Bryce Canyon National Park, Milky Way, Sunrise Point

Due to the direction of the canyon walls, Bryce Canyon generally presents more opportunities at sunrise than sunset.

This image is a panorama composite (two panorama images merged) from the same location.

Feature Image Details

I used a Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at 24mm for the land. It is a panorama of 8 images stitched together, cropped at the left just before sunrise.

I used a fixed focal length Rokinon 24MM F1.4 Lens for the night sky. For the sky, I also used a star tracker to keep the image sharp for 90 second exposures. The location was the same, but the shot was taken hours earlier.

The image is exceptionally sharp because I was able to use a modest ISO of ISO 1600 at F4 for the night sky. Normally, night photographers shoot wide open to gather as much light as they can to reduce movement in the stars.

The general rule of thumb to take a night image without blurry stars is E = 400 / FL where E is the exposure time in seconds, 400 is a proven constant, and FL is the focal length of the lens. Under that rule, one would need an exposure of 17 seconds or less.

That requires a high ISO which in turn reduces image quality. Using a star tracker solves that problem but creates two more.

If you are tracking the stars, by definition the land is blurry. This means two sets of images, one for the sky and one for the land plus an ability to blend them together.

Other Bryce Canyon Images

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4 thoughts on “Bryce Canyon National Park, Milky Way, Sunrise Point

  1. Excellent photo! would be interested to learn more about astro using normal lenses (as opposed to telescopes). my son and I just started dabbling with this during the lockdown period using Fuji x-t20 with ok results but juts beginning. jpg useless but the raw after some processing quite interesting.

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    1. You need a fast lens or a star tracker device or both. Full frame sensor is also an essential.

      You can get away with other things, but the more you deviate, the worse the image quality.

      The basic setup is the fastest lens you have on ISO 6400. Then use the formula I gave
      E=400/FL for a 24 mm lens you need to be at 17 second or less. To start try 20 seconds or whatever your camera will allow.

      Also imperative to focus on infinity. This also takes a bright lens to do accurately.

      Do NOT trust the infinity mark on the lens it is likely wrong. Most focus past infinity, some brutally so.

      Very difficult at night. Best way. Turn autofocus OFF! Use the most open aperture you have, again using manual or aperture mode.

      Focus on the brightest object in the night sky, typically that will be Jupiter for Milky Way images (that big star in my picture is Jupiter and the smaller one on the right is Mars). What you want is the smallest point you can get. Hopefully a point and not a circle. That is infinity.

      The Rokinon lens I use is taped down. I cannot turn the focusing ring.

      Process: Open the aperture all the way up to 1.4 then focus on a crescent moon. When the image is as sharp as you could get, tape the focusing lens so that it cannot move at all.

      Be careful to only tape down the the focus ring, not the aperture ring.
      This lens is fully manual and is a total pile of crap mechanically. But pros use it the way I described because it beats the pants off Canon and Nikon for night photography. The Canon lens at 5X the price performs poorly for night photography. The problem is Coma – it make stars look like bat wings, not points of light.

      Can you use a zoom lens? Well you can use anything but try finding a zoom lens that goes is F1.4.
      BTW that lens sucks at 1.4. Poor quality. Good quality at F2.4. Focus at 1.4 tape it down, then use it at 2.0 or so. I use it at F4.0 and can get away with longer exposures because of my Skyoptron Star Tracker.

      Sigma makes some great prime lenses that you do not have to tape down, and autofocus will work, but they are big, heavy, and expensive.

      Everything is a tradeoff: cost time, quality.

      Start with what you have, no matter what it is, and see what you can do with the general guidelines I set:

      1. Use the widest angle lens you have
      2. set on manual focus
      3. Focus on infinity as describe above
      4 Aperture mode at the widest (lowest number) you can go
      4. ISO 6400 or higher
      5. 30 seconds or lower (Ideally 17 seconds for a 24mm lens) – hopefully F4 or less.

      BTW – it may look good on your screen at night because the viewfinder is bright. If you know how to use a histogram, then use it otherwise you will be terribly underexposed.

      If underexposed, and very likely so, your only choices are a higher ISO (image quality will suffer), Longer exposure time (stars will streak), a new better lens (cost), or a star trackers (cost and learning process).

      Experiment at higher ISOs and letting the stars streak until you get something that is properly exposed or reasonably close.

      Obviously you need a sturdy tripod.

      Mish

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