With forty years of history taking landscapes using film, I had little interest in night time or wide angle astrophotography. The reason was rather simple. As a person who learned his craft using film, I would often venture into the back-county with film cameras loaded with ISO 50 Fuji Velvia slide film. This is a slow speed with a fine grain structure, and allowed for better enlargement. I did have some sales, but for me the photography is a hobby which I enjoy. As a amateur, I did not want to waste precious film by pulling out an unused roll. Or worse yet, carry two cameras of the same format.

Polaris Red Rock
Polaris Red Rock – photo taken on a Canon EOS Elan 7 with a 28 – 300mm Tamron lens using Fuji Velvia 50 ISO Film.

The age of digital photography started to come into its own about the time when my son was born. Like many new families, we watched our pennies. One expense was that I updated my Canon EOS Elan 7 film Camera to a Canon EOS Rebel XS. This “expense” which allowed me to take thousands of photos of my son with no added expense for film development.

Recently the photographic bug caught me again with the gift of a telescope. Suddenly the night sky became more of a fascination to me. I recall the moonless nights, deep in the Mojave Desert, free of light pollution. The expanse of the Milky Way painting the dark night sky in subtle colors. Modern digital camera is no longer just a box with a hole in it. The digital cameras are capable of delivering images that one could only dream about a few years ago.

Over July 4th, we took a trip to our family cabin in Big Bear, CA. The air was cold and clear. The small mountain community does have some minor light pollution. I setup my tripod of the deck of our mountain cabin and put the camera’s light meter int Manual mode. I opened up the aperture to 3.5 and select ISO 1600 which is a limited of my Canon EOS Rebol XS. Using a cable release and a tripod, I captured a series of images from 15 seconds to over a 3 minutes. The light meter in my camera was exposing the scene for just 15 seconds. Overriding the meter recommendations is imperative, as the subject, the Milky Way Galaxy is just too faint to meter properly.

An uninteresting composition, my experiments with Wide Angle Astrophotography of the Milky Way did give me some good images of the galaxy.  This image was taken at 18mm F3.5 ISO 1600 with a Canon EOS Rebol XS.
An uninteresting composition, my experiments with Wide Angle Astrophotography of the Milky Way did give me some good images of the galaxy. This image was taken at 18mm F3.5 ISO 1600 with a Canon EOS Rebol XS.

I was happy with my initial round to tests and look forward to heading out again. Searching for some noteworthy compositions of which I can be proud. I have few thoughts on my results however.

  1. I need a faster camera lens. A F3.5 lens is not going to allow me that gather enough light within the exposure limitations of the lens.
  2. The rule of 500 is an awesome guideline and imperative to eliminate unwanted star trails.
  3. A tripod with an equatorial mount is on my DYI radar.
  4. My older generation DSLR Canon Camera is already showing its age…
  5. You can drop a serious amount of money in this field if you are not careful.

All that being said, I am still learning. I want to get more time with my camera in the field before I go to crazy.