f/3.5). Harold uses a Nikon Z6ii with a 20mm f/ 1.8 wide angle lens. When it comes to which lens to use, wide-angle lenses are where it's at because they capture more of the night sky.

Nikon Z6ii
Nikon Z6ii, 24.5 MP BSI (Full Frame), 14 FPS, CFexpress/XQD card slot & SD card slot

NIKKOR Z 20mm f/1.8 S
NIKKOR Z 20mm f/1.8 S

So now you have some planning apps and tools, along with a sturdy tripod, to start with. In the next astrophotography installment, Harold will cover camera settings and how to set them to get a proper exposure of the night sky.

Make sure to like and share this post with anyone you know who might want to try their hand at astrophotography. Until next time!

Some recent images captured by Harold in Yellowstone National Park.

Astro images are ©Harold Klein 2022

To view more of Harold's work visit his website here.


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