On a clear night, find a dark spot with open skies, set up some basic photographic equipment, plan your shot well and you too can be an astrophotographer.

Tauranga's Cynthia Qiu, who is studying photography through the Southern Institute of Technology, has captured a range of images of the night sky in Te Puke and says it is a relatively simple way to get stunning photographs.

There is nothing like looking at the Milky Way, so clear and almost within touch.

Ms Qiu's photos were taken at Redwood Valley Farm in Te Puke.

She said April marked the beginning of the prime season for observing the New Zealand night sky, which lasted until October.


"During winter time, cooler temperatures allow better visibility and we can view the Milky Way overhead with our naked eyes, given that the nights are so long. If we find a location with little or no light pollution, with some basic photographic equipment, anyone can easily capture the magical view of the band of light."

Ms Qiu said planning was an essential part of astrophotography.

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The first step was finding the right location - it needs to be a dark place where the city light would not "smudge" the Milky Way. It was a good idea to photograph on days with a new or waning moon so the stars shone brighter.

A digital camera with high sensitivity to light, an ISO 3200 or higher, is needed, and it must be able to take photos at a long exposure of 15 seconds or more.

Night sky. Photo/Cynthia Qiu
Night sky. Photo/Cynthia Qiu

Ms Qiu said a good tripod was essential to hold the camera in place during the long exposure.

The length of the lens would impact on the length of exposure used.

Tauranga photographer Cynthia Qiu took a time-laspe video of the milky way. Six seconds took about 1.5 hours to shoot.

"For exposure, a general rule of thumb is the 500 rule - 500 divided by the focal length of your lens will give you the longest exposure before stars start to have trails. For example, if you are using a 35mm lens, 14 seconds will get your started with a proper exposure.


"There is nothing like looking at the Milky Way, so clear and almost within touch. This is an experience that inspires all ages and we are very fortunate to be in New Zealand with a night sky being undoubtedly one of the best in the world."

Photo/Cynthia Qiu
Photo/Cynthia Qiu

Ms Qiu said a major astronomical event, the Eta Aquarids, would be peaking around 5am on May 6.

"Last time this annual meteor shower took place near a new moon was in 2005 and so this year it's a great opportunity to observe this event."

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