This tutorial will cover the development of my image Milky Way from Apollo Bay using a Canon 350D, a wide angle lens, Adobe Photoshop and an image alignment program called hugin.
For this to be repeatable you must be shooting with clear dark skies, free from light pollution. I used settings of Tv: 20 sec, Av: f/4, focal length: 17mm and ISO speed: 1600. A shutter release cable is also a great tool and can keep your camera clicking as it sits on the tripod. The more images taken, the better for the final result, because this will improve the signal to noise ratio that plagues digital sensors during long exposures. A tracking mount is not necessary with a 20 second shutter speed because the rotation of the night sky is undetectable at such a wide angle.
Please read the following steps for more information. All images are hyperlinked to larger sizes.
1. Download this zipped folder containing four of my unaligned shots of the Milky Way.
2. Load them into hugin_0.7_beta_4 .
3. Manually align images with control points – don’t automatically align. I aligned three images to a common one. Enlarge the screenshot for details.
4. Click Edit – fine tune all points.
5. Click View – preview window.
6. Click Center and Fit buttons to achieve this view:
7. Click Edit – Optimise.
8. Click Stitcher – image format – multiple tiff. Final screen before clicking Stitch Now.
9. If you don’t want to worry about learning how to align the images with hugin, then you can download this zipped folder containing the four prealigned images of the Milky Way.
10. Load each image onto a new layer in photoshop adjusting the blend mode to screen which is good at lightening images without lightening the darkest areas.
11. Add a medium contrast curves layer.
12. Add a colour balance layer: shadows (-90,-25,-10), midtones (-15,-5,-20), highlights (0,-5,30).
13. The final result.
For comparison’s sake, shown below is a typical accompanying jpeg to a raw file I began with for one of the individual images. I used Adobe Camera Raw to extract the jpegs provided in step 1 for processing.
In closing, I’d like to point out this is not the only way an image like this can be captured; there is myriads of possibilities. I have developed this simple and inexpensive method by just experimenting with the tools at my disposal.