Andrew Murrell Photography: Blog en-us (C) Andrew Murrell Photography (Andrew Murrell Photography) Mon, 22 Jan 2024 20:54:00 GMT Mon, 22 Jan 2024 20:54:00 GMT Andrew Murrell Photography: Blog 120 120 Shooting with a Telescope Part 2 The Mount. IMG_2600IMG_2600

Part 2: Exploring Advanced Techniques for Deep Sky Object Photography with Telescopic Mounts

Welcome to the second installment of our blog series dedicated to capturing Deep Sky objects through telescopic photography. In this segment, we will delve into the critical aspect of choosing and configuring the right mount, with a specific focus on the type employed in our astrophotography endeavors. Additionally, we will guide you through the setup process and alignment procedures, offering insights to optimize your experience.

At the heart of successful deep-sky imaging lies a capable mount that can effectively track celestial objects by compensating for the Earth's rotation around either the North or South Celestial Pole. For our readers situated in the Northern Hemisphere, the presence of Polaris serves as a valuable reference point, streamlining the initial alignment process. Various mount types exist, but the German Equatorial and Fork mounts stand out as the most prevalent choices.

The German Equatorial mount emerges as the predominant style for astrophotography applications, boasting a wide array of models from numerous manufacturers. Despite brand variations, the fundamental principle remains consistent—a dual-axis mount with perpendicular axes. One axis aligns with the Celestial pole, referred to as Right Ascension, while the other supports the telescope and counterweights, called the Declination. The convergence of these two axes occurs at a T intersection, further stabilized by a pivot facilitating latitude adjustments.



Upon achieving precise polar alignment, which is discussed in more detail later in the article, the Right Ascension (RA) axis seamlessly tracks celestial bodies at the sidereal rate, while the Declination (Dec) axis empowers the telescope to be directed to any declination point in the sky, spanning both the northern and southern hemispheres. Once the targeted celestial object is within the telescope's field of view, the RA axis exclusively handles the tracking process.

To accommodate the dynamic nature of astronomical observations, most mounts are equipped with adjustment motors on both axes. These motors facilitate minor corrections essential for maintaining accurate tracking throughout the imaging session. Historically, these adjustments were manually executed, requiring careful intervention by the observer. However, with advancements in technology, these fine-tuning processes are now seamlessly executed by an autoguider system.

The Autoguider system represents a pivotal evolution in mount control, automating the intricate adjustments needed for precise tracking. This technological innovation enhances the overall efficiency of the tracking process, allowing astronomers and astrophotographers to focus on capturing the awe-inspiring details of the cosmos without the need for manual interventions.


The fork mount stands as the second most prevalent choice for amateur astrophotography, offering a distinct design compared to the German Equatorial mount. Fundamentally an Altitude-Azimuth mount, akin to a Dobsonian in its basic configuration, the fork mount undergoes a transformative enhancement with the incorporation of an adjustable wedge. This modification elevates its functionality beyond mere tracking, rendering it suitable for astrophotography applications.

The introduction of an adjustable wedge serves as the pivotal modification, effectively converting the Azimuth into the RA axis, and the Altitude assumes the role of the Dec axis. Through skillful adjustment of the wedge angle, observers gain the capability to align the azimuth bearing with the latitude of their observing site. This enhancement ensures optimal positioning and orientation of the telescope, facilitating precise tracking and imaging of celestial objects throughout their apparent motion in the night sky.


Regardless of the mount chosen, the imperative step in your astrophotography setup involves performing a precise polar alignment. This aligns the Right Ascension (RA) axis with the Celestial pole corresponding to your hemisphere. The Northern Hemisphere enjoys a distinct advantage with the presence of Polaris, which is conveniently close to the North Celestial Pole, simplifying this alignment process significantly.

In the accompanying diagram, the crosshair denotes the celestial pole, while the circle with calibration marks serves as a guide to facilitate accurate polar alignment for the Northern Hemisphere. Embracing the convenience afforded by modern technology, enthusiasts can use mobile applications such as Polar Finder Pro, as shown below. This app provides a polar clock displaying the position of Polaris within the calibration circle. Aligning Polaris with this designated spot ensures a fundamental polar alignment, particularly well-suited for instruments with shorter focal lengths.


For photographers in the Southern Hemisphere, the process of achieving polar alignment involves utilizing the stars surrounding the much fainter Sigma Octans as a guiding asterism to locate the pole. Employing a polar clock application is instrumental in determining the orientation of this asterism for the selected date and time. By rotating the reticle in the polar scope to correspond with the figure displayed on your mobile device, you establish the foundational alignment. Unlike Polaris, under suburban skies this group of stars can be difficult to locate.

Once this initial adjustment is completed, the next step involves locating the asterism and fine-tuning the Altitude-Azimuth (Alt-Az) controls located on the bottom of the equatorial head. These adjustments aim to position the stars within the circles delineated on the reticle, ensuring an accurate alignment that facilitates optimal tracking for celestial observations.

While the procedure may sound straightforward in theory, the practical execution can be challenging, often eliciting a range of emotions, perhaps even colorful language, especially during the initial attempts. Rest assured, persistence and familiarity with the process will contribute to a smoother experience over time. Practicing polar alignment is important and can be done on the evenings when the sky condition may not be optimal for photography. It is one of th fundamental skills required for astrophotography and mastery of it will ensure your enjoyment of the hobby.

We have covered the mount and we have covered the basic polar alignment, now let's look at putting it all together.

To enhance user-friendly navigation, the setup process is conveniently broken down into a series of sequential steps. These steps are thoughtfully arranged to facilitate the smoothest possible setup experience. It's worth noting that, while you may discover alternative orders for setup as you become more familiar, ensuring that all steps are covered will ultimately lead to a successful and efficient polar alignment

  1. Begin by situating the tripod legs on a stable surface. If you intend to set it up on sand or grass, it's advisable to acquire small stone or concrete discs measuring approximately 150mm (6in) in diameter and 25mm (1in) in thickness. Position these discs under the tripod legs for added stability.
  2. Ensure that the azimuth pin is oriented either towards the south or north, depending on your hemisphere. Utilize a compass to accurately align in the appropriate direction.  You will need to take the magnetic deviation into account. You can look up the current deviation for your location at NCEI Geomagnetic Calculators (
  3. Employ a spirit level to confirm the tripod is perfectly level, enhancing the overall performance of the mount. Check the level in both the North-South and East-West orientations. Achieving levelness may require multiple attempts, as adjustments in the North-South direction can impact the East-West level
  4. Begin by placing the Equatorial mount onto the tripod top, ensuring the azimuth pin aligns with the azimuth bolts on the equatorial head. Proceed to securely fasten the equatorial head to the tripod by tightening the primary locking shaft. Tighten both azimuth bolts on the equatorial head until they meet the azimuth pin on the tripod. Attach the eyepiece brace onto the primary locking shaft and elevate it into position using the large screw nut. This serves a dual purpose, functioning as both an eyepiece holder and a brace to prevent tripod leg movement during use. Picture2Picture2

  5. Lower the counterweight bar and remove the stopper bolt located at the bottom of the shaft. Proceed to affix the counterweights; if you have two, position one in the middle of the shaft and the other at the base. In the case of three counterweights, place the third at the top of the shaft. After securely fastening the weight screws, reinsert the stopper bolt at the bottom of the bar to complete the process. Picture3Picture3

  6. Loosen the bolts securing the dovetail saddle on the top of the equatorial head. This enables you to effortlessly position the telescope onto the mount. Lift the telescope onto the equatorial mount and firmly secure it in place by tightening the dovetail saddle bolts.

  7. Arrange all the accessories intended for the visual/photographic session on the telescope. This step ensures effective balance on the mount. Include cables, finder and guider scopes, camera or eyepieces, and your control box (e.g., ASIAIR, EAGLE).

  8. Ensure all bolts securing the telescope to the mount are tightened, guaranteeing a secure setup. While securing the telescope or counterweights, Loosen the RA clutch bolt on the equatorial head to allow the telescope to swing around the main axis. The objective is to assess the balance between the scope and counterweights. If the scope tends to swing downward, the mount may be imbalanced, potentially too heavy at the scope end. Conversely, if there is no movement, it indicates a potential imbalance with the mount being too heavy at the counterweight end.                   Picture4Picture4

  9. With the RA clutch bolt still loosened, rotate the scope around the RA axis to the 90-degree position where the counterweights and telescope are level. Gently release pressure and observe the mount's tendency to rotate.

    a. If the telescope rotates down, indicating an imbalance with the scope end being heavier, manually return the telescope to the top of the mount's rotation and lock the RA clutch. Adjust the balance by lowering the counterweights on the shaft. Place the second weight closer to the lower one, approximately half the distance, and secure it with the thumb screw. Loosen the RA clutch and return to step 7. Continue adjusting the position of the second counterweight until achieving a proper balance. If the scope remains unbalanced with two counterweights together, consider introducing a third weight if available. If three weights were initially placed on the shaft, lower one until balance is achieved.

    b. If the counterweights rotate down, indicating an imbalance with the counterweight end being heavier, manually return the telescope to the top of the mount's rotation and lock the RA clutch. Correct the balance by raising the counterweights on the shaft. Move the lower weight up closer to the middle weight, about half the distance, and secure it with the thumb screw. Loosen the RA clutch and return to step 7. Adjust the position of the lowest counterweight until achieving a proper balance. If two counterweights together still result in imbalance, consider removing one of the weights.

    c. If the telescope and counterweights remain stationary, congratulations, you have successfully achieved balance.                                             Picture5Picture5

  10. After achieving balance in the RA axis, proceed to balance the scope in the Declination axis:

    a. While holding the telescope, loosen the Declination clutch and rotate the scope 90 degrees to position it at right angles to the main shaft of the mount. If the top end of the telescope tends to rotate down, indicating an imbalance, manually return the telescope to the starting position and lock the DEC clutch. Hold the telescope assembly and then slightly loosen the dovetail saddle bolts securing the telescope to the mount, allowing the dovetail bar on the telescope to shift lower in the mounting. Adjust it approximately 1cm and secure the dovetail mount bolts again. Once the telescope is secured, repeat step 10. Continue adjusting the position of the telescope dovetail bar in the bracket on the top of the mount until balance is achieved.

    b. If the back end of the telescope rotates down, indicating an imbalance with the back end being heavier, manually return the telescope to the starting position and lock the DEC clutch. Slightly loosen the Dovetail Mount bolts securing the telescope to the mount, allowing the dovetail bar on the telescope to move higher in the mounting. Adjust it about 1cm and secure the dovetail mount bolts again. Once the telescope is secured, repeat step 10. Keep adjusting the position of the telescope dovetail bar in the bracket on the top of the mount until the balance is achieved.

    c. If the telescope remains stationary, congratulations, you have successfully achieved balance in both the RA and Declination axes.

  11. Return to the RA axis and verify that the adjustments made to the Declination axis have not affected the balance. Recheck the balance of the RA axis and, if necessary, repeat steps 7 to 10. Once both axes are satisfactorily balanced, you are now prepared to commence your polar alignment.

  12. Connect the main power cable to the designated connection on the equatorial head, ensuring there is some slack in the cable to accommodate the mount's movement throughout the night. Attach the hand controller of the mount to the labeled port and power on the system briefly to confirm the correct connections. Avoid leaving it on to conserve power, especially if you are operating from a portable power supply.

  13. At the base of the equatorial head, where it meets the tripod, locate the gauge ranging from 0 to 90 degrees. This gauge signifies the altitude angle of the main RA shaft of the mount. Consult your mobile phone or computer to determine the latitude of your observation location. Utilize the altitude adjustment screws to raise or lower the mount angle to match your specific latitude. Once this adjustment is made, you can maintain this altitude setting for subsequent observations at the same location.                                                                                                             Picture6Picture6

  14. Utilizing a compass and considering the current magnetic deviation, adjust the azimuth bolts to rotate the main shaft of the mount, aligning it precisely with your relevant pole.

  15. The standard setup of the mount is now completed including the rough alignment. To finish the polar alignment, you will need to wait till dark as you will need to see the stars around the pole itself

This concludes part 2 of Shooting with a Telescope. The next installment will be about the Telescope itself.









(Andrew Murrell Photography) Andrew Murrell Photography Astrophotography Deepsky galaxy Nebula Nikon Photography stars telescope Thu, 18 Jan 2024 11:39:49 GMT
Shooting with a Telescope Part 1 Overview I have been involved in astronomy for almost 50 years. As mentioned in a few blog posts, I began photography about five years later. I have been capturing both the Milky Way and some of the larger deep-sky objects using a camera and lens. However, it wasn't until about four years ago that I started shooting with a telescope. The learning curve has been steep. I've had to learn how to set up the mount, polar align it, focus the telescope, capture the images, take calibration shots, and, finally, put it all together during the image processing stage.


I must also caution you that astrophotography can become a slippery slope. Initially, you acquire a mount, thinking that's all you need since you already have a camera and a few good lenses. However, as you strive for better details, you find yourself wanting a longer focal length. So, you invest in a small telescope that perfectly fits your mount. Soon enough, you become dissatisfied with the colors in your nebula images compared to others. This leads you to explore proper astro cameras. Simultaneously, the desire for longer exposures prompts you to consider a guidescope and guide camera, implementing an auto guider. Despite your efforts, the nebula colors still don't meet your expectations, prompting another look at astro cameras. Before you know it, you've made your choice. As you progress, you realize that the mount, initially perfect for the small refractor and your camera, is starting to seem inadequate. You begin pushing the weight limits of the mount. Dealing with dew becomes a genuine annoyance, urging you to seek a control solution. One night, frustrated with a camera that refuses to cooperate, you log on to your favorite store and impulsively order that desired astro camera. And just like that, you've made the purchase. Now comes the tricky part – how do you keep this acquisition a secret from your partner?


You can observe how this unfolded, and it's not a theoretical scenario. Anyone who has delved into the captivating world of astrophotography can confirm the narrative I just described. However, don't be alarmed; the joy and fulfillment far surpass the challenges. Engaging in this hobby allows you to walk away with breathtaking images of the sky and gain some insights into our place in the universe.


Deep sky astrophotography involves the art of tracking stars using a mount, a telescope, and a camera. It entails combining multiple images of the same celestial object in a computer. While it may sound straightforward, it becomes more manageable with time. I'll delve into the equatorial mounts I own, specifically an EQ-5 equivalent and an EQ-6R. Additionally, I'll explore cameras, including DSLR or mirrorless options, and dedicated astro cameras. I'll discuss the distinctions among various telescope types and offer guidance on optimizing their performance. Finally, I'll guide you through the post-processing of images, covering multiple programs and accessories that enhance the ease and satisfaction of this type of photography. Anticipate that this series will span about six blog posts in total. I hope you find it intriguing and will return for more discoveries.

The image below showcases the Lagoon Nebula M8 and represents an early shot using the equipment depicted at the top. It features an Orion Sirius mount with the Orion ED80 and the Nikon Z6II. This composite comprises 20 shots of 3 minutes each, combined using DeepSky Stacker and Photoshop. Shot in July 2021.

IMG_2456IMG_2456 The image presented below captures the Lagoon Nebula, utilizing the equipment depicted in the second image. Employing a Skywatcher EQ6-R mount alongside the 8" Quattro f4 Newtonian telescope, equipped with the ASI2600MC Pro camera, guidescope, and ASIAIR Plus, this composite comprises 60 images, each with a 3-minute exposure. Calibration frames were used and processed through DeepSky Stacker and Photoshop. The data was captured on April 22nd, resulting in the finalized image.


The image featured below showcases the Lagoon Nebula, captured using the equipment depicted in the second image. The imaging setup includes a Skywatcher EQ6-R mount, an 8" Quattro f4 Newtonian telescope equipped with the ASI2600MC Pro camera, guidescope, and ASIAIR Plus. This composite comprises a total of 120 images, each with a 3-minute exposure. Calibration frames were included using Pixinsight and Photoshop. The data was acquired on July 23, resulting in the final rendition of the image.


Continuous practice and learning contribute significantly to the improvement of your astrophotography images. While the enhancement of skills in post-production plays a crucial role, it is noteworthy that progress is not solely dependent on acquiring superior equipment, although such upgrades can indeed make a difference. Notably, I have upgraded from an 8" to a 12" f4 telescope with an extended focal length, further refining my capabilities.

I am pleased to share that these efforts have been recognized, as demonstrated by a recent Silver award in the Bintel Astrophoto competition. The awarded image showcases the Tarantula Nebula, specifically NGC2070, attesting to the positive impact of both continuous learning and equipment upgrades on the quality of astrophotography achievements.



I am also particularly proud of my latest image taken in November of the Nebula NGC1763 in the LMC.


This marks the inception of a brief series of posts dedicated to the art of capturing images with a telescope mounted on a tracking-style mount. Throughout this series, I plan to provide a comprehensive overview of my chosen mounts, shedding light on the challenges and obstacles I encountered in the process. I aim to share insights gained from my experiences over the past 3-4 years, offering valuable shortcuts and strategies to navigate potential difficulties.

Additionally, I will impart essential background knowledge, providing a solid foundation for individuals venturing into this realm. Whether you are a novice or a seasoned enthusiast, these posts are crafted to equip you with the practical know-how needed to embark on your astrophotography journey. Stay tuned for a wealth of information and insights in the upcoming posts.

Clear Skies.


(Andrew Murrell Photography) Andrew Murrell Photography Astrophotography Deepsky Nebula Nikon Photography Fri, 12 Jan 2024 08:11:26 GMT
1 Year with the Z6II DSC_2547DSC_2547

Some time ago I wrote a post about my initial impressions of the Nikon Z6II. I have now had the camera for over 12 months, and I thought it was time for a follow-up, so here is 1 year with the Z6II.


Points I like

  • Amazing low light focus, even on stars. This still amazes me, no other camera I have come across has the low light focus to the same degree as the Z6II (Z9??) Not only have I accurately focused on stars but getting the shots at a wedding in low light is easy now. It is accurate if a little slow.
  • Sensational Dynamic Range. Having used the camera at Weddings, Concerts, Landscapes and Nightscapes I have discovered just how good the dynamic range on the camera is. I can recover highlights and pull-out shadow details even better than the D5 files. The details are clean with no banding or noise.
  • An easy to navigate menu and control system. Nikon has always had a sensible menu system with a selection in the spots you would expect. You have a degree of customization better than previous cameras but not so complicated that you don’t use the features. The custom buttons and controls are all in easily accessible locations and are easy to get used to making shooting much easier.
  • Much lighter than my D5. The beauty of the Mirrorless system is its size and weight. We are all getting older and speaking for myself I have arthritis in both my hand. The substantially lighter weight affords me a comfortable shooting experience on long jobs like Weddings.
  • The extended exposure times, up to 15 minutes. This is a great feature for long exposure photography. It can also be utilised with the Multiple Shot mode to create in-camera star trails or lightning shots in the lighten mode.
  • Bright and easy EVF that’s big. This was one of the features that took a little while to get used to but once you have you don’t want to go back. The feedback from the sensor makes it easy to compensate for the exposure as it shows the image as it will be taken. The detailed information available via the viewfinder is also a great advantage. Lastly, it is an enormous help when trying to manual focus the camera. Also, I have noticed other brands seem to lose resolution during focus via the EVF, Nikon does not suffer this issue.
  • Tilt LCD screen. While not a fully-articulated screen like some of the competition the tilt still makes composition easier in landscape mode.


Points I didn’t like but have now changed my mind due to use or update.

  • The tracking focus loses its target. Originally this was a feature I wasn’t using as I found the Nikon jumped around or didn’t react fast enough. Nikon has released several updates to the focus system in the camera and each has been a great improvement. The tracing is now “stickier” and reacts to changing distance much better. It still misses about 3 shots in every 10 but it is much better than the original firmware version. Still not as good as my D5 but the Z9 looks like it smashed that.
  • The Eye focus seems a bit hit and miss. The improvement with this feature was a combination of learning to use the camera more effective and firmware upgrades. I found the eye focus to improve as I used it, due to learning the system. One of the issues was it didn’t pick up the eye at the same distance as the competition. Once I realised this wasn’t necessary, I found it better. Several firmware upgrades have improved both the eye detection at distance as well as the accuracy of the focus.
  • The LCD screen dims too fast while you are trying to focus on Astro. This issue was really a user fault. Not setting the camera up correctly along with not knowing the camera properly. I have no issue with the dimming of the LCD now.
  • Battery life does seem a little quick. Again, this was more a user fault. No, it doesn’t have the life of a DSLR camera, but the DSLR doesn’t offer the features and convenience of the Mirrorless camera. Once I set the camera controls up correctly, I found the battery to last far better than I originally thought.


Points I don’t like.

  • The back buttons do not light up like the D5 and D500.  This little missing feature does still irritate me as I know how convenient they are.
  • Brief instruction guides in the box. This again is a little annoying thing as I have the books for all my other Nikon Cameras. While typically a dry read they are quite useful to refer to occasionally.  
  • The camera goes into sleep model to easily make you miss the shot. I originally had this listed as a point of hate about the camera. This is another point where knowing the camera has helped. A combination of incorrect initial setup and not being completely familiar with the camera and its controls.

Points I hate.

  • Nothing.


As I mentioned I have had the Z6II for over a year now and It has had considerable use. Out of curiosity I checked the shutter count of the camera and discovered it was at 67,741. Which averages about 170 shots every day I have had the camera. In that time, I have shot Several Weddings (covid reduced), a few events in the Hunter Valley (Covid reduced), a Sunrise and or sunset almost every day for the year and lots of nightscapes and Astro deep sky images. It has even shot several time-lapses. Every photographic session has been a joy to shoot because of the camera. It feels comfortable in my hand, the controls are all inaccessible locations and the viewfinder is big and very detailed.  I discovered several fun features by playing with the camera like shooing the star trail in-camera by selecting the multiple shoot mode “lighten” and 10 shots. Set the exposure time to 15 minutes, by the end of the 10th shot you have a star trail image 150minutes duration. No requirement to build the image in photoshop, it’s all done in-camera.


The low light performance of the camera is amazing. I typically shoot my nightscape images at 3200 in light-polluted areas and 6400 under good skies. My D5 performed like this but few cameras I have seen can compete with the Z6II and it still retains a good Dynamic Range at this high ISO. Shadow detail can be recovered nicely with little to no colour noise, Banding, Halo, or grain at these ISO. I personally prefer to capture my images in a single RAW file, and this works in my favour, even better than my D5.  Focusing in low light was one of the features I loved during the initial review and it has improved with age for me as I understand the camera better now and Nikons Updates have improved the performance even more.


The improvement to the Eye Focus function via firmware updates has improved the camera and ensures the focus is exactly where I want it. The firmware update, which I highly recommend you do, has made it feel like a new camera in that regard. The Eye is now detected further from the camera than the original release version. While I don’t think this is totally necessary it does help with longer focal length lenses. The focus system still falls short of the distance that the competition detects an eye at but that is not an issue regardless of what anyone implies. The camera swaps from Eye to face detection which is faster and easier, and it is well with the DOF focus limits of even a 60mp camera with fast lenses. Also interesting is the resolution of the EVF doesn’t change during focus like some of the other Mirrorless cameras.


The weather sealing is excellent, I have been caught out several times in heavy rain and still got the shot. Dew is also not an issue; I have used the camera several times attached to my telescope during some very heavy dew nights and the camera has never missed a beat. I do find the rubber guards on the camera ports to be a little fiddly though, you need to really push them closed. The control, layout of the camera is great as well. Every control I require for day-to-day shooting is easily at my fingertips. I can control the camera, once familiar with the layout, without even removing my eye from the viewfinder. The layout is very similar to several recent Pro bodies like the D5 and the D850. The customisation allows even easier control via the function buttons where almost any camera function can be selected. Like all Pro bodies, the camera only has the M.A.S.P, not entirely convenient for a beginner though.


The battery life for mirrorless cameras has always been an issue for many people including myself. No, they don’t last as long as an average DSLR, but they don’t run down as fast as a lot of people fear. I have shot an entire wedding with the Z6II on 3 full batteries which is not that far off the DSLR which in my experience was about 2.5. The really great thing with the Z6II is the ability to charge and run the camera via the USB port. A big capacity backup battery would power the camera for an entire night star trail, something impossible with my previous DSLRs. The charging on the run is also convenient for active and time-poor people.


After one year’s use, there are not many bad things I can say about the camera. The camera is light in weight but not in features or performance. The high ISO outperforms all other cameras I have seen. While the Eye focus is not as comprehensive as the competition, I have no complaints about its performance. The EVF is bright, large, and detailed, a perfect accompaniment for the camera and doesn’t break down during focus like some of the other cameras.


I love the Z6II for me it is almost the perfect camera. I can’t wait to get hold of my Z9 to see if Nikon achieved perfection this time


(Andrew Murrell Photography) Andrew Murrell Photography landscape mirrorless Nightscapes Nikon Nikon Z6II Photography Wedding Photography Z6II Mon, 07 Feb 2022 11:24:07 GMT
The Z6II initial impressions. Initial impressions of the Nikon Z6II

North AvocaNorth Avoca


Points I like

  • Amazing low light focus, even on stars.
  • Sensational Dynamic Range.
  • An easy to navigate menu and control system
  • Much lighter than my D5
  • The extended exposure times, up to 15 minutes
  • Bright and easy EVF that’s big.
  • Tilt LCD screen


Points I don’t like

  • The tracking focus loses its target
  • The Eye focus seems a bit hit and miss
  • The back buttons do not light up like the D5 and D500 I already have.
  • The LCD screen dims to fast while you are trying to focus for Astro
  • Battery life does seem a little quick
  • Brief instruction guide in the box



Points I hate

  • The camera goes into sleep model to easily make you miss the shot



I have had the Nikon Z6II for a little over 3 weeks now and I have used it for several different types of shoots. I have shot my sunrise images with it almost every day since I first received the camera. It has been used for several Astro shoot sessions including both wide nightscape images and deep-sky shots taken on my Star Adventurer. We have had several storms during the time which I have caught taken both single shots, attached to a Miops Smart lightning trigger and several timelapse sequences. I have even used it to capture a business opening event. Each time I have used the camera I have discovered something new about it.


I normally shoot with a D5, so I am used to a heavy, high-performance camera. The Z6II impressed me the moment I took it out of the box. I ordered the camera with the FTZ adapter, the 85mm f1.8 lens in Z mount and the MB-N11 battery grip. The packaging was comprehensive, but I found the small user manual more like a quick guide than the usual instruction book that has come with all my other Nikon Cameras. The first few shots were taken of my wife, the family dog, and various shots around the house. I marvelled at the EVF display, its big, bright and can display a variety of data including histogram, shoot details and level. The automatic switching between rear screen and viewfinder is responsive and quite quick. I had hoped it may have included the highlight warning display as I find that especially useful on the rear screen. I tent to switch between the level and the histogram while using the EVF.

Another great initial observation is the overall weight of the camera. As mentioned above I usually shoot with a D5 and that is a heavy camera. The Z6II is much lighter in comparison especially if I use the 85mm Z mount lens. The equivalent lens I have for the D5 is the Sigma Art 85mm f1.4. The combined weight is considerably less, a great bonus if you are shooting a 12+ hour wedding.


The focus system has its ups and downs so let me start with the ups.

Stars! This camera focuses automatically on stars and not just the brightest ones. I tested this several times and found that each time it works amazingly. I put the 85mm on the camera and started to pick out numerous deep sky objects in the camera via the EVF. Orion Nebula, Eta Carina, LMC and SMC, the Jewel Box, and the Pleiades to name a few. No other camera I have ever tested or used could do this. I then used the camera to focus on stars the way I normally do via the LiveView display and zooming in. I had no trouble in picking up stars and could use the fainter ones to guarantee good focus. Again, this was the easiest focus system I have ever used for this purpose. I then discovered I could zoom in not just on the LiveView screen but the EVF as well. After testing this on a couple of the deep sky objects again I set out to take some nightscape images. Unfortunately, clouds started to infect the sky, but I did manage to capture several images for review. The next time we went out to capture the night sky I still was amazed by the camera’s performance at focus both in auto and via the LiveView/EVF. This time I noticed that the nightscape view in the EVF appeared more detailed than what I could see with the eye. I was in an urban area with a Bortle 4 sky, but I could see the landscape beautifully to compose. I set my camera up and started to shoot. Once I had a composition, I liked I started to use another of the camera’s great features, the longer exposure times. The Nikon Z6II allows for exposure times to extend beyond the usual 30 seconds up to 15 minutes selected on the camera. I tried a 15-minute in-camera star trail to see what it would be like. I needed to lower the ISO to compensate but the results were fantastic.


Another up in the focus system is the pinpoint mode. You can change the single point focus down to a small area. This allows you to select the eye in most portrait situation. It would also be perfect for locking onto small objects like birds and flowers with a busy background.

Now for the focus system downs.

I had the opportunity to capture a martial arts session with a Nikon Workshop and I tested the camera on its tracking and face/eye detection focus. For static subjects, the cameras focus performed beautifully. The new focus mode where you can select a small box where the camera is looking for a face made it easy to compose my portrait style shots. The eye focus locked on and tracked the slow movement well. Unfortunately, once the action speeds up it lost contact, especially if the subject turned away from the camera. The focus would get lost and I missed shots. I would estimate that out of every 10 shots I would have about 6 keepers that were spot on, 1 that was very usable and 3 that were off to a varying degree. That is not too bad but unfortunately, I am used to the D5 where almost every shot would be spot on. So, I found that a little disappointing.


The ISO performance of the camera is amazing. The D5 is the king of ISO but I find the Z6II is quite comparable. The images are clean shot at up to 6400, the shadow detail does show a little extra noise when pushed a little but that is understandable. Portraits shot at night at 1600 show detail and are clean. The dynamic range still seems wide when shooting at the high ISO as well.



Speaking of Dynamic Range, the camera performs amazingly with difficult light landscapes. My wide FF lenses are the 20mm Sigma and the 14mm Samyang currently. Both lenses require the 150mm filter system which I have ordered. I have been shooting my landscapes filter-free and I am finding that as long as I expose for the highlights, I can adjust the shadows beautifully without adding excessive noise.  


Navigating around the controls of the camera are easy with the full access touch controls. The customisable information display allowed me to set up the camera for my use. Making it easy to change the focus system, metering, white balance, and image quality in seconds. The 2 front function buttons are easily accessible and easy to set as well. My only disappointment is the buttons are not backlit like the ones on the D5 and D500. That small addition would have made a world of difference for me as I use them all the time on my other camera. The top LCD display I find I am using more than on my D5 as it can be read at night. this display not only shows the settings of the camera but the time remaining on the longer exposures.

It's not all roses though, there are a few issues I’m not entirely happy with, Some will be because I am not used to the camera properly, some because I haven’t set it up correctly and some appear to be associated with Mirrorless cameras in general.

Firstly, is the concern everyone seems to have regarding Battery life. While the Z6II works amazingly I do find I am going thru a battery faster than I would like. I will admit that is not exactly a fair assessment as I am used to the D5 battery life. When I compare the battery life between the Z6II and my D500, I am comparing the same battery the ENEL15. The D500 lasts longer but not by much. The Z6II does take the new version “C” battery which allows it to be charged via USB and holds about 15% more charge at 22ooMhr as opposed to 1900Mhr of the D500.  With a few spare batteries, I purchased an extra 2 with the camera, you should not have any issues.

Secondly, I find the LCD and EVF screen dim before putting the camera to sleep. This does seem like an ok feature, but it does it too fast. I find this most annoying at night while either focusing or composing my nightscape and Astro images. The standby timer is set to 1 minute to conserve battery life, but the screen dims about 10 seconds earlier. The next setting is 5 minutes which I think is too long. A 2-minute selectable time would be better in my opinion.

This point leads directly into the third issue I have which for me is the most annoying. I want to conserve my battery life as much as possible, so I have my standby set to 1 minute. Unfortunately, when the camera goes into standby you need to wake the camera up before it will shoot. For my landscape images where I am waiting for a moment, that moment may not come for several minutes. The wakeup time is quite fast, but you need to double press the shutter to get a shot. I hope that a future release may include a setting where it will wake and capture a shot from a single press.  I do not want to keep changing the standby timer in the camera to 5 minutes.


As I mentioned at the start this is a Quick review of the camera after only 3 weeks observation and use. I felt it unnecessary to mention the RAW file read issues as Photoshop and capture one is responsible for that. But there are a few workarounds if you have the camera and would like to know. Overall, I am extremely impressed with the camera. The images are amazing, the focus is accurate for the type of shooting I normally do.  The dynamic range is impressive along with its low light performance. The EVF is a joy to use and the sensor readout makes it easy to get the shot right for both a beginner and an experienced photographer. The battery life could improve and the standby issues while a little annoying have not spoilt my enjoyment of this new camera. Nikon you have done am amazing job with this camera and with a few minor tweaks you could smash it for 6.

PS. One very curious thing about the Z6II camera. I register all of my cameras with Nikon NPS, this includes noting the Serial Number of the camera. My Z6II Serial Number is 7400554. The serial number for my Nikon D5 purchased over 3 years earlier and a completely different model camera is 7400553. The serial numbers a consecutive, what are the odds? This model Z6II was destined to be mine it would seem. 


(Andrew Murrell Photography) Andrew Murrell Photography Astrophotography Nightscapes Nikon Z6II Photography Review Wedding Photography Weddings Thu, 26 Nov 2020 00:09:33 GMT
Working the Dream As I mentioned somewhere on the site, I found a social media article asking what Job did you wanted to do as a kid, when you grew up? When I sat back and thought about that question I realised it was quite simple, either an Astronomer or a Photographer. As luck would have it I have made a name for myself in Astronomy and get paid to photograph weddings and events. I even get paid to teach photography. Exactly what my younger self wanted.


When I was 8 I fell in with Astronomy. One evening I saw a bright star next to the Moon and wondered what it was. My brother had received a telescope for Christmas the year before and while I wasn't allowed to use it, He wasn't there to say no. I set the scope up and after a while hunting I found the Moon and it looked amazing. The surface was pockmarked with craters of various sizes spaced between large flat slightly darker regions. One bright crater with lines running away from it really caught my eye. Most of the craters were found near the spot where the Moon appeared to "stop". I couldn't see the rest of the disk of the Moon but I do remember seeing a few bright stars just beyond the Moon. I now know this is called the terminator, the region where night and day meet.


Over the course of the Lunar cycle, you can watch this line move night to night with the eye. Once I had my fill of the Moon I wanted to see what that bright star looked like. It took me some time to find it, but once I did I was hooked. The star turned out to be Saturn, the sight of that planet amazed and enthralled me. You could see the rings quite clearly as well as a small star right next to it. At the time I didn't know it but that star was one of Saturn's satellites, Titan. From then on everything was about Astronomy, age 8 and I knew that the stars were like out Sun just much further away. I found I could see the 2 main cloud belts of Jupiter, its 4 moons and an occasional glimpse of the enigmatic red spot. Now some 45 years later and I can still spend an evening just lying back and staring up at the stars. My knowledge and understanding of our place in the Universe may have improved but my sense of awe and wonder hasn't changed. A lot has changed over the 45 years, I purchased my first large scope in 1991, a 20" Galaxy mirror which took about 3 months to build the scope around the optics. More recently I became the custodian of an 18 and 25" Dobsonian scopes for 3 Rivers Foundation Australia. In 2007 I received one of the highest honours in amateur astronomy circles, The Lone Star Observers award at the prestigious Texas Star Party. I have watched 2 Solar Eclipses, seen the Mushroom cloud from a comet that crashed into Jupiter, and been among the first people to see the light from a Qasar about 10 Billion Lightyears away. My main achievement is the discovery of a Planetary Nebula, Murrell 1 or Mu1 in the constellation of Lupus in 2004. One of only a few people to have their name associated with an astronomical object. With the discovery of Mu1 my first childhood dream had been achieved, a discovery with my name on it.

0165_Pa33_fa0165_Pa33_faMurrell 1

By the age of 13 not only was I heavily into Astronomy but had taken an interest in Photography. My sister Kerrie was doing a diploma in the arts which included a Photography component. She had a Cosina CT1 for her course which she had by then completed and was looking to purchase her first serious camera, a Nikon. I inherited the Cosina from my sister and started to try and learn everything I could. It didn't take long for me to combine my love of Photography and Astronomy, first taking star trail images in long exposures and finally graduating to bolting the camera to the side of my telescope and hand guiding the telescope and camera for guided wide-field exposures of the Milky Way.


With help from my sister and a local Pro Photographer, Laurie Andrews, I started to learn how to capture images with varying success. Laurie suggested I write the settings as I take the images in a notebook for later reference, marking which images I liked with a tick. After a while, I started to see a correlation between how changing the aperture and shutter affected the image. Laurie also taught me how to develop and print my own B&W images. I purchased my first Nikon an EM in 1987 and have shot Nikon ever since. I stayed with film till 2005 when I purchased my first DSLR the Nikon D70. In Early 2010 I purchased my first D3s, a Pro body DSLR and the first camera I could finally catch a nightscape shot with the Milky Way. I had already started to shoot Weddings with my D300 but the D3s seemed to open the door to working with a camera. Not long after purchasing the camera, I started to shoot the entertainment images for Harrigans Irish Pub and the Hunter Valley Gardens. Weddings started to take off and by 2013 I was able to start making Andrew Murrell Photography my full-time work. I left Winning Appliances after 21 years in September 2013 and started Andrew Murrell Photography full time on the 6th of October 2013. As many of you know I started to shoot sunrise every day and by October 2020 I have caught over 2,500 sunrises.


In 2015 I found that I needed a little more human interaction. Photography is a lot of sitting in front of a computer. After speaking to my Miriam my wife, I decided to look for a few hours of work where I would have interactions with people. At that time John called me from John Ralph Camera House asking if I would be interested in a few days of work selling. I jumped at the chance. Not only do I help people make great choices with their own gear, I get to play with the new camera's and Lenses as they come in. In 2018 I won the Camera House photographer of the year competition.

NEF_4672NEF_46722018 Winning Image

My weddings number in the 100's with locations ranging from Paraonella Park in North Queensland, Gundagai NSW, The Hunter Valley and even Parramatta Gaol.


I can say after 15 years of shooting weddings and nearly 7 years full time I still love what I do. I couldn't think of doing another job and I think my teenage self would approve. 

Now in 2020, I run a series of Workshops aimed at combining Photography with Astronomy. I am being paid to do the things I love the most with people who have a similar urge to learn that drove me all those years ago.


What could be better? 

(Andrew Murrell Photography) Andrew Murrell Photography Astrophotography Nightscapes Photography Wedding Photography Weddings Tue, 27 Oct 2020 20:16:48 GMT
The Bush, the fire and the regeneration. Bucketty is a small rural community in the hinterland on the border between Central Coast and Cessnock Councils. It’s an historic area with several convict constructed roadworks from the Great North Road.  It’s an area I know quite well having set up my telescope in the Mogo Creek camp ground and because one of my best friends lives in the region with his family. He is a member of the local RFS and saw up close how devastating these fires were.


The fires reached the area by mid-December and after nearly a month I asked my friend if it would be ok to visit the area. I set off on the afternoon of the 9th January wanting to try and make it to the old camp ground. After driving past several other burnt out regions along the way I arrived at the St Albans Rd and set off into the bush or what was left of it. The left side of the track was the usual tangle of eucalyptus trees and scrub while the right was a wasteland of black and brown, no movement, no green, no sign of life. At least not as I was driving. About 2km along the road I found an old track leading away so I parked the car and decided to look around. When I got out of the car a strong smell I hadn’t noticed before assaulted me. It was not unpleasant and it was vaguely familiar. At first glance, the spot I had stopped at looked desolate just a mass of black ground and brown dried leaves. Looking a little further I saw a few splashed of green. When I inspected this I saw it was the new shoots from the Grass Trees that littered the bush here.


These green shoots screamed out life against the black and brown. Looking more around the region I found other signs of life. At the base of a burnt out tree I found some red leaves and growing directly from the ground. They reminded me of the Red Weed from the War of the Worlds novel.


Soon I was noticing more of these red leaves both on the ground and growing directly from the trunk of the burnt trees. The contract from the black charcoal of the trunk to the vibrant red fronds and leaves was quite dramatic. I realised that the colouring of the new shoots was probably an evolutionary trait to camouflage them in a forest that was designed to burn.

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Soon enough I found the odd lucky survivor, a small stunted eucalypt and a small bush that appeared to be totally unburnt in the middle of the devastation.

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When wandering about I found several signs of human intervention. A few broken and now melted bottles, some old cans, a cluster of abandoned tins of paint and to my surprise a fairly recent model car.

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How it came to be in the location it was in was anyone’s guess, with no clear path several rock drops uncovered by the flames and trees too close to even allow it to be driven in. You could see that it had taken quite a beating from the flames. Glass shattered and then slumped into some new shapes, the alloy wheels on one rear side were burnt away completely while another had completely melted and run into a pattern on the sand. A third rim was almost completely untouched except the rubber of the tyre had melted and burnt away leaving only the steel cables behind. Small splashes of melted aluminium from some of the cars trim were splattered over a rock.

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Its freshly rusted surface I noticed blended into the colour of the landscape as effectively as the fresh shoots from some of the trees.



In all I spent about 2 hours wandering around the area. I eventually identified the strong odour I noticed when I first arrived, it was a combined scent of fire ash which I find pleasant and eucalyptus oil. I found the smell to be uplifting in an otherwise sombre scene.



(Andrew Murrell Photography) Andrew Murrell Photography bushfire landscape Photography rejuvenation renewal Fri, 10 Jan 2020 00:57:39 GMT
Silly mistakes Photographers make. We all make mistakes. The local group I shoot with, "Social Sunrise" know me well enough now to know that if someone was to have an issue with forgetting something it would be me.

As I have mentioned I have been into Photography for quite a while now. In this time I have had many adventures that have come to an abrupt end due to silly mistakes. I check and recheck my gear when I shoot for a job, I have a checklist that I use to make sure I cover all the essentials, but what happens when I just grab my bag and run out to do a quick private shoot? I believe any photographer that says I never forget anything is not being completely honest. Here are a few of the tings that have caused me grief over the years.

Memory Cards:- These little things can make your sunset shoot grind to a halt very quickly. Either you have used all the cards that are normally in your bag or the card is full and you haven't downloaded what's on it and don't have enough room left for anything more than 2 shots. I could give you a long list of other Photographers I have had to borrow cards from while out in the field. What's even worse now is Nikon has changed cards to XQD on the camera I shoot with and no one will have a spare one just in their bag to act as a loan. I have also had several SD cards fail both when formatting or while shooting, usually resulting in a complete loss of the shots you have already taken. The worst mistake I have made so far with Memory Cards has been dropping the card wallet complete with half a dozen 64gig fast cards and four XQD 64gig cards, and not realise I had done it. About a $1000 cards lost. To fix this issue I have started to put a spare SD memory card in the coin pocket of my wallet. You just need to remember to replace it when you use it.

Batteries:- Another item that can bring the festivities to a stop in a hurry. Let's see, forgetting to charge, faulty so it doesn't hold a charge, leaving the house without a battery because they are on charge, knowing you put a fully charged battery in the camera to find it flat when you start to shoot. I have done it all. Luckily both Canon and Nikon have multiple cameras that use the same battery so you can sometimes get lucky and find a friend who has one you can borrow. This happened on a recent Saturday "Social Sunrise", the battery I thought was almost full was almost flat instead. Luckily one of the group had a spare battery I could borrow for the shoot, Thanks Merrillie. To fix this particular issue I have left a battery for my camera in the centre console of my car. It will only really help if I have the car with me but its better than nothing at all.

Tripods:- Well you can arrive without one. You can arrive without the quick release plate attached to the camera and don't have a spare. You can have the leg release clips start to loose tension and find that the tripod has collapsed on you. I have had all 3 of theses things happen to me over the last 6 years. The collapsed leg resulted in my main work camera, my D3s getting dumped into 2 feet of salt water during a 30 second exposure. Needless to say the camera didn't survive. I now carry at least 2 and sometimes 3 tripods in my car and all use the same Quick Release plate. I also purchase multiple Quick Release plates and put an extra in my bag and another in the centre console of the car along with the spare battery. Lastly I always try and keep the tension on the leg clamps right so I don't dump another camera. Oh and be careful when dogs, bats and other critters are around. Oh and waves as well.

Change of settings:-  Hand up those people who have been shooting a nightscape at high ISO and forgot to return the ISO to low for the next mornings Sunrise shoot. Keep them up if you have ever changed the camera to Jpeg shooting for shooting at the high frame rate only to forget to change it back to RAW when you're done. Not to mention accidently changing a setting like putting the camera into bracketing or putting in an exposure compensation, or starting your night timelapse shoot only to discover you have Long Exposure Noise reduction on. I personally had my hand up for all of these and I'm sure that unless your trying to kid yourself yours are up as well.  The only thing you can do here is either check the camera before you start to shoot or just accept the images you have captured. 

Location Locatiion Location:- We all try and select a good shoot location, one that offers a great vista and one that is usually safe. I know several people in the "Social Sunrise" group who have gotten wet over the years and that include the camera from various wave splashes or creeks and puddles over the years. Another location nemesis is sand, it can get into the camera and cause all sorts of problems. How about selecting the wrong paddock and being chased away by the local wildlife. One of my best (or worst if you want to look at it that way) location mistakes was shooting a panoramic image at the Koolewong boat ramp. Half way through the image I slipped and landed on my ass. I broke my coccyx's which I tell you is not fun especially as it was the 2nd time. All I can say is be mindful of your surroundings and if your shooting along the coast always keep one eye on the ocean.

Its not just the shooting side of things hat can go wrong. How many people have all their images on the Hard drive of the computer but no backup? Memory now is comparatively economical and easy to find. Go to Officeworks or JB and get yourself a backup hard drive. Put all of the important images you really want to keep on the backup. I'm a bit paranoid compared to most, I have the main drive, 2 full backups, and one offsite. I need to maintain all the Sunrise and Wedding images so multiple drives made sense to me. It wasn't always that way though. In 2009 I lost about 2 years of landscape and Astro photos because the drive I was using for those images failed and it was too costly to retrieve the data. My memory tells me I lost quite a few unique shots and I cant argue as I don't have the images anymore. 

Mistakes happen to everyone. By taking a few precaution you can minimise the impact those mistakes have on your shoot and in the long term storage of your precious images. But don't think you're alone in those little mistakes, everyone of us has don't something silly at some stage. Below is a quick list of some of the silly things I have done over the years.

  • Dropped a camera over the edge of the Grand Canyon (good story)
  • Dropped a 50mm f1.4 lens into Brisbane water
  •  Had a tripod leg collapse dumping the D3s into salt water at Soldiers Beach (not so good story)
  • Forgot my memory cards and had Grahame, Merrillie, Jaye Marie, David R, David W, Murry and even a complete stranger who recognised me from the local Camera House Shop come to my rescue.
  • Forgot a battery or had a flat battery and been able to carry on due to the generosity or Grahame, David R, David W, and Merrillie.
  • Forgot a tripod and looked like a real moron trying to get shots with my camera perched on a few rocks.
  • Forgotten quick release plates, unfortunately the plates I use are not the standard so I haven't had anyone able to come to my rescue so far.
  • Forgotten my remote control for a Timelapse shoot especially after having driven nearly 2 hours to get to the location.
  • I once drove 8 hours north to the top of Mt Kaputar for a week’s Astronomy and Photography only to discover I left the lenses at home.
  • I arrived at one of my workshop weekends without the keyboard and mouse for my computer.
  • Slipped while shooting a Panoramic image a broke my coccyx

That Grand Canyon story is a really good one though.

Let us know if you dare of any mistakes or problems you have had with any of your photography.

(Andrew Murrell Photography) Andrew Murrell Photography mistakes Photography problems Thu, 09 Jan 2020 12:29:06 GMT
Nightscapes, What, When, How. IMG_20180720_0004IMG_20180720_0004 June 1984 handguided 6 minutes ASA1600


From March to November an army of Photographers can be found wandering around in the dark trying to catch something that most people have never seen, the Milky Way. The changes in camera technology introduced with Nikon D3 allowed easily the capture of the night sky in all its glory with the landscape. Until this time the best we could manage was either a guided shot of the Milky Way itself or a start rail with the landscape.


I fell into Astronomy first at the age of 8 and Photography at 13. It was natural for me to want to combine the two and I became quite adept at first with taking star trails. Later as my scope became an equatorial, mount which could track the stars, I started to take shots of the Milky Way. I was almost alone in this endeavour. Yes there were other people shooting Deep Sky objects but it was rare to see the central bulge of the Milky Way captured. The film ratings in ASA were not good enough yet to capture true Nightscapes and I must admit I didn't try. If only we could go back in time and give it a try?

IMG_20180720_0005IMG_20180720_0005 Halleys Comet April 1986 handguided 6 minutes ASA1000


Eventually the thrill of capturing the Milky Way gave way to visual observing with larger and larger telescopes and the camera was left to shoot only daylight landscapes. This all happened between 1983 and 1990. My bias to visual observing became so strong that many people in the astronomical community whom I meet in the 90's still remark about me shoot the night sky.


I purchased my D3s in early 2010 and the reports of its Low light performance didn't do the camera justice. I had just gotten the shooting gig at Harrigan’s and had been shooting Weddings for about 5 years. I decided to purchase the D3s for those jobs but soon thought about trying the night sky. I had tried with my D300 I bought in 2007 but it ran into trouble at about ISO800 with noise. With the D3s I was able to shoot at ISO1600 cleanly and even up to 6400 with some acceptable noise. The trouble was at that time I didn’t have a fast wide lens. The 24-70mm f2.8 lens was good for aperture but I found the start trailing to occur before the landscape had a real chance to record. At the start I had to calculate the exposure time by trial and error, not a problem with digital, take a shot, have a look, and shoot again. The world of Nightscape shots really opened up for me in 2011 when I purchased my first 14mm f2.8 lens. Suddenly I was getting the amount of light I needed to capture the sky properly and an exposure time that allowed me to light paint the landscape. I experimented with different lenses and apertures and discovered the joy of narrowing the field of view and adjusting the exposure time down to suite. By late 2011 a small community of Nightscapes had sprung up and the rule of 600 was passed around. The rule of 600 worked in the early days due to the resolution of the sensors. Also in 2012 a number of affordable consumer DSLR cameras came out with a low light performance good enough to really start to shoot nightscapes. The community grew as cameras that could capture the Milky Way became more affordable. I already knew many people into astronomy both in Australia and abroad due to my visual observing and I was lucky enough to build friendships with some of the big names in Astrophotography. I found by 2014 that I was spending more time at my camera under the night sky than at the eyepiece of my telescope. I trailed a D4 when it came out and found it performed the same as the D3s so I didn’t upgrade the camera so I waited till the D5 was released.


A shot from 2011 near barrington tops.


So what does this army of Photographers do? That’s quite hard to say really but it would seem to me that they start by driving long miles to get to a dark sky, spoil their night vision by using an app to locate the Milky Way, and attempt to shoot it. Unfortunately Nightscapes are initially a lot harder to shoot than people think. What ISO do I use? How do I focus? Which Lens should I use? Why do the photos I see on Social Media look so much better than mine? How do I get the foreground sharp when I’m focused on the stars? These are just a few questions that need to be answered when you start to learn to shoot at night.


There are a lot of misconceptions about ISO and how to use it effectively. It also doesn’t help that camera manufacturers create some sensors that are ISO invariant and some that are not but that’s a story for another time. When you select an ISO in the camera you are selecting the sensitivity of the sensor to light. Unfortunately Nightscapes are not “light”. For any given ISO setting there is a minimum Noise level. When you take a nightscape image you are recording the image as a signal. It’s the ratio of Signal verses noise that determines how noisy your image will ultimately be. The more signal I can collect during the exposure the better the image will be. For Nightscapes you can’t just lengthen the exposure as you don’t want stars to trail. This is why it is recommended to have an f2.8 or faster lens.  I shoot with a 20mm f1.4 lens, this lens collects 4 times as much light as an f2.8 equivalent. Put another way if you shot the Milky Way with a 20mm f2.8 lens for 20 seconds and then another for 80 seconds and compared the two you would notice that while the stars did trail the landscape is recorded with much more detail, even to the point of not needing much or any light painting at all. The same shot taken by my camera at the same settings just the f.14 lens difference will look the same as your 80 second exposure just with no star trails. Much more signal without the need to “push” the image in Photoshop and therefore much less noise.


Focusing can be a challenge but there are a few tricks you can employ to make sure you get it right. The markings on your lens are rarely accurate so putting the lens to infinity won’t work, but it’s a good place to start. All cameras from 2012 have liveview as a function and it’s via liveview that you can focus you camera. Point the camera toward the night sky in the direction of some bright stars. Turn on the liveview setting and use the + to zoom into the image of the back screen. Make sure your aperture is as open as it can be. Once you find a star adjust the focus until the star is at its smallest. It’s even better if you notice some faint stars pop into visibility at this point as this can only happen if the stars are in focus. So what happens if you can’t see the stars on the back of the camera? Well there is a cheat you can use. Each lens has a distance at which infinite focus is reached and that is dependent of the focal length of the lens and the aperture you happen to be shooting at. For instance the 14mm Samyang reached infinite focus at about 3 meters away at f2.8. The Tokina 11-16 and 11-20mm lenses reach infinite focus at about 5 metres and my 20mm Sigma Art does it at approximately 10 metres. If you know the infinite focus distance for your lens (take the crop factor into account) then you know where to place your torch which should then be visible in your Liveview. The torch can also help you compose your shot especially if you are including a tree, house or anything interesting. Also if you make the main landscape focus further than your infinite focus the foreground and sky will all be in focus.


There are many lenses on the market and each is usually make for a purpose. To my knowledge no manufacturer creates a lens specifically for Astrophotography. I use a variety of lenses ranging from 14mm f2.8 Samyang, 20mm f1.4 Sigma Art, 35mm f1.4 Sigma Art, 50mm f1.4 Nikon, 85mm f1.8 Nikon and a 135mm f1.8 Sigma Art. I have even used my 70-200mm f2.8 on occasion. Each lens has a different look and need a different exposure time to get the image right. I use the rule of 500 to calculate the exposure time. The rule of 500 states that the focal length of the lens divided into 500 gives you the exposure time. Also when you calculate the exposure time you need to take the Crop factor into consideration. The rule of 500 will only give a rough estimate of the exposure time, it’s long and complicated but suffice to say 2 things determine the rules accuracy. First the closer you shoot to celestial pole in your hemisphere the better the rule of 500 works. And the larger the MP of your camera the more trailing you will see. (Beware you D850 users). As you can see by this a 14mm lens allows for a longer exposure time than a 20mm. As I mentioned above though the larger aperture works better at recording the image data. The difference between the 14mm f2.8 and a 20mm f1.4 is effectively just over 1 stop due to the longer exposure time. The wider the lens the better but also the wider the aperture. That’s why the Samyang 14mm f2.8 is the most popular lens for Astro. That also why I have a Nikon and a Canon version of the lens for people to borrow at my Astro workshops.


Social media is a great platform for people to gain ideas and to mix with people who have similar interests. Most of the Astro images posted on Instagram and Facebook have been processed.  I understand there is a group of people who believe that photography in its purest form does not need post processing. Get it right in camera is the war cry for this movement and while I do agree that you should get your images as close as possible in camera I also know that the way a digital camera works is not like the human eye. You must, I will say it again, you must post process the image. Nightscape images even more so. Firstly you have an underexposed image, secondly the colour balance will be way off as the camera can’t get a good WB unless you set it yourself. Even then it will need adjusting. Post processing your images can a bit like art if you let it. It’s your decision as to how much processing you wish to do. As I mentioned earlier in the post I started photography at 13 and I learnt how to work a darkroom. That’s where most of the terms and tools in Photoshop came from. A contact print made from one of my negatives would look completely different to the final print I showed people. Learn to love to post process your images but also learn when to call it quits.


The Milky Way becomes visible in the morning sky at the end of January and early February. By the beginning of March the Centre of the Galaxy is fully risen an hour before dawn.  In April you can start to shoot about midnight and by June the Milky Way in all its majesty is visible from Dusk till Dawn. (Just don’t let the vampires get you). By August its overhead and a magnificent slight if difficult to capture in the early evening but is hanging on its side near the horizon by dawn. By late October and early November the Milky Way lies now on the western horizon setting on its side almost parallel to the ground and by the end of November it’s gone again for another year. The constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius lie on the southern ecliptic this means that they rise in the east, so look for a good eastern horizon. The same goes for the setting Milky Way, look for a few nice foregrounds with a good westerly view. The Galactic centre is not the only thing worth shooting though. Just because its set doesn’t mean you have nothing to shoot. Try capturing the Magellanic Clouds, Satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. The Orion, Taurus and Monoceros regions and the area around the Southern Cross with Eta Carina.


While for many the pursuit of the Milky Way is a new and exciting phase of their photography career it can also be a rewarding one. It can take you to new places, challenge your skills, introduce you to new people and maybe educate you on the Universe around you. Astronomy is an amazing subject just like Photography and for me combining the 2 has been something I have been doing for almost 40 years. No one knows everything and I am still learning new techniques and tricks. If you would like to learn from someone with nearly 40 years’ experience with photography who is also an internationally known and awarded astronomer please send me a message.


(Andrew Murrell Photography) Andrew Andrew Murrell Photography Astrophotography Murrell Nightscapes Photography Post Processing Fri, 01 Mar 2019 06:51:32 GMT
Getting up to shoot sunrise every day. 22rd June22rd June If you have had a look at the Daily Sunrise section of my website you will have noticed that I have been shooting Sunrise every day since the 6th October 2013. For over 5 Years now I have been getting up early and going to a location to shoot the start of a new day. So many people have asked over the years the same questions.

How do I manage to get up day after day so early?

Don't you get bored shooting the same thing over and over?

When do you ever get a sleep-in?

What happens when you're sick?

Have you ever seen anything strange?

Aren't you afraid of? Dark, alone, slipping, accidents, animals etc. etc. etc.

Let me answer a few of these questions so I can give you an insight into the mind of a Photographer.

First of all, how do I manage to get up early every day? Easily, I love Photography and even after 5 years I still enjoy getting behind the lens. I have always been a person who can wake early to do things. In the past I would rise very early and take out my Telescope so I could observe the night sky. I worked in Sydney or Newcastle for 20 years and joined the masses as they migrated to those metropolitan centres for work. Being on a train during Sunrise was difficult to take some mornings as I wanted to watch and shoot. So when the opportunity presented itself in 2013 to quit the rat race and start my own business I jumped at the chance. Now I get up at the same times but I get to do something fun and interesting instead.

Don't you get bored shooting the same thing over and over? No. It’s not really the same thing over and over. Yes its sunrise but every sunrise is different. It can be a bit of a challenge when we have stretches of "no cloud" sunrises but on the whole each day is different. I also shoot at various beach and waterfront locations on the Central Coast. While I am familiar with the usual spots each locations has there are always spots that I haven’t reached or explored properly. Plus the beaches can vary from week to week and month to month. At the time of writing this Macmasters Beach is almost completely inundated with sand, most rocks and the pool are covered. A similar change has been seen at Killcare and Umina. These changes also make for interesting photography as they show the changes that occur in nature.

When do you sleep in? Never. Not exactly true, I have had a couple of days where my alarm, internal body clock or external alarm hasn't gone off. On those days I shoot the sunset. Also my Photography business has me working late some nights and it can be hard and dangerous to get up to shoot the next morning. My list of locations for Sunset is limited due to the orientation of the setting Sun. There are as you can see gaps in my shoot dates and they directly relate to the next question I get asked.

What happens when you're sick? In most cases I get up and shoot anyway. I have done so with Colds, Flu, Bronchitis, a broken coccyx, broken foot, back pain and headache. Occasionally the symptoms get too severe and I find that it's impossible to get up and shoot. In those instances I rely on a few people I know to supply images or I have gaps in my record.

Have you ever seen anything strange?  Yes but please define strange. There is a wide range to cover. I have been shooting sunrise on a beach with a couple doing things normally done behind closed doors a few feet away a couple of times. One of which happened on the esplanade in the middle of Cairns, the couple were interrupted by the arrival of the police. I have seen people hit by waves and been left skinny dipping even though that wasn't their intention. I have seen plenty of fisherman and a couple of Photographers caught by waves. For animals I have encountered Seals, Penguins and a Dolphin dive completely out of the water over the freshly risen sun. I have found beaches covered blue with Portuguese Man’o war, covered black with dead migrating Mutton birds. I have nearly been struck by lightning several times and anyone who knows me would not believe that I have had a hide, and I do mean hide, from a storm in a public toilet made from corrugated iron as it was still the safest place to be. So many rainbows they are beyond count although the best always come to mind, Waterspouts, Moonbows and several Bolide meteors. For atmospheric phenomena we have Crepuscular Rays, reverse Crepuscular Rays, Purple skies, Red Rain and on one occasion and amazing Brocken Spectre.

Aren't you afraid of....

The Dark? No, I’m into Astronomy and spend hours and days on my own in some weird and wonderful dark locations. While I’m not bothered by the dark I do find it a bit lonely and so I find I listen to music when I shoot. A good pair of headphones can work wonders, just don’t start to sing along.

Being alone? No not really I’m usually quite comfortable with myself and being a larger guy I feel that I would be safe from and "interesting" people I may run into. I find this one goes hand in hand with the Dark question.

Slipping on rocks and hurting myself? This used to be an issue and early in my days I wore sandshoes or gumboots while shooting. Both of which are not known for their grip on the rocks. My second broken coccyx occurred while I was shooting a Sunrise Panoramic at a slippery boat ramp. I discovered the rock boots from BCF about 4 years back and I have only worn them ever since. I now feel safe while walking over any rock platform on the coast.. 

Accidents?  Mainly see above but there are other accidents that can occur. Dropping the camera onto rocks or into water (done that), have a Car accident (done that) require an unexpected and Urgent loo break (done that). Things happen, that’s life. To stop doing something you enjoy because something bad may happen will prevent you from doing anything. While I won’t say ignore the danger I will say to treat it with respect but don’t let it stop you. And as a side suggestion always carry toilet paper either in the car or the bag. 

Animals? Well they are some of the unpredictable things we run into as photographers. A wet Dog could jump on you while you’re next to your tripod and knock the camera over. You could be shooting in some rock pools only to find when you look down a small octopus with electric blue marking has wrapped itself around the front of your boot. You could be in a field waiting for Sunrise shooting the night sky in the dark when a dog that you didn’t know was there, licks your hand and you scream like a little girl. You can find a huntsman spider deciding to set up a home in your camera bag while you have been shooting. All these things and more have happened to me at some point during the last 5 years.

And one I never tire of hearing. Whats the BEST Sunrise you have seen?  There have been many spectacular Surises and quite a few are burnt into my memory, the Red Avoca rain morning, the Fire sky over Pearl Beach, The sunrise storms at Putty, Patonga and Norah Head do come to mind but the number one all time sunrise I have seen so far was 22nd June 2014. The sky was a blaze and the clouds arranged themselves in such a way that part of the sky appeared cool blue and part warm gold. I could see that the progression of the clouds would create half a sky of blue and the other of gold. I found a line in the rock platform at the Skillion that pointed to this part in the sky and waited. I didnt have to wait long but the Image speaks for itself. Its the image at the top of this Blog Post. every time I look at this image I am reminded of that amazing sight and I know that had I not decided to shoot Sunrise every day I would have probably missed that opportunity. 


Shooting Sunrise is very rewarding and I can easily say that after 5 years the novelty hasn’t worn away. I still enjoy getting up and shooting every day. I do like company, that’s why I started Social Sunrise. Watching the sky brighten on a new day doesn’t get repetitious at least not for me.

So why do I do it? Enjoyment, relaxation, beauty, wonder all these words fit and none of them do at the same time. Why not ask me in another 5 years. 23rd Jan23rd Jan

(Andrew Murrell Photography) Andrew Murrell Photography colourful Daily Sunrise landscape Special Day Sunrise Sunrise Fri, 22 Feb 2019 11:37:39 GMT
How good is the 135mm f1.8 Sigma Art lens DSC_6875 aDSC_6875 a

Hi Everyone. 

So how good is the Sigma Art 135mm f1.8 portrait lens? The short answer is Amazing!!

As you have seen by the website I shoot Weddings as well as Entertainment and Landscape. I have a variety of lenses that I have purchased for different reasons. I found that the 70-200 f2.8 Nikon VR lens while amazing was a little lacking is punch at around the 100-150mm end. The portraits while sharp lacked the separation from the background I really wanted, especially for full length portraits. I knew that Nikon had released the 105mm f1.4 lens and having played with one a couple of times I was impressed but the $$$ did put me off a little. The Sigma 85mm f1.4 was amazing and when I read about the 135mm f1.8 i wanted to give it a try. I tested one at John Ralph Camera House and found that it looked felt and appeared to be what I was looking for. The price was also acceptable so just prior to a destination wedding at Townsville I purchased one. 

Firstly the build is amazing, solid metal barrel and bayonet filling the lens is heavy but in that good way showing quality. The black finish that Sigma give the Art series is a work of art in itself. The Lens comes packaged with a nice solid case for the protection and the Lens hood is included. The manual focus switch is placed for easy access and has a good positive feel. I do find the fitting of the hood to be a bit tight, making it difficult to do in a hurry. The front element is impressive so when the lens is looking at you it may appear a bit imposing if too close. I have used the lens wide open at f1.8 for full length portraits and found it to be extremely sharp, the degree of background blur is perfect to give the separation between the background and the subject. I find the mild compression really brings up the background in the image as well. While I found the 105 Nikon to give an almost "cut-out" look to the subject the 135mm f1.8 appears perfect. The lens is quite heavy and when attached to my Nikon D5 I do notice when it's on. The Lens is still a joy to use and the look of the images speak for themselves. This is my favourite portrait lens to use for the Bride at the moment, I find I reach more for the 135mm than I do for the 85mm.  I have even tested the lens for Astro imaging both as a Nightscape lens with foreground and as a deep sky lens. In both cases I have used the lens wide open as well as closed down to f4. The f1.8 aperture is sharp with very little coma or vignette. The aperture makes it an idea lens for shooting small areas of the sky, like the Orion belt and nebula rising with trees on a distant hilltop. 

I highly recommend the 135mm as a fantastic portrait lens where you really want to give the model a good separation to the background. It will be sharp even wide open and will be perfect for low light due to its wide aperture.

See some of the attached images to see the look of both head and shoulder portraits as well as full length shots. I have even included an Astro image to show how well the lens is corrected.

I hope you find this quick rundown of the lens helpful.


Till next time have fun a Clear Skies. 


(Andrew Murrell Photography) 135mm Andrew central coast f1.8 lens murrell photographer photography portraits review Sigma weddings Tue, 12 Feb 2019 08:59:04 GMT
Capturing the Milky Way DSC_6596DSC_6596 So you would like to capture the Milky Way in a nightscape shot.


It’s not as hard as you may think. You will need a camera with a good response to high ISO (pretty much all new DSLRs). A wide angle lens that’s quite fast. f3.5 seems to be the standard now but if you can get an f2.8 or even an f1.4, that would be better. A good tripod and a remote release for the camera are also necessary.  Next you need to find a fairly good dark sky, if you can easily see the Milky Way from your shooting location when the moon is not up you will be in the right place.  For most people that will require a drive of between 30 minutes to several hours. Some are lucky enough to be able to shoot from their own back yard but not many.


The first step is to become familiar with your camera without the need to turn on the lights. You will need your dark adaption to make sure you centre the Milky Way in your field of view. If you must use a light try to make it a red one as that won’t affect the dark adaption as much. You will probably want to change the camera to M manual, that way you’re in control of everything. Then select a fairly high ISO on the camera say 1600 to start with then put the wide angle lens on the camera body. Turn off the Auto Focus then set the aperture as low as it can go.  Set the exposure time to 30 seconds to start with. Next you need to focus the lens. If you have Live View, turn it on and focus on a distant light, if you’re in suburbia look around the horizon for a street light. If you’re in the country and away from lights look up and find the brightest star you can see. Use the zoom function on the display while in live view until you can see the light easily. Rotate the focus ring till the light is crisp, your now ready. If you don’t have live view on your camera you can set the camera to infinity and take a shot of the star or distant light. Once the image comes up on the display, zoom in and see if the light is in focus. If not slightly rotate the focus ring and try again. It may take a few minutes to get the focus right but once done you’re ready to start shooting.

Connect the remote release and try your first shot by centring on a bright part of the Milky Way.  Presto you have taken your first shot of the Milky Way.


Now you have a few questions about things I bet. I will try to answer them now for you.


How long do I expose my image for?

That will depend on the look you want to achieve. Since this is capture the Milky Way I will assume you’re not taking a star trail shot. you’re looking for the effect of the Milky Way looking like a NASA shot with some tree’s or a hill in the foreground like the shot displayed at the top of the post. The best way to estimate the exposure time is to use the rule of 500. The rule is divide the focal  length of the lens into 500. For a full frame camera the calculation is simple. Say you’re shooting with a 20mm lens, the exposure time will be 500 divided by 20. The Answer is 25 which is the number of seconds you can expose the image before the stars start to trail. A shot taken longer than 25 seconds with a 20mm  lens will show the stars as little lines, any time shorter than 25 seconds the stars will appear as points on the image. Most DSLRs on the market are a crop sensor, Nikon is 1.5x and Canon is 1.6x. To make the calculation correct you must also account for the crop factor. The example about is for a 20mm lens so the calculation will be 20mm x1.5(crop sensor factor for a Nikon) =30.  The final part of the calculation is 500 / 30 creates an exposure time of 16.7 seconds. If your a Nikon User the Crop factor is 1.5 and for Canon the factor is1.6.


How do get the foreground to be illuminated?

It’s called light painting and can be done in a variety of ways. I have used an iPhone to illuminate the image shown above. Whatever light you use try to make sure it’s not a cool blue style light source like an LED. Halogen globes are excellent so a small Maglite is great or a dolphin torch. Once you start the exposure make sure you constantly move the light. It’s like painting the light across the foreground interest. It does look better if you evenly illuminate the entire foreground but you may have your own idea.

i have also discovered the advantages of a very fast lens. The Sigma 20mm f1.4 Art is amazing t capturing both the sky and foreground. 


Why does the Milky Way look faint on my photo?

You haven’t processed it yet. The best advice I can give you how to process your Milky Way shots is to tell you to watch this video. This is an easy to follow step by step introduction to making your Milky Way images POP.


When do I know it’s ok to go out and shoot the Milky Way?

Most people don’t know the night sky very well and so working out when to go out to shoot can be difficult. This item can be a big help to you it’s a Planisphere and can tell you when the Milky Way is rising, overhead or setting for every day of the year. They are easy to use and quite economical to purchase.  For the Southern hemisphere the Milky Way rises in the early evening during Autumn, is Overhead during winter and is setting during Spring.


Can I take shots with a larger lens like a 50mm or a 200mm?

Yes you can but you still need to apply the rule of 500. A good 50mm lens like an f1.4 will have an exposure time of 12 seconds before trailing occurs. With the wider aperture at f1.4 you are 2 stops wider than a f2.8 lens so the shorter exposure time still works out. Images with this set up can look truly amazing. The second image shows the effect you can achieve with a 50mm lens.  When you take a telephoto lens like a 200mm f2.8 lens your exposure time is down to 3 seconds. having said that you can get results by taking your ISO up to 3200 for instance. Camera shake can become an issue it that magnification so make sure your tripod is very sturdy, use the timer setting on the camera and use the Mirror up function if you have it. The movement of the mirror can add a vibration to the camera which will be visible in a 200mm lens. The 3rd image shows the effect of a 200mm lens centred on a bright patch of the Milky Way near the Southern Cross.


Will this work for other parts of the sky?

Yes you can use the details described here to capture any part of the night sky. Some great areas to capture away from the bright Milky Way would be the Large and Small Magellanic clouds, the constellation of Orion and the area around Pegasus and Andromeda. you can also try to capture a distant storm with the stars surrounding the clouds.


If you have any other questions about how to capture the Milky Way please send me a message.

Until next time Clear Skies.


(Andrew Murrell Photography) Andrew Astro Astrophotography Milky Murrell Nightscapes Nightsky Nikon Photography Way Wed, 30 Jan 2019 10:47:28 GMT
Thoughts on the 20mm f1.4 Sigma Art lens DSC_6606DSC_6606 Thoughts on the Sigma 20mm f1.8 lens
I have been shooting Astro for a long time and usually with f2.8 lenses. I have an old film version of the Tamron 14mm f2.8 as well as the 24-70mm f2.8 Nikon. I had used these lenses successfully but felt that I could do better with a something different. I have known the Samyang lens as a great choice for Astro due to the f2.8 aperture and the reduced coma, the Tamron is very noticeable with this. I invested in the Samyang and was very happy with the initial results. The Coma was greatly reduced and the lens looked sharper. Unfortunately I was still not entirely happy, I found the ultra wide view of the Milky Way too much, it lacked detail. Being a Wedding Photographer I am in love with the Sigma Art range of lenses, I have several for Portraits. I looked at their range as I knew they had a 14mm f1.8 but I wanted to see if they had a slightly longer lens still with a fast aperture. I had used the 35mm and the 18-35mm and loved what they produced. I found Sigma has a 20mm f1.4 lens in their range and decided to get that. The lens is packed amazingly well like all the Art series lenses with its own lens case. The Build quality is wonderful a full metal body and Bayonet mount, the build does make the lens heavy which may deter some people. I am used to heavy camera's so it was not an issue for me. As a Landscape lens it works perfectly and I liked the look of the images with regards to the foreground. I will purchased the Haida 150mm filter system for the lens as it is available. The first Night shot I took with the lens in the dark skies around Gresford blew me away while viewed on the back of the camera. The amount of light in the foreground was astonishing. While Gresford may not be Coonabarabran it is still a very dark sky with little ambient light. I had an idea of how the images may look due to shooting with the 18-35mm f1.8 on my D500 but that was overshadowed by the 20mm on my D5. I felt in some images I had collected too much light, it looked washed out almost even at 3200ISO. The downside of the lens was the coma. While not as severe as the coma from my old Tamron 14mm it was still quite noticeable . In the end though I decided the 20mm was the lens for me as I can forgive the coma when presented with so much data in my RAW files. I would be curious to hear the thoughts on other photographers using this lens.
The attached image was shot with the Nikon D5 and the Sigma Art 20mm f1.4 lens. The settings were f1.4 and a 30second exposure at ISO3200. The camera was on the Skywatcher Star Adventurer running at 0.5x speed. This shot was taken near the end of an 8 hour shoot just after 2am. Thanks to the property owner in Gresford for allowing me to shoot their collection of old building and dams.

(Andrew Murrell Photography) Andrew Astrophotography Murrell Nightscapes Photography Sigma Wed, 30 Jan 2019 10:45:50 GMT
RAW verses JPG DSC_2915Raw Processed imageThis is the same image processed from a RAW file.
This is the RAW processed file
One of the biggest questions people have is, “What's better? Shooting in Raw or JPG?
There are lots of opinions regarding the merits of shooting RAW or JPG. I have been shooting for years and based on my experience, I’d like to present my thoughts.
What is JPG?.

JPG is a universal image format that uses a series of adjustments to create a viewable image file from the original data collected by the camera sensor.
The image data is compressed which directly effects the quality of the image. When you select JPG in the camera’s shoot menu it will prompt you to select basic, standard or fine to select the degree of compression. Depending on the selection, the files will range between 5Mb to 100Kb. 
Even the most basic image viewing programs support the JPG format and can be read directly from the camera’s memory card.
If you have selected JPG as your cameras recording mode you will also have to make some selections in the cameras shoot menus.
For example, the White Balance (WB) should be selected when shooting JPG's. The WB setting allows you to tell the camera the type of light you are shooting under. You can leave the camera on Automatic WB but it can sometimes misread the scene especially in mixed lighting. By making a selection based on the conditions you find yourself in, like cloudy or sunshine you make the camera select a specific WB to apply to the image. Once applied it cannot easily be changed without affecting the quality of the image.

So what happens when I shoot a JPG?

The camera will take the information recorded by the sensor and apply adjustments to several aspects of the image.  Colour space, white balance, contrast, picture control
colour saturation, sharpness and noise reduction are some of the changes that are applied. Put another way the camera will process the image based on values installed in the camera
during production. When you navigate the camera's menu you can make some selections in these categories but they are still pre-set values.
Colour information and dynamic range are usually some of the most affected data values which changes the quality of the image.
Detail is also lost during the compression of the data while creating the JPG file. As mentioned earlier a fine JPG created by a 20MP camera is usually about 5Mb compared to the 20+Mb collected by the sensor.
Keep in mind by fixing the values in camera during the creation of the JPG the White Balance, Colour Space, and Picture Control settings will affect the final look of the final image.
What is a RAW file?

RAW files are a recording of the data collected by the chipset. No compression or adjustments are done to the information collected by the sensor.
You don’t need to specify a file size or quality while shooting. A RAW file is not actually an image but just data and require a special conversion program such as Photoshop to be viewed.
Even the image you see on the back of the camera is a temporary JPG created by the camera to allow you to see the image. The RAW format file sizes
are quite large, typically between 20-25Mb in size compared to the 5Mb of a JPG.

So what do I do with the RAW file?

A RAW file as I mentioned earlier a RAW file is just the data collected by the sensor, not an image.  The data must be processed by a programme like ACR in Photoshop and Lightroom. There are other programmes as well but the Adobe programmes are the main ones used on the market. When you open the RAW file in these photoshop/Lightroom you will see the image on the screen in the processing window. Most people find the initial RAW data image flat and lacking contrast with lifeless colour. The first thing to do is adjust the White Balance. Because the WB data is not fixed you can adjust the value to emulate what you saw. For the images shown the RAW the WB settings I choose was 5700K with a -7 on the tint. The camera chose 6200K with +10 tint. I used a grey card to get the correct Colour Balance. I adjusted the brightness up by .65Ev and the contrast by +14. I dropped a little highlight and increased the shadows but not too much to create a halo effect. I didn’t change the saturation but did increase the Vibrance by +20. I added some clarity and saved the image as a Jpg which is what you see here. In all about 2 minutes of processing. This image is not overdone and looks more the way the scene did than the Jpg recorded by the camera. The image had more dynamic range and the colours are not clipped. Look at the white wave tops on the beach for what I am talking about.
As I said at the start this is my opinion and I will restate that there is no correct way to shoot and Process. It is all up to the Photographer.
Having said that I personally find that shooting in RAW gives me more ability to capture the image I want. I think most people who have followed
my work will find I try and keep as close to “reality” with my images. While I may try and catch the Ureal the image is still essentially the image as
the camera caught it. Looking at the 2 images I have attached I find the RAW image to have more depth colour, vibrance, Dynamic Range, and more
personal appeal.
This is the in-camera JPG.
DSC_2915In camera JPGThis is the in camera JPG shot in fine.
(Andrew Murrell Photography) Andrew Murrell Photography Central Coast Digital Photography Photography Processing RAW verses JPG Wed, 30 Jan 2019 10:42:15 GMT