• Amazing Astrophotography | Behind the Lens with Monika Deviat

    February 29, 2024

    We were delighted to hear that our Pathfinder Ambassador and Astrophotography specialist, Monika Deviat won the Aurorae Category of Astronomy Photographer of the Year with her image "Brushstroke". She was also then featured in a mini documentary by the Royal Museums Greenwich, which explores her experiences and highlights her creative process, perfectly showcasing her talents behind the camera with her favourite backpack: the Tilopa 50L DuraDiamond®.

    Monika loves astrophotography as well as night photography in general and shares her passion with others through workshops. But there is more than meets the eye to the Alberta-based photographer. She is a metalhead, pole and aerial instructor, educator, and speaker, which are all personified in her work.

    The quality of Monika’s work speaks for itself. Her level of experience is evident in every frame she captures, which is why she is the perfect person to give you essential tips on shooting the Northern Lights:

    Essential Astrophotography Tips For Shooting Northern Lights:

    • Use a Tripod:
      • Long exposures are usually required to gather the right amount of light. The camera needs to be steady, so a good tripod will help you get the best results.
    • Use a remote/intervalometer/timer:
      • Pressing the shutter with your finger can introduce camera shake. Using a remote trigger will allow the camera to stop vibrating before triggering the shutter. You can elevate your image quality by avoiding the motion blur from camera shake.
    • The Right Gear:
      • DSLR, Mirrorless, or Phone Camera (yes, your phone can take a good Aurora photo!)Use fast aperture lenses - f2.8 or faster is ideal. But you could work with what you have, like an f4 lens, for example.
      • Remove any filters (including UV) because they could introduce artifacts in your images.
    • Focus Like a Pro:
      • Your camera's autofocus will likely not work in a dark sky area, and infinity focus on your lenses is not where you need to be focussing. If you have a prime lens, you can mark or tape the focus at infinity during the day. With a zoom lens (like Monika's Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8), find a bright star, zoom in on it on your LCD, and roll the focus ring back and forth carefully until the star is as pin sharp as possible. 
      • Light up an object far enough away to be at infinity for your lens and focus on it. Using lights will affect your night vision and enjoyment of the night sky. It takes 20-30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to darkness.
    • Choosing the Right Settings: 
      Settings can vary depending on the strength and brightness of the aurora. A good starting point could be ISO 1600-3200, 5-10s, and a wide-open aperture. Adjust as necessary for the conditions. Consider using shorter exposures for fast moving or quick-changing aurora.

    PICKING A PACK:

    f-stop Ambassador and Astrophotography specialist, Monika, states that her two go-to backpacks are her Tilopa 50L DuraDiamond® in the Magma Red color option and her Ajna 37L DuraDiamond® in Anthracite Black. Her Tilopa travels with her for most adventures, including visiting ice caves in glaciers in the Canadian Rockies, hauling night photography gear up mountains and road trips to badlands. The Ajna is usually her travel pack pick when she needs to stay agile or deal with space restrictions on vehicles or with groups, but does occasionally go on mountaineering trips with her.

    For more adventurous trips, Monika uses the Medium Slope Camera Insert to keep her kit safe and organized. This still gives her enough space for a camera body or two, two or three lenses and leaves room to add things like Avalanche Gear, cookies (Essential!), water bottle, thermos, extra Layers, first aid kit, and various small accessories. Her crampons/micro spikes, ice axe and tripod attach securely to the outside of her pack using the Gatekeeper Straps and the other various attachment points. 

    Monika uses her Pro Large Camera Insert for photo-focused trips that need less adventure gear. For an "easy" night hike up a mountain, Monika will take two bodies, three lenses, two tripods, a star tracker, extra layers, water, thermos, snacks, a first aid kit, and camera accessories. 

    Competition: https://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/astronomy-photographer-year

    Website: https://monikadeviatphotography.com/

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