Zooming into Deep Space Targets

In December, 2018, Will Field and John Bills tried a different approach to shooting objects in the sky. Both used variations of zooming into or out of an image to show details in objects and also relative distances from each other or to get a sense of where things are in the sky. Then they combined those images into an animation video.

Will described his method on planets:

“I went out Friday night (Dec. 7) to capture the Mars-Neptune conjunction. I thought it would be interesting to compare a close up to a wide angle to really get a sense of how close they really appeared so I composited five photos into this video.

These focal lengths were used: 250mm, 135mm, 55mm, 24mm, and 18mm shots on my Sony a7iii camera.”

At the end of the month he focused on the Andromeda Galaxy, M31:

“I made another video zooming into a target, this time M31 and I also made a short tutorial on how I created it. It’s a composite of three images from three different focal lengths:

  1. 250mm 22x 30 sec. exposures + 3 darks
  2. 55mm single 2 sec exposure
  3. 18mm single 2 sec exposure

All were taken on a Sony a7iii on an iOptron tracking mount with a Haida MC Clear-night Light Pollution filter. I had to do really short exposures for the wide shots because the clouds were moving so fast.”

“Here’s the tutorial on how I created it. It glosses over a bit but hopefully gives a sense of how it was made. (Andromeda Zoom Tutorial)”

John had the good fortune to be in the Bahamas for the transition into the New Year and took advantage of the balmy nights. From his Instagram post of Jan. 3:

“Crescent moon with earthshine and Jupiter with its four moons (Ganymede, Io, Callisto and Europa, from bottom to top) rising over beach at Lyford Cay Club just before 5:00 am this morning. Venus and Mercury were also captured together with them in other photos. Thanks @ethayerb for scouting, supporting and documenting the shoot! A great start to day 3 of 2019!”

Technical details:

  • Canon 6D Mark II camera
  • William Optics Z61 (360mm) and Flat 61 field flattener
  • Exposure: 1 sec., 9 at ISO 3200
  • Single frame, untracked
  • Processed on iPhone in Photos
  • Slides done in iMovie with Ken Burns Effect