Tutorial: How to shoot astro panoramas

Ever since Syrp was born, we have been fascinated about trying to capture the night sky and specifically the amazing time-lapses that our community creates using Syrp Motion Control. After launching our latest app feature multi-row panorama, we discovered another way to capture the grandeur of the night sky.

Charles Brooks is a true expert in this field. He runs Opus Expeditions in New Zealand, taking adventurous photographers to the most breathtaking locations around the country. He has mastered the art of Astro and in this filmmaking guide, he shares all of his best-kept secrets about how to shoot a multi-row panoramic Astro image. Anyone can take a good photo of the stars, but not everyone can get that mind-blowing effect that you’re about to learn.

In this video, Charles walks you through the process of taking amazing Astro panoramas. This is a very in-depth tutorial that goes from the gear he uses and location-scouting right through to post-production.

We recommend you clear your schedule for the next 30 minutes make yourself a cup of tea and pay full attention!

Don’t have 30mins right now? Keep scrolling for the highlights featured in this tutorial.


Find the perfect location

As 83% of the world population lives under light-polluted skies, it can be really hard to escape these bright areas, as traces of light can persist for miles.

Luckily in New Zealand, this is a bit easier. There are natural nightscapes and dark sky sanctuaries all over the country, allowing us to indulge ourselves in some of the darkest places in the planet.

Charles uses a website called Dark Site Finder to find the perfect spot for this shoot and Photopills to find exactly where the Milky Way is going to be at during this time of the year, thanks to their Planner and 2D Milky Way modes. The best season is different for the Southern and Northern Hemisphere.

Composition is very important when choosing the right location, as the Milky Way should be perfectly situated on top of other elements that will also be in the frame to create an interesting effect.


The ideal setup

Capturing panoramas does not require much gear other than a very sturdy tripod. In this video, Charles uses the Genie Mini II Pan Tilt kit to automate the process and setup. This can also be done manually, but the post-production process might be a bit harder and there’s always the risk of missing frames.

For this shoot, he uses an S PRO 50mm f/1.4 Lens on a Panasonic Lumix S1 and a Manfrotto 055 tripod.

Traditionally, astrophotography required specialized, fast and very wide lenses. When shooting Astro panoramas, you can replicate the same effect and quality using a standard lens, making this beautiful photo technique more accessible to all of us.


Capturing the stars

When shooting the Milky Way, it is very important to move quickly to each frame as the stars are constantly moving. In this video, Charles explains the difference between the different panorama options and his ideal camera settings. He also explains how to ideally set up the Genie Mini II Pan Tilt kit to capture multi-row panoramas with ease and shares some secrets that will be really helpful later on during post-production.


Post-processing your images

The rest of the video covers in detail the full process of post-production, so you can follow it step by step when editing panoramas in the future. Charles uses only three pieces of software: Adobe Lightroom to clean up the individual images, PTGui to stich them together and Photoshop for the final touches.

This process is as exciting as the actual shoot and its when your panoramic image really comes to life. Doing it right will make a big difference in the final result.

Watch until the end to see Charles’ fully processed panorama ready to be shared with the world.


About Charles Brooks

Charles Brooks is an exceptional photographic talent. Since the beginning of his career, he specialized in portrait photography and landscapes. His stills of classical musicians are used continuously by the most important theatres and opera houses worldwide. On the other hand, his low-light photos of southern Chile, glowworms in New Zealand, and the night sky, all make the front pages of major social networks.

After spending several years living in Chile and having a successful career all over South America, he is back in his home country, New Zealand, where he runs unique photography masterclasses and workshops with this company Opus Expeditions.

These are some other impressive multi-row panoramas that Charles captured as part of this project:

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