Improving night photography is an ever closing gap riddled with tech-tips, tricks, and expensive gear. The Star Adventurer by Sky Watcher-USA seeks to be the reasonably, all-in-one option to improve your starscape photography. The built-in tracking head and accompanying accessories are the perfect companion to viewing and photographing the night’s sky.
Living in California, I have found lots of opportunities to photography beautiful starscapes shrouded by magnificent geographic features and unencumbered by light pollution from the cities. Excluding LA and the bay area, California is a naturalist's playground of exploration and discovery. Moving around in these areas with lightweight gear for long periods of time has been my escape in the world of photography. For those of you that have a priority interest in star photography or just find yourself in the right place at the right time, the Star Adventurer is definitely a useful tool to elevate the level of creativity in your photos.
For those of you just entering the realm of starscape, nightscape, or time-lapse photography, please review some of the past great articles that breakdown some simple and effective tools for stepping up your game. THIS article, A Few Tips on Astrophotography and How to Capture Stars at Night, by Patrick Hall, brings exactly what the title promises with a video chock full of helpful tips. The most important of which is the 500 rule. A quick review, the 500 Rule is as follows:
500 Divided By the Focal Length of Your Lens = The Longest Exposure (in Seconds) Before Stars Start to “Trail”.
It is important to note the “trail” time frame, as in some cases this might be in the single digits of seconds. If you are attempting to compress a foreground object and choose to use a slower aperture, this doesn’t leave you much room for illuminating the stars. The result is a lot of trailing stars - an often desired effect; however, partially trailed stars just looks amateur, unintentional and poorly executed. A situation like this calls for a highly specialized piece of equipment that can track the camera with the stars. Enter the Star Adventurer by Sky Watcher.
The Star Adventurer, when locked onto Polaris, will evenly and accurately track across the night’s sky, following the chosen stars to increase illumination in your photographs. It sounds like a balance of high tech sorcery and something overly complicated to operate. At least this was my initial impression before I opened the package.
The Star Adventurer comes in a fairly compact package with a Latitude Base, Telephoto Counterweight, Equatorial Head, Polar Scope Illuminator, and Ballhead Adapter. A fair amount of easily assembled gear designed to increase the quality of your night photography. Right out of the package I was able to interpret and assemble the pieces. It is easy to identify the purpose of all the pieces and they breakdown efficiently and easy. There are minimal locking and rotating pieces aside the motor head of the Star Adventurer, assuring a solid foundation for smooth and easy movement of the camera during exposures.
My favorite aspect of this product was the multi-speed settings of the tracking. Aside from following the starts across the night’s sky, the Star Adventurer allows for time-lapse panning, solar tracking, and lunar tracking. I find that this greatly elevates the value of the product, making the Star Adventurer a very useful tool in a landscape photographer OR videographer’s bag. The price point of the Star Adventurer is wildly fair for the limitlessness of abilities. Roughly $350 at B&H, this product is a strong and trustworthy addition to your nightscape photography bag.
The only main downfalls I can find with this product are weight and battery. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem possible to cut the weight down while still making it sturdy enough and strong enough to support a full rig up to 11 pounds. But when backpacking and seeking creative landscapes to photograph, every ounce matters, and this bad boy weighs in around five pounds; a noticeable addition to the bag. The battery also bugs me a bit, four AA batteries to power the motor - even with rechargeable, this is a less than environmentally friendly option; however, they seem to last a pretty long time at optimal temperature. I would prefer to see a dependable, internal charging system; however, this doesn’t make or break my recommendation. This is still a very solid piece of equipment.
Consider your work flow the next time you are shooting stars. Think about the limitlessness that an accurately tracking head will provide. You will quickly realize that a piece of tech like the Star Adventurer has valuable real estate in your photography bag.