Now that we’ve learned about the constellation Orion and found it in our skies, we can photograph it. We’ll use some basic stacking techniques. Wait until Orion is overhead while the moon is not up, about midnight in December. We’ll need a camera, a wide lens that’s f/2.8 or faster, a tripod and an intervalometer. That’s it! If your camera has a built-in intervalometer, that’s great too, use that.  

Find your Target

Head out and locate Orion. Aim your camera with the three stars of his belt centered in the lens. Set your ISO to 3200. Focus and then leave your lens wide open. Take a photograph and check for star trailing. You want to not have any trailing. With a 24mm lens on full frame, or a 16mm on a crop sensor, it’s probably going to be about 5 to 8 seconds. Set your intervalometer to take shots one after another at the shutter speed that you just determined that will not give you any trailing.

Shoot ’till the Cows Come Home

Now sit back and shoot as many frames as you can. Well, several dozen would be a great place to start. You’ll need to check the camera framing every few minutes and re-center your camera at Orion’s belt. You don’t have to worry about getting it reframed exactly like the first set, just in the general area of the frame’s center. We’ll use stacking software to align all the frames later. If it’s cold outside while shooting the frames, when you head back inside, put your camera in a plastic bag. Seal it to keep moisture from condensing on your camera and lens.

Time to Stack

Once you get your photos loaded into your computer, load them up in some star stacking software. Check out Starry Landscape Stacker for the Mac and Sequator or Deep Sky Stacker for PCs. I don’t have space or time to go through the steps of how to use these programs, so check out YouTube for the software you pick. There’s lots of great tutorials out there for them. Don’t worry about shooting “dark, light, flat, dark flat, or bias” frames. We’re just trying to get out and see what you can do with this technique. You can learn about them at a later time if this technique is of interest to you.

Get Out and Give it a Try!

But the bottom line is that you can shot some frames that you can stack and shoot great images of the night sky. Even without a costly and burdensome tracker.  

Kirk Keyes