I just returned from spending three fantastic days camping in the desert. Nothing beats sleeping under the stars…and photographing them at night! I was excited to get a chance to try out my Z6II with the Z 14-24mm F2.8. The results were fantastic.
First question, one frame or stacked images for the star trail shot? Stacked images are used when you are trying to reduce noise as much as possible, and multiple images allow you to add effects like comet tails to your stars. But just how much better are the results using one frame versus stacked images? I’ve done comparison shoots and you do get less noise using stacked images…but not much. I’ve always preferred doing things in camera if I can, so I decided to go for a single frame image. More time in the field, less time behind a computer in the office editing.
My first shot was a static star image. ISO 2000, 25 seconds at F2.8. Noise reduction turned on, which will double your exposure time. Focusing the new Z 14-24mm F2.8 is simple. I set infinity focus using the illuminated focus panel on the lens…that’s it! No daytime infinity focus to figure out exactly where to focus for infinity. With my mirrorless cameras and lenses I just set it to the infinity mark. I triggered a SB5000 speedlight in the tent (Cree sat in the tent for the silhouette). Nearby campfires from other campers added the nice red glow to the red rock.
For the next shot, I used ISO 100, F2.8 at 1 hour. I set my exposure to bulb, used a Nikon MC-DC2 locking cable release to lock the shutter open for one hour. I positioned the North Star over our tent for a strong composition. The North Star gives a great center point in your composition on one hour shots. I started the exposure, went to bed, and woke up one hour later to stop the shot. Then my camera processed (you will see the blinking Job NR on your top panel) the Long Exposure Noise Reduction for another hour to reduce noise. After two hours of being turned on, my Z6II still had three bars of battery life….much improved from earlier versions. And another thing that I really like was the ability to use the EVF viewfinder to compose in the dark. Just a little light from a campfire and the EVF was bright enough to see the tent…I could have never composed in this low light with my DSLR optical viewfinder.
The final shot came out great, with minimal noise. We’re already planning our next camping trip…