Have you always wanted to take beautiful photos of the Milky Way? Me too! I bought my first DSLR 4 years ago and quickly began my journey into the world of astrophotography. Since then, I've spent countless nights out under the stars, gazing up at the Milky Way from stunning locations across America. In 2018, I set out to create a series of tutorials that will allow anyone with a DSLR and a star tracker to capture their own incredible images!
One of the biggest problems that beginners have is that their photos are dark and grainy. If you are tired of dealing with this, then a star tracker is the best way to begin taking cleaner images at night. A star tracker is a relatively simple device that moves the camera at the same speed as the stars, allowing you to shoot much longer shutter speeds with sharp stars. Instead of being limited to 20 or 30 second exposures, you can now shoot over 4 minute exposures without star trails! This allows you to capture a stunning amount of detail and color, with virtually no grain. Of course, there is one drawback. You will need to take 2 photos from now on, one photo for the foreground, and another for the sky. Once you have both images, you can blend the two together in Photoshop. Thankfully, I've developed a few blending techniques that even a complete beginner can do!
First, you need to determine which star tracker will work best for your needs. You have plenty of options to choose from, including the iOptron SkyTracker Pro and SkyGuider Pro, and the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer and Star Adventurer Mini. You can visit my complete Star Tracker Buying Guide for more information and comparisons between each model. While all of these trackers will allow you to capture amazing images, they don't exactly come with clear, easy instructions.
I've spent the past year building a series of tutorials for the most popular star trackers available. My goal was simple: Create easy-to-follow tutorials that will allow anyone to capture an amazing image of the night sky. Most importantly, this tutorial series shows the entire process! We'll start by planning your photo shoot, then picking the right camera gear, learning which camera settings to use, setting up the star tracker in the field, and even post-processing the RAW photos! Each star tracker course contains over 10 hours of content!
You can learn more about each course by choosing your current star tracker from the list below.
The iOptron SkyTracker Pro is a small, lightweight tracker that's perfect for the beginner or someone who wants to keep things simple and lightweight. The SkyTracker Pro will work great for wide angle photos and camera rigs up to 5 lbs. If you want to use a heavier setup, or telephoto lens, you will likely want to jump up to the SkyGuider Pro, which features an 11 lb payload capacity and can easily handle a 150-600mm lens when set up properly.
The SkyTracker Pro course will teach you everything you need to know about astrophotography including: Planning, Camera Settings, how to setup the SkyTracker Pro in the field, and even Post-Processing!
The iOptron SkyGuider Pro is the heavy duty star tracker that I currently use. It features a clutch mechanism, declination bracket, and counterweight that will allow you to capture stunning deep sky images with a telephoto lens. However, it's also one of the most complex and difficult star trackers to actually use, especially for beginners. Don't worry though, that's why I created this course!
In the SkyGuider Pro course, I will show you exactly how to setup the SkyGuider Pro for your specific needs - whether you just want to do wide-angle nightscapes, or deep space astrophotography. As always, we cover everything you need to know, from start to finish. You will learn how to plan your night photography trips, how to take your images, how to use the SkyGuider Pro correctly, and even edit your images. Since the SkyGuider Pro can handle telephoto lenses, I've included a special deep sky tutorial. This will show you the proper way to set up the SkyGuider Pro specifically for telephoto lenses, and how to edit your nebula or galaxy images using numerous advanced techniques.
The SAM is the most compact and versatile star tracker on the market. It features WiFi capabilities and an app that will allow you to control the entire star tracker from your smartphone. While this opens up a whole new world of possibilities, especially for timelapses, it also complicates the whole process. In this course, I will teach you how to use the SAM Console App to get the most out of your Mini. We will look at each timelapse mode, how to setup the star tracker in the field, and how to edit your images. As always, this course includes the full process from start to finish, with over 10 hours of instructional videos!
The Star Adventurer is the big brother of the Mini, and it features an 11 lb payload capacity that will allow you to use a full-frame camera and telephoto lens with ease! Now that we are able to do deep sky astrophotography with a telephoto lens, we will cover how to set up the tracker for the best results, and how to edit our nebula or galaxy images. The Star Adventurer Course will also show you how to set up the tracker for wide angle nightscapes as well!