From the striking annual solar eclipse on 10th June to the strawberry supermoon on the 24th, this summer is set to have spectacular night skies that any budding astrophotography enthusiast won’t want to miss. Sony has partnered with Astro-photographer Andrew Whyte for a new series of marvellous night sky pictures, whilst also offering guidance on the astronomical delights star gazers can witness.
Be ready for the Astro events!
- The Annular Solar Eclipse (June 10th) – This occurs when the Moon is too far away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun resulting in a ring of light around the darkened Moon. Remember, it is important you never look directly at the Sun, even during an eclipse.
- The Supermoon (June 24th) – The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated; head to a location where you’re able to capture it in all its glory.
- The New Moon (July 10th) – The Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
- Perseids Meteor Shower (August 12th-13th) – The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight.
Andrew has also shared his top tips for taking such images, as well as sharing ideas on positioning, the equipment to use and how to create your own style. For his partnership with Sony, Andrew took some incredible shots of recent night time skies, all taken using Sony’s α7R II camera with the FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS lens.
Andrew said that, ‘As more people have reconnected with nature and the world around them during recent months, interest in the sky at night is soaring, proving that you don’t need to be an expert astronomer or pro photographer to enjoy viewing the moon and stars. I’ve been shooting astrophotography for more than 10 years and whilst not much has changed in the night sky during that time, the technology I use has moved on significantly’ He also feels that Sony is ‘at the forefront’ with a large range of cameras & lenses that are greatly suited to low light conditions’ all of which makes ‘it more accessible than ever to capture incredible images of our universe at night’.
His top astrophotography tips:
- Choose an appropriate location. Somewhere away from immediate street lighting is ideal, whether that’s a garden, local park or further afield. Choosing a subject for your photo like a lone tree, deserted skatepark or an old building will give your sky some context and connection with Earth.
- Think about the image you want to end up with. To shoot pinpricks of starlight, the milky way or star trails, a wide-angle lens is your friend. To capture the moon rising or setting against a distant landmark, you’ll want the greater reach of a telephoto lens. Whichever style you’re shooting, you’ll need a sturdy tripod to keep your camera absolutely stable & still- movement or vibration can ruin a long exposure image.
- Switch to manual mode if possible. As you’re heading to a dark location you’ll want a camera that’s easy to use. With intuitive dials & menus and a touchscreen that can also flip out and rotate, the α7Siii makes it as simple as possible to compose and set up for your shots, whilst its uprated battery promises the longest possible usage time between changes.
- Make sure your subject is in focus. It’s horrible to arrive home after an hour in the cold & dark night only to discover your images are blurred! The α7Siii features the most impressive autofocus system I’ve ever used, working reliably under moonlight conditions. For those occasions when I choose to focus manually, the camera’s digital viewfinder has tricks up its sleeve to magnify the subject and confirm when its sharp.
- Check your results. Look for a crisp subject and inspect the corners of your image to be sure the stars still look like stars. Sony’s range of prime and zoom lenses never fail to impress me, retaining definition and clarity all the way to the extremes of the image.
- Travel light. Shooting at night needs more equipment than in daylight- things like tripods, torch, spare camera batteries (and maybe even a flask of tea) all add bulk to your kit, so look to save weight elsewhere. The entire α7 range is compact without compromising on power, whilst the new α7C has redefined my expectation of a full-frame camera in a diminutive form.
- Be different. Sure, the wide apertures of Sony’s range of prime lenses are useful for capturing all available light but they can be a creative asset in their own right. Pick of the bunch for both light and creativity has to be the recently launched FE 50mm F1.2 G Master. With a wide aperture of f/1.2 it can gather more than four times as much light as many other prime lenses whilst also offering the flexibility to shoot evocative night-time portraits with the night sky beautifully blurred behind.
Some of the kit in Andrew’s bag!
The α7S III camera is perfect for or low-light shooting, and also excellent for the ever-changing surrounding light of the eclipse, without the hassle. The α7C is great for those needing to travel a little further to get the best shot. It’s the world’s smallest and lightest full-frame body with uncompromising performance, featuring advanced AF (autofocus), high-resolution 4K video capabilities and more. A good lens is key, so consider the latest trio from Sony, the FE 50mm F2.5 G, FE 40mm F2.5 G and FE 24mm F2.8. All three lenses deliver high image quality and beautiful bokeh in a lightweight and compact design, and are perfect for photographers and videographers alike who strive for standout shots and easy mobility. Not forgetting the FE 50mm F1.2 GM lens, which is a super choice, as its maximum F1.2 aperture combines an impressive shallow depth of field for maximum creative expression with incredible light gathering capabilities, allowing for faster shutter speeds and lower ISO in low light settings.
So, go out and explore the skies this summer and experiment with some Astro-photography.