Astro Time Lapse Photography

Check out the astro time lapse photography of TimeScapes: Rapture from Tom Lowe @ Timescapes on Vimeo. I found this by looking at the video work of Tyler Giner at

The idea of astro photography seems very interesting to me. I’ve read several forums and blogs about photographing the moon and the need for a programmable swivel head for the tripod. It all seems so very involved. But I think astro time lapse with a static location sounds like a good start.

Tyler has a great check list on that blog post for astro time lapse photography:

  • Set lens to manual focus
  • Put lens hood on to prevent lens flares
  • Disable IS on lens if using a tripod
  • Set camera to manual mode for intervals of 2 seconds or less. Bulb if greater than 2 seconds. Rule is to do around 30 seconds in long mode at 2 seconds in interval mode for astro (long mode is for long exposure)
  • Use Manual Mode at all times other than when in Bulb mode. If you have to use AV or TV modes, make sure you are set to evaluative metering – Preferably use AV mode as TV causes more flicker
  • Focus Lens using + button on Primary Subject (use a flashlight to shine on subject to lock in focus at night)
  • Study the moon paths and moon phases for best light from the best direction for astro
  • White Balance Set to Manual and don’t Change Throughout the Timelapse!!! (Auto White Balance makes it impossible to color correct unless you are filming in rapidly changing lighting conditions)
  • Set to RAW!!! – Unless you are doing a quick and dirty timelapse and then you can shoot SRAW or JPEG
  • Auto reset file number so when you format your card it resets the count to 1 (helps in post)
  • Set F-Stop to around F3.2 or F4 to avoid flicker and for a sharper image. Set to wide open or 2.8 for astro or for a DOF effect.
  • ISO not to exceed 3200 on a 5DMKII
  • Set desired shutter speed for the effect you want (motion blur or not) Keep in mind the shutter speed has to be faster than the interval unless in bulb mode which will dictate how long the shutter is open
  • Set camera to Live View to determine your framing, exposure and focus using the zoom button – Set to exposure simulation (not movie mode) so you can adjust the shutter slower than 1/24th
  • Keep camera in Live View the whole timelapse so the mirror will stay locked up. Drains more battery but less headache than using mirror lockup which requires you to calculate the intervals differently since the first interval rotation will lock the mirror up and the second interval rotation will take the picture calculating the intervals. Important for the mirror to be locked up to avoid it from causing blur in a long exposure
  • Zero out the intervalometer in all modes and then set the interval mode to desired time. (bulb is 2 seconds interval / 30 seconds in long mode for Astro shots) otherwise just set the interval only if using Manual mode
  • Start a test Record for about 5-10 shots and review it using the wheel on the back to get a quick preview of the shots in succession
  • Double check framing, focus and or exposure one last time if needed
  • Format CF Card to get rid of all the test shots
  • Make sure batteries are still fully charged
  • Start recording the final time lapse
  • Come back in 8-12 hours (if doing an astro shot) and pray that you nailed the shot!

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