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5 Anytime Anywhere Astrophotography Challenges

5 anytime anywhere Astrophotography projects

Whether you’re starting out in astrophotography or an experienced imager, these 5 anytime and anywhere projects will get you capturing awe-inspiring photos wherever you are!

We’ve put together a target list that you can shoot from home, something to keep you busy between imaging DSOs or even just to build up your astrophotography knowledge base.

Lets face it – it’s not always possible to get away and shoot under dark skies. So if you’re in need of an astro fix, give these challenges a try.

All you need is a good working knowledge of your DSLR, a tripod and remote shutter release, and a good dose of patience and perseverance.

1. Day / night composite

It’s as simple as it sounds, a day and night photo composite of the same field of view.

Day and night photo composite
Day and night composition, photo: Tanja Schmitz

You don’t even always need clear skies! Thin clouds can make your night composition appear more dramatic. With that, light pollution or scattered pockets of light in the distance can also make it more dynamic.

For a successful composite, either leave your tripod in position or mark down your location very accurately when returning to shoot at night.

2. Solar analemma

Solar analemma

An analemma is a graph or representation that shows the position of the sun in the sky, recorded from a fixed location at the same time of day, over the period of 1 year.

The photographic challenge: photograph the sun’s movement throughout the year, from a fixed location at the same time of day. This will result in a photo composite that shows the sun’s movement in a figure 8 path across the sky over the space of a year. (Due to the Earth’s axial tilt and orbital eccentricity around the sun)

Even in today’s digital age, photographing an analemma can be challenging, but it’s possibly one of the most rewarding phenomenons to capture.

Read more about how Pál Váradi Nagy planned and captured this image.

3. Lunar calendar

moon phases

“If you can’t shoot anything, shoot the moon!”

moon phasesThe Moon cycles through the following phases:

New moon / Waxing Crescent / First Quarter / Waxing Gibbous
Full Moon / Waning Gibbous / Third Quarter / Waning Crescent

Each day of the moon’s cycle is more or less illuminated depending on the moon’s orbit around earth.

Creating a lunar calendar can present an interesting challenge since you’re reliant on the weather for clear cloudless nights.

4. Star trails

Shooting star trails is possibly the most accessible form of astrophotography as it does not always require dark skies to capture dramatic views.

House star trails
No landscape – no problem. Use what you have available, like your house! You can even get started in your own backyard. Photo: Tanja Schmitz

The great news about star trails: awe inspiring images are possible with modest equipment (DSLR and lens, tripod, and remote shutter release). While good gear is certainly an advantage, the truth is that it comes down to preparation, patience, and perseverance (and processing!).

It’s a great starting point to practice capturing and compiling star trails before venturing out in search of more dramatic landscapes.

5. Catching the ISS

Capturing an impressive photo of the ISS (International Space Station) flyover is not as difficult as it may seem. You don’t need fancy imagining software or top of the range photographic equipment.

ISS Flyover
Photo: Tanja Schmitz, Cory Schmitz

Your DSLR with remote shutter control, tripod, and some free stacking software (or your software editor of choice).

Start by researching when the ISS will be visible over your area and familiarise yourself with the coordinates and other information supplied.

Websites like www.heavens-above.com and http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/ list sighting opportunities for your location. (Or Twitter alerts via @twisst)

Watch the International Space Station pass overhead from several thousand worldwide locations. It is the third brightest object in the sky and easy to spot if you know when to look up.” http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/

Tip: Some ISS passes are short, others longer. Take note of how long the ISS will be visible in the sky before it passes into the earth’s shadow, it will help with setting up the right composition.

Want to shoot an ISS pass? See our tutorial: How to Find, Photograph, and Process an ISS Pass

Need an even bigger challenge? If you’re an experienced imager, then up the ante a little and catch the ISS transiting the moon or the sun!

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About the author

Tanja Schmitz

Tanja is the co-founder of PhotographingSpace.com with her husband, Cory. She is also the co-owner of several telescopes and Celestron mounts, too many cameras, and not enough hard drive space.

An internationally commissioned and published astrophotographer, her work has been used in multiple online and print publications. Tanja was also shortlisted for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year award.


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  • Is there any way to control a DSLR to avoid the gaps in exposure when capturing the ISS? Or at least to minimize them? I think my intervalometer has a minimum delay of 1 second.

    • One way to fill those gaps would be to use “gap filling” in StarStax when processing your images, it’s specifically developed for those small gaps caused by the short delay in continuous shooting .

  • Great list! Star trails are my favorite consolation prize for failed meteor hunting. I did the lunar calendar and it took me 3 months to get the last phase because of clouds – but it was one of the most exciting collections and I got it framed on my wall. You inspired me to try some day/night composites, very cool and definitely something a light polluted region will still allow.

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