Astro selfie - how I made the shot

The shoot

  1. Camera settings: the Samyang 12mm lens (on Fuji XT-10) allows me 30 second exposures before I get significant star trails. I opened up the Aperture as wide as it goes (f/2.0) - with no foreground close by, I knew the stones in the shot would be in focus, even wide open). I set at ISO 800 (it was quite bright due to the near full moon, so I didn't need to go higher), did a test shot, checked the histogram - and we were good to go!
  2. I knew I'd need a few photos to make this final shot I had in my mind work. So the next thing to do was to set the camera onto the intervelomoter mode. That would give me enough time to make my way up to the stones for the selfie. I set the camera up to shoot for 3 minutes, and set about creating the three shots I was going to need.
  3. Shot 1 - light painting the foreground. I simply used the torch on my phone, but I moved around a bit during the 30 seconds to give a more diffuse and less directional light.
  4. Shot 2 - the selfie. While the camera shot away, I headed for the vantage point I had picked out, carefully climbing up the stones in the dark. To ensure that I was included in at least one complete 30 second exposure, I stood as still as possible for 60 seconds. Not easy in the wind!
  5. Shot 3 - as I came back down, I light painted the little gap to pick out more detail there.

The processing

Back at the computer, I selected the three images I wanted to use. As I had got the images pretty close to what I needed in camera, I just used the Fuji jpgs - I didn't need to look at the RAWs at all for this. I love Fuji jpgs!

Now, in Photoshop, it was a simple matter of blending the three shots.

  1. I started with the selfie shot as my base layer. It was also the shot I was going to use for the sky.
  2. Then I added in the other two photos as more layers in Photoshop.
  3. I used the Magic Wand tool to select the sky in my second image - the light painted foreground. Given that the ground was very dark and that there was a clear bondary between it and the sky, this was very easy. I inverted that selection (Select>Inverse) and added a new layer mask. Photoshop defaults to making the selection white and the non-selected part black. So that meant that the foreground from the light painted image showed along with the selfie and sky from the base image.
  4. To make the sky pop a little bit more, I added a couple of adjustment layers between the base layer and the light painted layer (a curves adjustment and a gradient layer).
  5. Finally, to add the second bit of light painting, I used used the Magic Wand tool again to select the sky, inverted the selection, added a layer, and used the Brush tool set to black to paint out any other parts of that shot that I didn't want.

Three shots, blended in a few minutes. Job done!

Alistair HamillComment