In this edition of Behind the Shot, Adam Woodworth shares his first thoughts on using the Nikon D810A for landscape astrophotography.
This year is turning into the year where I'm knocking off shots that I had been after for a couple years, including this one at Monument Cove in Acadia National Park, Maine. And what better way to shoot it than with the Nikon D810A?
Note that the greenish color in the sky is from airglow, a natural phenomenon that occurs in the atmosphere when, among other things, cosmic rays interact with particles and produce green and magenta visible light. The light is hard to see with the naked eye, but is easily captured on camera when you're in a dark enough area and the airglow is highly active that night.
I've been shooting dark skies (when available) with the Nikon D810A for over a week now, and my initial impressions are that this is an amazing camera for landscape astrophotography, as you'd expect given it’s designed with astrophotography features. The biggest thing for me is the improved high ISO performance. To me, it looks like the D810A is on par with the D750 in terms of high ISO performance. I'd say the D750 is about a stop better with noise over the D810, and the D810A seems to match that. So you're getting very good high ISO performance with a 36 MP sensor and no anti-aliasing filter!
Another nice feature is the new M* manual mode that lets you choose exposure times greater than 30 seconds. You get 60, 120, 240, 300, 600 and 900 options. If you only need those times for your long exposure foreground shots, then you can get by without a remote if you enable exposure delay mode on the camera (to delay the shutter after the mirror snaps up) and gently press the shutter button on the camera. The best way is still to use a remote trigger with mirror lock-up or exposure delay mode.
The IR cut filter definitely makes nebulae pop. The sensor picks up more red tones for nebulae and there’s a dramatic difference over regular cameras. It's important to remember that the natural color, that is the color that our eyes would see with a telescope, isn’t the increased red color with the IR filter, but it's nice to make the nebulae pop in the image and is often a standard practice of deep space imaging.
This is a blend of 12 exposures, 10 star stacked for the sky and two foreground exposures. The sky exposures were all taken at ISO 12800 for 10 seconds each, and stacked and blended with Starry Landscape Stacker for Mac for pinpoint stars and low noise. The foreground exposures were taken at ISO 1600 for 15 minutes each using different focus points for depth of field blending. All shots were taken with a preproduction sample Nikon D810A provided by Nikon, and Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 lens @ 14mm and ƒ/2.8.
You can learn more about how I edit photos like this in my astrophotography editing video tutorial. My "Landscape Astrophotography Editing Workflow" video features over two hours of detailed information regarding my personal workflow for editing landscape astrophotography images.
To learn more about the video and to purchase it, visit: www.adamwoodworth.com/video-tutorials
These images are available as prints through Adam's website.