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May 20, 2015

How to take ace space photos with your Lumia and a telescope

Are you ready to take the final step in becoming an astrophotographer? Break out your trusty Lumia, a tripod, and a telescope to really shoot for the stars with the help of this handy tutorial.

During the past few months, astrophotographer and Lumia lover Jenifer Hanen has been a valuable source of knowledge for those of us looking to improve our skills when capturing mobile photos of the skies. So far she’s given us incredible tips on how to get started with astrophotography, and an out of this world tutorial that tells you everything you need to know about shooting the night skies with just you and your Lumia. Now she’s back to help you take your astrophotography skills to the next level: shooting the skies using your Lumia along with a tripod or telescope. Over to you, Jenifer!

The Next Step: Using a tripod

What you’ll need: You, your Lumia, a tripod, and a tripod mount for camera phones

The next step in Lumia astrophotography adventures is to add a tripod and a tripod mount for your Lumia camera phone to stabilize the mobile as you take longer exposures. If you want to take photos of more than the Moon and planets at twilight, you will need to add a tripod to your astro-Lumia-photography.

To get good photos of the stars, one needs to have more light coming into the sensor of the camera phone, which gets tricky when one is not in a dark sky location. In the first example photo, I wanted to take a photo of the planet Jupiter’s conjunction with the two brightest stars of the Constellation of Gemini – Castor and Pollux – last summer. I went to the Huntington cliffs at dusk, set up my tripod, braced it due to offshore winds, and waited for the dusk to deepen into civil twilight. The tripod allowed me to decrease the ISO to 264, increase the shutter speed to 1 second, and then because the photos were still too bright and the stars were washed out, I reduced the Exposure Bias (EV) to -1.0. I took about 20 photos all the while adjusting the manual Pro camera settings as the sky deepened from dusk to civil twilight to dark.


Jupiter in Gemini, Late Twilight
[Huntington cliffs, tripod, 6/7/14]
f/2.2, ISO 264, 1 second shutter speed, -1.0 EV, WB Auto

In this second photo taken on a tripod with the Lumia 1020 camera grip and tripod mount accessory, I wanted to take a photo of the Constellation Orion. I had the opportunity to join some folks at the Glamis sand dunes in far south-eastern California where it is on the edge between rural dark skies and nearly true dark skies. The Moon was just past full and was to rise by 9pm, so I had to work fast after the sky achieved full dark. A friend took me out into the darkest part of the sand dunes in a four wheel off-road vehicle, and I had my camera and tripod wrapped up in a plastic bag so as to not get fine particles of sand in them during the ride out. Once we arrived, I had to find a place where the tripod didn’t sink too far into the sand and had to work quickly as it is dangerous to turn one’s vehicle’s lights off at night in the sand dunes. I took about 40 plus photos with the Lumia 1020, changing my settings trying to get Orion’s belt and the faint glow of the nebula in the belt. In the end, I was very happy with this photo of a crisp wide view of the whole constellation, and there is a faint hint of the nebula M42 in the 1:1 view of the full sized resolution photo with the ISO set to 3200 and the shutter speed on the Lumia 1020 maxed out to 4 seconds.


Orion, as seen by my Nokia Lumia 1020
[Dark sky spot in the desert, moon not yet risen 12/22/13]
f/2.2, ISO 3200, 4 second shutter speed, 0.0 EV, WB Auto

Some Equipment Required: Using a telescope

What you’ll need: You, your Lumia, a telescope, and a phone mount (optional)

If you have a telescope, you may already be taking photos with your camera phone. There are brackets and mounts that allow you to seamlessly mount your camera phone to your telescope’s eyepiece. If you don’t have a telescope, beg, borrow, or get one second-hand (which is how I got mine).

My father recently, through a serious of trips to the second-hand electronics flea market, brought me a pieced together gently used Newtonian 130mm reflector telescope with a broken finder scope and German Equatorial mount that mostly works, but it has no motor and no go-to function. I don’t have all the pieces to make the telescope work with my Lumia 1020, but I can hold the camera over the eye piece and take photos until I have something passable. My next two steps will be to buy a camera phone to telescope eye piece mounting device and a working motorized German Equatorial mount, as the goal is to get a photo of the Andromeda Galaxy with my Lumia 1020 through the telescope.

The photo below was taken as a lark, as I was setting up a test to use my new DSLR camera adapter to my telescope and due to focal plane issues it was not working. I was doing the test about 1/2 hour before sunset as I wanted to get the set up done before it was dark to decrease frustration. I put the 15mm Celestron eyepiece back on the telescope, put my DSLR away, found the Moon in the telescope, set my Lumia 1020’s focus to infinity in the Pro menu of the camera, put the lens to the eyepiece and took a photo. The first 12 photos were badly angled to the eyepiece and a white blown out blur as I tried to find the best way to hold the Lumia to the telescope’s eyepiece and which settings would work best.

Even though the sun had not yet set in the sky, the moon was still too illuminated to take a good photo of the craters. To counteract the strong light of the Moon without a lunar filter on the eyepiece, I decreased the ISO on the Lumia 1020 to 200 and I decreased the shutter speed to 1/100th of a second. Yes, I took a photo of the Moon from my Lumia 1020 through my franken-telescope!


The Moon, as shot through my telescope using my Nokia Lumia 1020
[Moon, Celestron Astromaster 130eq telescope, 15mm Celestron eyepiece, Lumia 1020 handheld to telescope eyepiece, Lumia focus set to infinity]
f/2.2, ISO 200, 1/100th of a second shutter speed, 0.0 EV, WB Auto

A big shout out to Jenifer Hanen, who has given us so much useful astrophotography advice that we’re feeling a little starry-eyed. We recommend checking out her photo blog, Flickr, and Twitter to see more of her space-tacular photos. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you in the comments. Share your own tips for taking ace astrophotography photos, your favorite starry snaps, or your thoughts on Jenifer’s tricks of the trade.