From the striking annual solar eclipse on June 10th to the strawberry supermoon on June 24th, this summer is set to have some spectacular night skies that budding astrophotography enthusiasts won’t want to miss.
To help you capture striking and vivid images of the glowing moon, dazzling meteor showers, and shooting stars, Sony has partnered with renowned astro-photographer Andrew Whyte. Andrew offers guidance on the astronomical delights on display this year, plus gives insider tips on positioning, equipment and style to help you capture the perfect shot. Andrew Whyte’s stunning photo series has been shot using Sony’s α7Rii camera and the FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS lens.
Top astronomical moments to be ‘camera ready’ for in 2021
- The Annular Solar Eclipse (June 10th) - This occurs when the Moon is too far away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun resulting in a ring of light around the darkened Moon. Remember, it is important you never look directly at the Sun, even during an eclipse.
- The Supermoon (June 24th) – The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated; head to a location where you’re able to capture it in all its glory.
- The New Moon (July 10th) – The Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
- Perseids Meteor Shower (August 12th-13th) - The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight.
Guidance on capturing spectacular stargazing events
Photographer Andrew Whyte offers astrophotography advice to help you capture this year’s out of this world delights.
Andrew Whyte said: "As more people have reconnected with nature and the world around them during recent months, interest in the sky at night is soaring, proving that you don’t need to be an expert astronomer or pro photographer to enjoy viewing the moon and stars. I’ve been shooting astrophotography for more than 10 years and whilst not much has changed in the night sky during that time, the technology I use has moved on significantly.”
"Sony has been at the forefront of those advances with a large and growing range of cameras & lenses that are ideally suited to low light conditions, making it more accessible than ever to capture incredible images of our universe at night. If you're keen to explore this for yourself, my tips will give you a head start."
Top astro-photography tips from seasoned professional, Andrew Whyte:
- Choose an appropriate location. Somewhere away from immediate street lighting is ideal, whether that’s a garden, local park or further afield. Choosing a subject for your photo like a lone tree, deserted skatepark or an old building will give your sky some context and connection with Earth.
- Think about the image you want to end up with. To shoot pinpricks of starlight, the milky way or star trails, a wide-angle lens is your friend. To capture the moon rising or setting against a distant landmark, you’ll want the greater reach of a telephoto lens. Whichever style you’re shooting, you’ll need a sturdy tripod to keep your camera absolutely stable & still- movement or vibration can ruin a long exposure image.
- Switch to manual mode if possible. As you’re heading to a dark location you’ll want a camera that’s easy to use. With intuitive dials & menus and a touchscreen that can also flip out and rotate, the α7Siii makes it as simple as possible to compose and set up for your shots, whilst its uprated battery promises the longest possible usage time between changes.
- Make sure your subject is in focus. It’s horrible to arrive home after an hour in the cold & dark night only to discover your images are blurred! The α7Siii features the most impressive autofocus system I’ve ever used, working reliably under moonlight conditions. For those occasions when I choose to focus manually, the camera’s digital viewfinder has tricks up its sleeve to magnify the subject and confirm when its sharp.
- Check your results. Look for a crisp subject and inspect the corners of your image to be sure the stars still look like stars. Sony’s range of prime and zoom lenses never fail to impress me, retaining definition and clarity all the way to the extremes of the image.
- Travel light. Shooting at night needs more equipment than in daylight- things like tripods, torch, spare camera batteries (and maybe even a flask of tea) all add bulk to your kit, so look to save weight elsewhere. The entire α7 range is compact without compromising on power, whilst the new α7C has redefined my expectation of a full-frame camera in a diminutive form.
- Be different. Sure, the wide apertures of Sony’s range of prime lenses are useful for capturing all available light but they can be a creative asset in their own right. Pick of the bunch for both light and creativity has to be the recently launched FE 50mm F1.2 G Master. With a wide aperture of f/1.2 it can gather more than four times as much light as many other prime lenses whilst also offering the flexibility to shoot evocative night-time portraits with the night sky beautifully blurred behind.
Inside Andrew Whyte’s camera bag:
α7S III Camera (RRP: £3,800 / €4,200)
For low-light shooting, the new 35mm full-frame 12.1MP back-illuminated Exmor R™ CMOS image sensor reduces rolling shutter by up to three times and utilises a variety of advanced light-gathering techniques to ensure high-sensitivity with low noise, without the need for large-scale lighting setups. Perfect for the ever-changing surrounding light of the eclipse, without the hassle.
- Featuring newly developed BIONX XR™ image processing, for supreme image performance
- Outstanding video recording capabilities, ultra-high sensitivity and a fast hybrid AF system
- No need for a lighting rig, thanks to the back-illuminated Exmor R™ CMOS image sensor
- Completely redesigned menu system
α7C Camera (£1,900 / €2,100)
For those needing to travel a little further to get the best shot, the Alpha 7C is the world’s smallest and lightest full-frame body with uncompromising performance, featuring advanced AF (autofocus), high-resolution 4K video capabilities and more.
- Powerful BIONZ X™ image processing for spectacular image quality
- The large pixel size ensures the camera takes beautiful images even in dimly lit situations
All three lenses deliver high image quality and beautiful bokeh in a lightweight and compact design. Perfect for photographers and videographers alike who strive for standout shots and easy mobility, so you can carry your kit to viewpoints with the best vantage for those skyline shots.
- Pair with a Sony full-frame camera or APS-C
- Boast high resolution, intuitive operability and fast, precise, and quiet autofocus capabilities.
Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM lens (£2,100 / €2,300)
The lens’s maximum F1.2 aperture combines an impressive shallow depth of field for maximum creative expression with incredible light gathering capabilities, allowing for faster shutter speeds and lower ISO in low light settings. Every image of the night sky will be as impressive as the last, without the varying light disrupting the content.
- Focus hold buttons and other features support professional shooting needs
- XD Linear Motors offers excellent response and low vibration for fast and precise AutoFocus
About Sony Corporation
Sony Corporation is responsible for the Electronics Products & Solutions (EP&S) business in the Sony Group. With the vision of "continuing to deliver Kando and Anshin to people and society across the world through the pursuit of technology and new challenges," Sony will create products and services in areas such as home entertainment & sound, imaging, and mobile communications. For more information, visit: http://www.sony.net/
About Andrew Whyte
Four-time shortlisted for the Royal Observatory's Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, Andrew is a commercial photographer based in Hampshire, UK. Andrew has two distinct specialisms: by day he’s known for capturing light-hearted scenes using tricks of perspective and by night he’s known for astro photography.
You can find our more here: www.longexposures.co.uk