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Astro Landscape Photography

Lesson 14 of 16

On-Location Demo Panorama for ALP

Lance Keimig

Astro Landscape Photography

Lance Keimig

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Lesson Info

14. On-Location Demo Panorama for ALP

Lesson Info

On-Location Demo Panorama for ALP

In this lesson, we are going to do an astro landscape panorama. Ordinarily, most of the time when we're doing this kind of shot, you're going to want to get the arch of the Milky Way across the sky. But due to the fact that we are here at close to midnight in late August, the Milky Way arch is quite high in the sky. We can't see it right now. We can see a bat flying through the scene, but the Milky Way starts over in this section and it goes almost directly overhead and comes down over here. So it's really a much wider field of view than we're able to, or willing to, get in the shot. So instead, I'm gonna demonstrate the technique that we would use for a Milky Way arch, bearing in mind that you would wanna do it either preferably, either in May and June, when it's lower to the sky, or if you're doing it later in the summer like we are, in July or August, you would do it as soon as it gets dark. That way, it's gonna be lower on the horizon. But we can still demonstrate the technique, ph...

otographing Mobius Arch and the surrounding environment here. And we will get the core, the densest part of the Milky Way, we just won't get the entire arch. So it's gonna take probably six vertical images, shot with a 20 millimeter lens on my full frame camera, panning across from one direction to the other. We're going to use very low illumination from the lanterns in order to provide just a little bit of ground level illumination for the rock formations. When we actually do the real shot, it's gonna be much darker than it is right now. If we were to use this level of illumination, if we exposed for the sky, the foreground would be completely blown out. And if we exposed for the foreground, it would look kind of like what you see here, with rocks in the foreground and a pitch black sky. You probably don't see any stars at all. In doing panoramas, the number one consideration is leveling your tripod. That's really, really critical. It's not gonna work otherwise. we've already predetermined the overall scene. It's just going to be, about a 130 degree angle of view. And we'll have some sky and foreground. The exposures are going to be the same for each one. We're going to use the standard astro landscape exposure. It's going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of maybe F2.5/6100 and 20 seconds, maybe 25 seconds. I want to give it as much exposure as I can. Still keep the stars nice and sharp. We're using that 20mm wide angle lens, so everything is going to be infinity. I've already pre focused the lens at infinity. Now the next thing to do is level the tripod. In this case, I have a very convenient leveling head on here that allows me to level the camera and the head of the tripod independent of whether or not the legs are level or not. And what that means is, by using this leveling head, I will be able to rotate the camera and doesn't matter if I can turn it around 360 degrees, it's still going to remain level, independent of the way the legs are. So that's a real handy feature, having that leveling head. So now control this leveling head by loosening this screw thing on the bottom here and I'm just going to use the bubble level on the leveling head. Ok, so that reads level. And the next thing I'm gonna do is turn on live view and activate the in-camera level. And I'm going to level the camera. First, we've leveled the head, now we're leveling the camera. Just aligning both the horizontal and the vertical axis. On this camera, I get a green line for the horizontal leveling and a green dot when it's level vertically. And that looks pretty good. I've got both a green line and a green dot. And now , I'm just gonna rotate and make sure that as I rotate the camera it stays green. And it does, so that's pretty good. That's what we want to see. Okay, so not everybody is going to have this leveling head, so I want to show you a really neat trick that a surveyor friend of mine named Neil Bennet from Vancouver showed me recently. And that's how surveyors will level their tripods for their instruments. I'm going to just loosen this here and throw it out of level. So the way to do this is to align the camera over one of your tripod legs. It doesn't matter which one. And then level the camera. Again, goin for that green line and green dot. Here we go. Almost there. Alright, so it's level with this one tripod leg. But, if I rotate it at this point, because the legs aren't level, the head's not level, it totally goes out. It's no longer level when I rotate it. In fact, it's no longer level period. There we go. OK. So now I've got it level again. I'm gonna rotate the camera at 90 degrees. And now at this point, I'm going to adjust one of the legs until it comes back in to level again. Once it does, it should be good to go. Okay, so I can swing it around and it looks pretty good. Tiny bit of variation, but I've basically leveled the camera and the head without a leveling head. Or by disregarding the leveling head. That's a useful feature for doing panoramic. It's an essential feature if you're doing panoramic photographs. Alright, so this time I'm gonna start on the right and I'm gonna go to the left. And we're gonna start off with our standard astro landscape exposure. I'm gonna go down to 25 seconds ...and F2.5. I'm gonna be at ISO 6400. Let's see, while we have the lights on, I'll just frame it up. Okay, so this is going to be first camera position. The next thing to bear in mind when you're doing this, we're going to be rotating the camera to encompass this whole field of view. And in addition to keeping the camera level, we also have to overlap our images by 30% - 50%, and that gives the software enough material to work with, to splice together all these images in post-processing. So, we're about ready to go at this point, so we're gonna turn down the lights very, very low and do the shots. Alright, welcome back! I ended up doing six different exposures, overlapping by about a third, rotating the camera from left to right and then back again. It took several attempts to do this because we had a little bit of difficulty controlling the lighting. The wind kept adjusting the lights and blowing them out. And we had to keep 'em at a real low level so they didn't overpower the ambient light in the sky. But, we managed to pull it off and you're gonna see the raw files straight outta Camera, and then I'll put them together using Lightroom merged to Panorama. And then you'll see the final product! That's about it. That's all there is to it. Level your tripod head. Make sure it stays level as you rotate it. Use the same exposure for each one and overlap your frames by 1/3 to 1/2. Have at it!

Class Description

The solar system and the magic within it can be seen with more than just a telescope. Capturing the milky way and the movement of the solar systems around us can make for engaging and out of this world photography. In this class you’ll learn:

  • What equipment to use and setting your composition in the field 
  • How to find your focus and exposure in the dark 
  • How to capture star trails and the best opportunities based on the lunar calendar 
  • How to capture the Milky Way and create striking panoramas of the night sky.  
Lance Keimig is the author of Night Photography- Finding Your Way In The Dark and leads photo tours around the world. 

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Coast Flashlights 25% Off Discount Code

Camera Settings for Milky Way & Aurora Photography

Camera Settings for Night Photography

Film Exposures at Night + Development Guidelines

High ISO Testing

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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The classes are full of extremely important technical information that is delivered in a concise, clear manner. It is very difficult to grasp it all in one sitting. I have taken classes before in photography and I love the learning model with Creative Live .I can go back and review the information at my own pace and take notes as I go- I can even rewind and review if I miss something. This is a great collection of material and I would highly recommend purchasing the entire bundle - great job on the selection of fantastic teachers and putting together such a fabulous package on night photography.


A tremendous amount of information crammed into one single course - it can be only done by CreativeLive! Along with having such a profound knowledge and skills in a particular field, Lance Keimig has an amazing teaching style as well - he is very clear, concise and thorough. I strongly recommend this set of classes to anyone who is interested to acquire some general (or expand their existing!) knowledge of astrophotography and night sky shooting. Last but not the least, I want to congratulate the CreativeLive for teaming up with an excellent instructor to create and deliver this STELLAR and production-wise very demanding course!