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Stacking App Review - Finding The Best Stackers

Stacking App Review - Finding The Best Stackers

While astronomers have some good alternatives for stacking multiple exposures to reduce noise, the apps they use are generally expensive and complicated to use.  For these reasons, I tend to like using Photoshop to handle stacking my images.  Other options have been limited and hard to get excited about.  Over the past few years however, the quality of our options and my opinions of them have changed significantly.

Background
Wide-field astrophotographers have looked to Adobe Photoshop to handle their stacking needs for years.  It hasn't been a perfect fit but when combining 4 or so exposures to reduce noise, it's been an effective tool in reducing noise.  For those people who like to stack more than 4, staying with Photoshop pushes most people past the limits of their Photoshop skills.  And in looking at 3rd party alternatives, there simply haven't been good alternatives available since most of them are expensive and complicated to learn and use.

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What Are The Best Lenses For Night Photography? Updated 2017

What Are The Best Lenses For Night Photography? Updated 2017

Several years ago, we posted an article titled "Recommended Lenses For Night Photography" that a lot of people found helpful.  Since then, a lot has changed that affects the lenses my training partner Darren White and I most like to recommend as the best choices so I decided that this original article deserved an update with the latest information and recommendations.

Background
As a night photography workshop instructor, I'm committed to getting great nightscape images.  And while we believe that the best images come from a combination of great composition, great technique, and having an eye for  great image, having good gear certainly helps to make a difference.  we think the gear is secondary to these first three items but it does help.  We get a lot of questions from our students about what gear works best and so we like to have some good answers for them.  On the approach to our workshops, we often get asked if we were to recommend one single lens, which one we would recommend to help students get the best shots possible.

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The Best Flashlight For Light Painting

The Best Flashlight For Light Painting

Background
A little while back, I posted an article where I reviewed the Brinkmann Dual Xenon Spotlight for light painting.  At that point, it was the best light I'd seen for night photography and it became my favorite "brush" for light painting.  The neutral to warm tint and the gentle, even cast of light worked well in a variety of light painting situations.

Problems With Availability
Not long after posting the article, supplies for the dual xenon spotlight dried up.  I had stirred the interest in people's minds but now they couldn't find the light.  As a result, I've had a pretty steady stream of people asking for an alternative light.  And while, my dual xenon spotlight still works great for me, I felt the need to help find a good light to recommend to others so I decided to take another look at which light would be a best choice for the night photographer looking to add some light painting...

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Best Android Smart Phone Apps For Night Photography

Best Android Smart Phone Apps For Night Photography

Are you an Android user who's interested in night photography?  Having been Android user for several years, I've come to appreciate a few of the apps I've been using to support my night photography and thought I'd share them here.  So while this isn't a list of all the apps I use (that list would be huge), these are just my favorites in three areas: Celestial Objects, Weather, and Navigation.

If you're an iPhone user with similar interests, check out my friend David Kingham's article on smartphone apps for night photography.

Celestial Objects 

Sky Safari Plus

Official Description: As just reviewed in Sky & Telescope magazine, the iOS version of SkySafari is "revolutionary" and a "game-changer". Now here for Android, SkySafari will change the way you do astronomy!  SkySafari Plus adds a hugely expanded database, wireless telescope control, the ability to fly into orbit around other planets our Solar System, and beyond it to other stars in our Milky Way galaxy, to our basic version...

Mike's Comments: This is my favorite astronomy app for my phone.  It has so many features, it really deserves more of my time to learn how to use them all.  Regardless, it's an amazing app that gets regular use - a real treat to use out in the field.  I got the more expensive version that includes details on satellites and comets but you don't have to...

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Brinkmann Dual Xenon Spotlight

Brinkmann Dual Xenon Spotlight

To some people, it may seem a little strange that a tool built for the auto industry turns out to be such a good choice for light painting foreground subjects under the starry night sky, but that's the case here.  That's right, the Brinkmann Dual Xenon Spotlight (originally built for the automobile repair industry) works as an excellent light painting tool - so I thought I'd post a full review to let you know why it's such a good choice.

As a night photographer, I'm looking to capture great night nightscape images.  And while I'm often shooting in the dark of the night with little to no moonlight, I find that I can add a lot of depth to my images with some subtle light painting.  So over the years, I've been improving my gear and my techniques to make the process easier and the results even more subtle and natural looking.

What Makes A Good Light Paint Brush?
I've found there are several factors in deciding which light painting flashlight I like to use most: color temperature, even cast of light, adjustability, etc.  In that direction, I really like the Xenon bulbs because they are a very neutral color temperature compared to the more common LED lights.  I find that the LED lights are a bit too cool in temperature which needs to be adjusted in post-processing.  Given the choice, I prefer to use a warmer light during the capture so I don't have to do that manipulation in post...

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Recommended Lenses For Night Photography

Recommended Lenses For Night Photography

As students get ready for night photography workshops, they often ask the question, "If I could buy just one lens, are there any that would really help with my night photography?".  On this, I smile because there definitely is.  And the best part is the route I recommend doesn't break the bank.

In general, a wide-angle, bright lens with a minimum aperture of 2.8 would be ideal.  Good night photographs come from lots of other lenses, but in general, the low light sensitivity of an f/2.8 lens makes capturing the starry night sky a lot easier.

Improving Low-Light Capability With A Better Lens
Just like a new camera body can gain a few stops of low light sensitivity, it's well worth taking a look at how lenses can do the same.  As an example, changing from an f/4 lens (a lens with a minimum aperture of f/4) to an f/2.8 lens is equivalent to doubling the amount of light you have to work with - which is a big deal.  And a lens with an even wider aperture like f/1.4 can give you even more low light sensitivity...

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