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  • Writer's pictureRubber Monkey

Best Astrophotography Gear & Tips this Matariki

Matariki represents a time for communities to come together and celebrate, so we’ve reached out to some star Kiwi photographers to talk about their love for astrophotography.


They’ve provided us with a beautiful selection of astro images and have given us their best tips and favourite gear they use for astrophotography – check them out below!


Rachel Roberts



Favourite Astro Gear:

Thanks to its slightly lower sensor resolution, large full-frame sensor size, and modern DIGIC X processor, the Canon EOS R6 DSLR is hands down my favourite piece of equipment for creating my nightscape images. It performs brilliantly in low light conditions utilising an ISO invariant sensor design, has great dynamic range and a bright live view whilst out in the field. During post processing, the R6 performs incredibly well for shadow recovery, has minimal noise increase and degradation such as loss of contrast, added banding or severe discolourations like those often shown by older DSLR’s. If you’re serious about astro, this is the camera for you!


Alex Barrass


The image I've chosen is one that I shot recently and I'm really happy with how it turned out. It's of importance to me because it felt like the first time I'd tried to step up my astrophotography game. In the past I have pretty much gotten lucky with the conditions and figured out the shot once I arrived on location but this time involved some pre-planning. Using cloud forecasts to find a good location and then the PhotoPills app I managed to see the exact time in which the Milky Way would line up over the Waiohine Gorge. So after sleeping in the car I walked down to the stream at 4am and the Milky Way was lined up just as I had hoped. I then shot a series of images and stacked them together to make the final image.


Astrophotography Tip:

A tip I would give to those who want to start taking photos of the night sky is to invest in a fast wide angle lens and a sturdy tripod. Those two pieces of gear are essentially all you need to start taking great photos of the milky way.


Favourite Astro Gear:

My favourite piece of gear for astrophotography would actually be a lens I no longer own. It's the lens that first got me into astro as it was so simple and lightweight. The Laowa 9mm f/2.8 Zero-D Lens for micro four thirds was perfect for a beginner due to its price and weight but also because it is a fully manual lens. The aperture and focus are both controlled by rings on the lens and this is great for astrophotography. You're less likely to bump a setting and getting tack sharp focus on stars is as simple as turning the lens to infinity. Currently I use a Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens on a Sony camera and whilst this lens is sharper and offers a handy zoom range I do miss the manual focus ring.


Ricky Situ


The image here of Mt Ruapehu is one of my favourite shots of the night sky, because it shows off the rising Milky Way’s core. This is paired with two dwarf galaxies (the Magellanic Clouds) to the right of the image. There were some light clouds tentatively rolling in, and I thought that it added a cool little feature over the Milky Way core too! To create this image I shot 18 frames to compose together in Photoshop/Lightroom in post-production. Finally, to top off the epic shot, it carries some great memories for me as I took it during an awesome few days spent hiking around Tongariro National Park!

Astrophotography Tip:

In my opinion a great shot of the night sky needs a few elements to build it up – the first one is undoubtedly the stars. The second feature is an interesting foreground, and the third piece I like to look for is features in the sky that add character/uniqueness in the photo – e.g. wisps of clouds. These are what I think makes up a great astrophotography image, despite some thinking all it takes is a perfectly clear night!


Favourite Astro Gear:

My current go-to equipment for shooting a crisp photo of the night sky is the Sony Alpha a7 IV Camera, Samyang AF 24-70mm f2.8 FE Lens and a sturdy Manfrotto Tripod (Manfrotto MK055XPRO3-3W Aluminum Tripod with 3-Way Head). The Sony Alpha a7 IV is an awesome camera. It has such a great low light sensor and it's made locking in and focusing on stars manually on screen a breeze. I've recently been using more 3rd party lens makers such as Samyang, Sigma and Tamron and they've really been star performers for me. I recently picked up the Samyang AF 24-70mm f2.8 FE Lens and I've been putting it through a lot of different types of photography including film. I also use it for astrophotography which has been a long time hobby of mine and I can say that it's been amazing. It performs flawlessly under the dark of the night with its f/2.8 aperture and at the same time it produces some decently sharp and vibrant images.


Jovesa Kasami


This is a recent image I took of Mount Tapuae-o-Uenuku (Mt Tappy) just a 45 minute drive from Blenheim, Marlborough. It’s one of my favourite spots to take photos of the Milky Way on a crisp night sky with less light pollution.


Astrophotography Tip:

Astrophotography is an enjoyable experience and with time it becomes a part of you, so my #1 tip is “patience”. Astrophotography is a photographic style that’s tricky to get right the first time and will take many attempts to get it right, you get to learn a lot of techniques, and finally just have fun, always build on past mistakes. I'm self-taught in photography and I always look back at previous astrophotos that I have taken and see what I can do better the next time I plan to go out again.


Favourite Astro Gear:

My favourite piece of camera gear I use for astrophotography is the Samyang 14mm f2.8 Lens on my Nikon D810 body which allows me to let more light in the sensor. One thing I love about astrophotography is the technical side of it – dialling in the numbers on the camera and pressing the shutter button, eagerly waiting for the outcome of the image is always the best part.


Grant Birley


The reason behind the first image is that it is very seldom I have images captured of myself in front of the lens doing what I do and it epitomises where you would find me on clear nights and in my “happy place”. It is also an image of my gear and I in action.

As for the second image, I have literally taken thousands and thousands of night images over the past few years but this image will always stand out for me. The story behind the image itself is what makes it special to me. We actually climbed Mount Taranaki that morning – starting at 2am – to capture sunrise and then that evening went down river to capture it from below under an incredible night sky and below the rising milky way core! I don’t know too many people that have ever done that!

Astrophotography Tip:

As for my #1 tip/s, I would say to embrace shooting in manual mode, embrace noise and grain in your images and practice, practice, practice – get out under the stars every opportunity you can! A bad night out under the stars is still a good night.


Favourite Astro Gear:

My favourite piece of astro gear would have to be my tracker. I currently use the Skywatcher Star Adventurer 2i Pro. This piece of equipment allows me to take much longer exposures of the night sky enabling me to capture way more detail without the downside of star trails. In order for it to work correctly, you have to accurately align it to the South Celestial Pole and once you have got that locked in, it basically moves with the rotation of the Earth. The better and more accurate your alignment the longer the exposures you can capture. The only downside to tracking the sky is that your foreground ends up blurry due to the rotation of the tracker and so you have to capture a second image for your foreground (tracker off) and blend the two in post. My go to settings when tracking are ISO 1600, f/2.8 for between 60 and 120 seconds using a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR with a Samyang 24mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC Wide-Angle Lens. I have attached a picture of me in the field using it and one of my favourite images I have captured of Mount Taranaki using it.


Jarred Wilson


My favourite image is this shot of the Milky Way core rising above Mt Ngauruhoe from the Tongariro crossing. This shot is a favourite because it's lucky to exist. My mate Alan and I had turned back to the car due to fog rolling in, but as we were half back it cleared up so we headed back to our spot again.

Astrophotography Tip:

My #1 tip for people new to astrophotography would be to find the darkest skies you can, and try to compose your shot so you're not pointing towards any cities. There are a few websites out there which will give you a map of light pollution to help with this such as darksitefinder.com and lightpollutionmap.info.


Favourite Astro Gear:

My favourite piece of gear would be the Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR Lens. Its 24mm equivalent focal length combined with fast aperture make it hard to beat for the Fuji X series for astrophotography.


Dihang Wu


I chose this image because I love the minimalist composition with the Milky Way core, and the inspiration came from an image I saw online a few years ago of a lone tree under the night sky in Arizona.

Astrophotography Tip:

Get very familiar with your camera gear and settings. You'll have very limited time to play around with settings once you're out there in the dark, as you should use most of that time to get as many shots as you can before the milky way core moves out of position.


Favourite Astro Gear:

Although I haven't tried many lenses for astrophotography, I found the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens to be my primary and favourite piece of camera gear for it. I enjoy using this lens as it is very lightweight, incredibly sharp, produces super bright stars at f/1.8 and the ideal focal length at full frame without requiring a vertical panorama to capture a strong foreground subject to complement the Milky Way core in a single shot.


Rudi Tamati


Here’s my favourite astro image shot with the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art Lens. I chose this because it’s my favourite out of all my astro images. I remember getting so excited to see the results after processing – I can still remember it now!

Astrophotography Tip:

My number 1 tip would be get a lens that can stop down to f/1.8 and go for it!


Favourite Astro Gear:

I use my Canon EOS 6D Mark II DSLR and Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens for astro. It's my favourite lens for astro because it’s so wide and stops down to 1.8, it’s perfect for capturing the Milky Way arch and is super sharp!

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