Photographer Samy Olabi spent a total of 70 nights over the course of four years capturing 12,200 photos that took a combined 2. 2 million seconds to expose in order to capture the night sky using a mixture of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.
Olabi is an accomplished astrophotographer who previously shot miniaturized scenes using the real Milky Way Galaxy as a backdrop. He has been working for the past four years on a project that captures the Northern Hemisphere’s night sky from conventional DSLRs, mirrorless cameras and with no telescope.
With practicality and portability as his main concern, Olabi wanted to get the best possible results without any kind of guiding system, astronomical cameras, or telescopes. He used several cameras, each with a simple tracking mount and different focal lengths to speed up the process.
“It is a proof of concept that with the right recipe you can achieve perfect results. All you need is some knowledge with some tools and techniques,” he says.
The mosaic was created from dark corners in the Middle East and the surrounding United Arab Emirates.
“Stepping into Deep Sky Astrophotography was a continuation of my astrophotography career,” Olabi explains.
“Stepping into Deep Sky Astrophotography was a continuation of my astrophotography career,” Olabi says. He points out his past miniature series to illustrate this point of view.
“I do not want complications, I do not want wires, computers, power generators, telescopes, or heavy mounts,” he says.
After some serious research and thought, Olabi came up with a method that would use a set of small, portable, and easy-to-use pieces of equipment that he would rely on for the project. He would use a mixture of a Nikon D780, D810A, and Z6 combined with a set of 10 lenses: a 20mm f/1. 8, 24-70mm f/2. 8, 50mm f/1. 4, 50mm f/1. 8, 85mm f/1. 4, 135mm f/2, 70-200mm f/2. 8, 300mm f/4, 500mm f/4, and a 600mm f/4.
He combined these cameras and lenses with a Skywatcher Star Adventurer celestial tracking platform and the Ioptron SkyGuider Pro and CEM25P mounts. After assembling his equipment, he had to carefully plan the shoot around weather and moon phases. He also had to consider light pollution which limited where he could shoot from. He relied on his previously compiled database of UAE locations.
The Capture Technique
Olabi says that one single final image in the above mosaic is actually the result of shooting four types of frames. He uses the Rosette Nebula as an example to explain his method.
The first thing you should do after aligning your lens towards the object is to expose your sensor to any light emitted from it. This is what we refer to as ‘Light Frames’, he says. “It is a process of collecting data of the same object repeatedly a number of times. [It is] similar to interval time shooting in timelapse, but the only difference is that the camera is moving with the Earth’s movement, keeping the object centered in the frame.”
He took shorter exposures with higher ISO combined with a faster aperture, increasing the number of frames he collected and could later stack. He says this technique reduces the random noise significantly and increases the signal to noise ratio.
The secret to this technique is in the calibration frames. These were designed to remove any imperfections from either the sensor or the glass.
He says because of how many images he takes, it is crucial to properly manage the data and eliminate any faulty or unusable frames in order to move on to the next stage: post processing.
This stage can take a lot of time and computers resources and is very tedious.
“Each deep sky object image takes around three to four nights of shooting and can take the same amount of time if not more for post processing,” Olabi explains.
Still More to Capture
Despite all the work Olabi has done and how long it took, Olabi insists that there are still many more things to be done.
“I reached some kind of an accomplishment in this project, but I feel that I am still far from being done with it. There are lots of objects that I still need to capture, and there are objects that I need to revisit again. Some objects will require travel to the southern hemisphere,” he says.
“Vielleicht this is what makes the entire thing so special. .”
I love the idea of it all. More information about Olabi and photos from the composite image are on his website ..
Image credits: Photos by Samy Olabi