Saturn is the second largest planet in our solar system which is why many people can capture a clear picture of its beautiful rings without using an Astronomer’s professional lab equipment.
That’s right you can take photos at home, and still capture the stunning planet. Here is how you do it.
The Right Weather Conditions To Photograph Saturn
Taking photos of the night sky requires patience. If you’re a wildlife photographer, you’ll understand the type of patience you need.
From a weather point of view, you need a clear night. No clouds and little wind. Although the wind shouldn’t be a problem, a strong wind could bring tomorrow’s forecast into tonight’s air space. And if the clouds start to roll in, you’ll lose your canvas.
Of course, you have no control over the wind and the clouds, so you have to look at your local forecast and trust the information you find. Go out every night that you’re due a clear sky, and hope that the scientists giving you that information are correct.
The Right Time Of Year To Photograph Saturn
Late summer and early fall are the best times of year to photograph Saturn. This is due to the planet’s rotation, and the placement of the rings.
The disc will be at their largest and their brightest, meaning your image of the planet and the rings will be at their clearest.
Because the disc will be facing this beautiful angel, the sun will be reflecting off the surface area more. This means the planet will be brighter.
However, each area of the world will have a different moment to observe the planet.
As long as the night is clear, and you’re in the months between summer and fall, you should have a chance to spot Saturn. However, some days will offer a better chance. For example on the 27th of August 2023, we will experience Saturn At Opposition.
This is when the planet is at its closest point to Earth. The Sun will completely illuminate it. You can expect Saturn to be at its brightest, and it will be visible throughout the night.
During this time, you will also see the planet’s moons.
To understand the best time for your location, search for information about Saturn At Opposition in your area.
The Right Camera Features To Photograph Saturn
You can see Saturn without a telescope, especially during the times we mentioned above.
However, to take a good picture of the planet, you need a telescope and a DSLR camera. We will speak more about DSLR cameras later, for now, let’s focus on basic cameras such as your mobile phone.
Because Saturn can be seen without a telescope, your phone camera will be able to capture the planet on its brightest days. However, you won’t be able to pick up on the details of the planet.
Using your phone or other cameras, switch the feature to night mode, then wide angle lens, and choose the exposure features.
Night mode will automatically elongate the exposure of your image. This means that blurry pictures will be defined as the camera takes longer to process what it’s seeing. It also means the deep blacks of the night sky will hold more depth in your image.
Because you won’t be able to get real detail from your phone, using a wide camera angle can help you bring a subject to the foreground. This will make your picture feel more creative, while Saturn sits in the background “purposefully” out of focus.
If you can extend your exposure features, the black depth in your imagery will be greater. Not all phones will have this feature, so play around with it to learn what you can do.
Wide Lens Versus Long Lenses
Using a wide lens will help you pick out and capture planets while you wait in the dusk or dawn light.
Wide lenses often have an automatic feature that changes the lighting based on the darkness around you.
This makes them easier to use for new photographers.
If you want the landscape in your image, they can also help add detail to your background as your camera focuses on the foreground.
Longer lenses are harder to manage, but you will pick up more details of the planet. The longer lens, however, will sacrifice the other star’s details in favor of the one you’re focusing on – Saturn.
It isn’t necessarily a problem, but it may affect your photography plans.
Why You Should Use DSLR Cameras?
DSLR stands for Digital Single-Lens Reflex Camera. When the photographer looks through the lens, they see their subject as a reflection from a mirror inside the machine.
When they take the photo, the mirror is instantly removed, allowing the light to come in and the photo is taken.
This basically describes any modern camera, but the really important part comes from the lenses. With a DSLR you can change lenses, which allows you to take detailed pictures from further away.
This is perfect for photographing Saturn.
First, set your focus to Manual Focus (or Infinity). This will help your planets look sharp in the image.
Using a tripod, take long exposure images. Take a few and swap lenses until you find the right distance, lens, and shutter speed for your location.
Ideally, you should use a 200 mm telephoto lens so you can easily see Saturn’s rings.
Let’s recap. Learn about your forecast predictions, and plan to take photos in the summer or fall. Hopefully, your skies will be clear on the 27th of August 2023, but if you’re reading this in the future, look for times when Saturn is At Opposition.
Lastly, use a DSLR camera with a 200 mm telephoto lens and practice taking pictures in the area to get a good understanding of depth and shutter speed.