Saturday (29-September-2018) — New Jersey

Autumn Backyard Night Sky Over New Jersey.

This was the second night in a row that we had clear skies, so I set up a Nikon D810a camera with a 8-15 mm fisheye lens (ISO 200, 9 mm, f/8, 120 sec) to record the night sky. I still have an issue with condensation on the big lens. I may need to rig up a tape heater for the lens. The other thing I am seeing with a very wide-angle (9 mm) lens, and a relatively high-resolution sensor (35 megapixel) is the size of the star images is very small. I think I got better star trail images when I was using 12-16 megapixel sensors).  The next clear night, I plan to set up a side-by-side comparison.


Individual images in the slideshow can be viewed here.

Friday (28-September-2018) — New Jersey

Backyard Nighttime Autumn Sky Over New Jersey.

Evaluation of a Nikon KeyMission 360 camera including Night Sky video mode. Unlike the Garmin VIRB camera, the KeyMission camera does not have any external controls. It does have separate buttons for taking pictures or video recording. The camera and video settings are only available via the SnapBridge 360/170 app on Android or iOS devices. Communication between the app and camera is via BlueTooth or WiFi. The initial connection is via BlueTooth where the Camera Settings can be modified. Apparently, the BlueTooth in the camera is active, even when the camera is turned off.  The app indicates that the KeyMission 360 camera is already paired. When Camera Settings is selected, it takes several minutes to connect. During this time, the camera is turned on. Camera settings include: Date & Time, Sound Settings; Auto Off (change to 5 minutes or you will go crazy when learning how to use this camera); LED brightness; Charge by Computer (set to auto); Image Comment; Copyright information; Location Data; Firmware Version; Network Menu; Shooting Options; Format Card; and Reset All.

The Shooting Options Menu includes: Movies; Still Images; and Shooting Options. Movie Mode Includes settings for : Standard movie; Superlapse movie (2x, 4x, 6x, 10x, 15x); Loop recording (5 min, 10 min, 30 min, 60 min); Time-lapse movie (AE lock only; 2 sec, 5 sec, 10 sec, and 30 sec); Night Sky (30 sec optimized for stars). Still images includes settings for: Image size (7744 x 3872 or 3872 x 1936); Self timer (2 sec or 10 sec). The images are JPG (no option for RAW images). That is too bad, I assumed Nikon would provide an option for saving RAW images. ARRG!!! Also, there is no option for interval shooting of still images. Double ARRG!!!

Finally, there is a Shooting options menu (that I assume applies to both movies and still images). It includes settings for: Underwater mode (yes/no); Active D-Lighting (yes/no); White balance (auto, daylight, incandescent, fluorescent, and cloudy); Color options (standard, vivid, and monochrome); Exposure compensation (+2.0 to -2.0 in 1/3 stop increments); and Restore default settings. So I set the Active-D lighting on, White balance auto, and selected Vivid in the color options.

If you want to do remote photography from the app, it needs to switch to WiFi mode. This takes a long, long time. It removes whatever WiFi source you are connected to and sets up a direct connection to the camera. This is why setting the auto off to 5 minutes is important. I often didn’t make a connection, and/or it took several times before the device and camera would connect. The manual makes some comment about problems when there are a lot of other WiFi devices nearby. Again ARGG!!! I wouldn’t trust the remote photography (Live View) for a mission critical shoot. But it is nice to have when composing a still image.

After it got dark outside, I set the KeyMission camera up on my back patio set up in Night Sky video mode. The camera takes take 300 30 second exposures (~2.5 hours) and then in the camera combines the front and back images into a 10 second 360 degree panorama time-lapse video (1080p, 30p).  Video viewing apps that are 360 aware allow the viewer to pan and tilt the image to see all directions around the camera. For this video, I was only interested in seeing the sky. The video viewing and editing program from Nikon (KeyMission 360/170 Utility) didn’t allow me to do this. I did find that the Insta360 Studio program did allow me to edit the video from the KeyMission camera.

KeyMission 360 Night Sky Time-lapse Video.

For comparison, I also set up a Nikon D810a camera with a 8-15 mm fisheye lens (ISO 200, 10 mm, f/8, 120 sec) to take a series of night sky images. These were processed with Capture One Pro, and then used to create a time-lapse video and a composite star trails image.  There appear to be a multitude of internal reflections in the 8-15 mm fisheye lens once the moon becomes visible.

Nikon D810a Night Sky Time-lapse Video.

Night Sky Star Trails Image. Composite of 211 images taken with a Nikon D810a camera and 8-15 mm telephoto lens (200 ISO, 10 mm, f/8, 120 sec). (David J Mathre)
Night Sky Star Trails Image. Composite of 211 images taken with a Nikon D810a camera and 8-15 mm telephoto lens (200 ISO, 10 mm, f/8, 120 sec). (David J Mathre)

Five-Years Ago (14-September-2013) — New Jersey

Backyard Late Summer Nighttime Sky Over New Jersey.

[Updated from five-years ago. Added a slideshow with the 25 individual frames extracted from the video.]

Last night the sky was clear, and the waxing gibbous moon (61%) bright, so I set up a couple of cameras with big lenses out on the deck. One of the systems (Nikon D4 camera TC-E III 20 teleconverter and 600 mm f/4 VR lens (ISO 400, 1200 mm, f/8, 1/60 sec)) was set to record video (1080p, 30 fps). While reviewing the videos I noticed one with something (a bird?) passing in front of the moon. Played back at 10 fps shows the transit to occur over 25 frames. The bird is not very clear, or in focus relative to the moon. Someday, I want to catch a satellite transiting in front of the moon.


Individual images from the slideshow can be viewed here.

Nine-Years Ago (01-September-2009) — Alaska

Gone to See North America Road Trip. Day 11: Haines, Alaska.

I completed the ferry voyage to Alaska aboard the Alaska Marine Highway ferry MV Columbia the previous afternoon. Rather than starting the drive to Anchorage right away, I checked into a local B&B and spent the night in Haines. My room on the 2nd floor looked over the harbor across to the mountains. I set up a camera to record the night sky (Nikon D3x camera and 45 mm f/2.8 PC-E lens). When reviewing the images in the morning, found that during the night there was a display of northern lights which I had not been expecting. With faster computers and new software, I have been able to re-process the night sky star trails with the full high-resolution raw images, and create a time-lapse video. In the past I could only process the lower resolution jpg images.


Individual images from the slide show can be viewed here.

Friday (24-August-2018) — New Jersey

Backyard Summer Nighttime Sky Over New Jersey.

The second clear night in a row, at least until early morning when some clouds came in and the lens was covered with condensation again. This time I increased the focal length to 10 mm on the 8-15 mm fisheye lens. Both star trails and a time-lapse video of the nighttime sky.


Star trails over New Jersey. Composite of images taken with a Nikon D850 camera and 8-15 mm fisheye lens (ISO 100, 10 mm, f/4, 30 sec). Raw images processed with Capture One Pro, and the composite generated using Photoshop CC (statistics, maximum). Individual images from the slide show can be viewed here.