Improve Photography Shows us How to Shoot the Stars

Idaho photographer Jim Harmer over at takes the time to give you the low down on shooting the night's Milky Way. All you trolls out there be nice cause Jim froze his butt off on this one and he is just so damn likable.
"In this video, I take you on-location to a photography shoot in Idaho, where I teach you how to take amazing long-exposure pictures of the milky way and the stars with your DSLR camera."

via [ImprovePhotogaphy]
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super simple but super informative. Great stuff!

Loved it!

Great info.
I reckon that I'll have to break out the Kodak T-Max 3200 to try the Milky Way. But I consider that such a specialized film; I don't know if I'll be able to finish 36 frames before I have to change ISO.

I've photographed the International Space Station flying overhead and some stars using Kodak T-Max 100 (ISO 100) and photographed Venus and Saturn using ISO 400 film, Kodak BW400CN.

Interesting that Jim is not implementing hyperfocal distance for achieving the end result in one shot.

It seems quite a few photographers are not using this technique for star trails, I wonder why...The science says it should work...easily:

 focussing at a 7m distance should give a focal range of 3.5m to infinity at 24mm f2.8

although I'd probably go with the settings for f2.0 instead to allow a bit of tolerance as I'm never happy with what the rule deems as 'acceptable sharpness'

I might have to do some real world experiments!

By definition, the infinity end of the depth of field when you use the hyperfocal distance method is as unsharp as you are willing to accept at a given final image size. That's not exactly optimal for a photo where the stars, which are really quite minuscule, are the main subject. The old numbers are for an 8x10 print and 1930s-vintage film stock, and we generally considered it inadequate for high-resolution film back in the '80s, and adjusted by a couple of stops even then. It's perfectly okay to use the hyperfocal method if you are shooting for the screen or for small prints, but if you decide to go big (and he's shooting a D800, so a 24x36 is kind of pint-sized) both the foreground and background will be very mushy.

You might want to check out Harold Merklinger's "The Ins and Outs of Focus" (it's a "shareware" download at -- meaning that it's free to download, but there's an expectation, not enforced, that you'll pay a fair $5 if you find the book useful). You may change your mind altogether about the whole hyperfocal idea, at least for photos where the foreground elements are more than a few inches away.


Nathan Cashion's picture

I remember being told once that Long Exposure Noise Reduction only affects JPEGs (either the baked in preview for RAW files or actual JPEG files) not RAW files. Can anyone confirm or correct this?

Nice simple explanation of using Long Exposure NR. Could have done with watching it last year when I tried it before - wasn't sure if NR would remove the stars!

I guess other forms of NR should be off.

BTW top tip I've seen on another such article - easy way of finding the Milky Way is to use Google Sky on a smartphone and search for Sagittarius.