I’ve been doing astrophotography panorama self-portraits for a while now. Initially copying other compositions by holding up a torchlight to the sky and seeing the beam go up towards the Milky Way. Then in mid-2014 I did Distant Lands which involved holding a light sphere and keeping it in position (with a light stand) to keep the lighting consistent between panorama images.

Distant Lands photo of a person at the Pinnacles with the Milky Way
Distant Lands

Now, unfortunately, my website went down for a while and I had problems recovering data including a blog post that had instructions and background to the image – however if you missed it – the youtube video for it is here.

So behind the scenes

  • Gear
    • Camera and lens.
    • Wireless camera trigger – so you don’t have to run up to pose for the shot.
    • Speedlite with a wireless trigger or a constant light.
    • Lightstand or tripod to put the light on.
    • Gary Fong lightsphere (or … plastic container. Something that will spread the light. A vomit bag will also work :P).
    • Software – panorama stitching software (I personally use PTGui Pro).
  • It’s a series of vertical images put together as a panorama
  • Observing where you want to stand in the image (you should be able to see where the stars are. Do a test image where you want to stand. I try to stand a moderate distance away (maybe 10m) so that I’m not too large in the scene to create a feeling of scale. But I want to still be recognisable as a figure.
  • Take a couple of posed images (so you have a selection of poses). I will be honest and say I dress for the occasion. While it’s my normal getup, I like looking like I’m an explorer. I take an image that I am sure covers my entire body with the light and also most of the shadow cast behind me – if the shadow is too short when stitching, it doesn’t look natural
  • Then replace myself with a lightstand or tripod with the Gary Fong Lightsphere.
  • Take all the panorama photos. The wireless trigger on the speedlite means that each image has the same power output from the speedlite rather than trying to light paint it which may cause inconsistent lighting. The wireless trigger means I don’t have to keep walking back and forth to the spot to take the image. During the panorama – I take a bit more breathing space to either side of where I want the image to be for cropping purposes. Especially with ultrawide panoramas, there may be some warping.

In post processing – I personally prefer PTGui Pro because it has the masking ability. You can mask in a section of an image to make sure it is included in the end panorama. An example of this is to paint the mask on myself and my shadow so the end panorama includes that. Hugin also does masking.

Now given that people may be restricted by location, lock downs, moon cycles, weather etc – I’ve put together a number of dng files from an astrophotography self portrait that I did during early 2019. Please feel free to experiment with the image files for panoramas (there’s surplus images here so you can do some crazy things) – I retain the copyright on the images – I ask that you credit me and do not use the images for commercial use – dropbox link


1 Comment

Don Slocum · March 28, 2020 at 10:19 am

Awesome work and thank you for sharing you amazing technique. Very hopeful I’ll get down there to shoot with you at some point.

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