astrophotography

What's in my camera bag - 2017 edition

The most typical question I get is what do I currently use for my photography. So here is the 2017 version of the gear I use daily in my photography and also some unusual stuff such as my favorite books at the moment. 

Camera Bag

Let's start with the obvious, the camera bag. I have used plenty of different camera bags most of them from Lowepro. Currently, I use a Lowepro Protactic 450 AW. The customizability and size are perfect for my equipment. 

What's on my shopping list

The f-stop SHINN looks impressive for long hikes when you need to have room for all of your gear and essentials. 

Cameras

I use two camera bodies the Nikon D810 and D800. Mostly I just have the D810 with me, but for longer travels, I have the D800 as a backup. I also use the D800 to shoot timelapse while I have the D810 to shoot stills. 

What's on my shopping list

Nothing. I'm very pleased with the D810 at the moment, but if Nikon releases a successor to the D810, I'm sure I will be considering an upgrade. 

Lenses

To be honest, I have too many lenses at the moment. Most of which I leave at home and don't use at all. I'll be selling those because I don't need them anymore. Recently I received a Laowa 12 mm f/2.8 ultra wide angle lens which is excellent for night sky photography. What I love about the Laowa is the smooth focusing in the dark because of the hard mechanical stop for infinity. 

In My Bag

Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8 - My go to lens for landscapes and star photography - sharp! 
Sigma 20 mm f/1.4 ART (Canon version here) - My newest lens is a great addition capturing Milky Way - so good!
Nikon 50 mm f/1.4 G - A great low light lens for shallow depth of field. Weights nothing!
Nikon 70-200 mm f/4.0 VR II - Sharp telephoto lens for landscapes and detail shots. 
Laowa 12 mm f/2.8 (only Canon and Pentax mounts avail at the moment in Amazon) - Excellent for astrophotography, weights about half of the Nikon 14-24 mm. 

Lenses I use sometimes but not often enough

Sigma 24 mm f/1.4 ART Nikon (Canon mount) I use this for northern lights, it's sharp from 1.4!
Sigma 35 mm f/1.4 ART Nikon (Canon mount) I hardly put this lens on, sometimes when I capture our dog... 

Lenses I don't use anymore and will be selling

I first bought most of these when I switched to the D800, and since then have been gradually upgrading to the ones I have in my bag. All of these would be good enough for what I do. I think the upgrades have not really impacted the quality of my work so remember that when you first start. 

Nikon 16-35 mm f/4.0 VR - Great sharp wide angle for landscapes with screw on filters.
Nikon 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 VR- Small, cheap and light tele zoom.
Nikon 105 mm f2.5 AI - A legendary sharp lens for tight landscapes and smooth backgrounds.
Samyang 14 mm f/2.8 - Light and sharp astrophotography lens with huge wave distortion  (fixable though).
Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 - As sharp as the Nikon I use, but much heavier, so it has been sitting on the shelf for too long.
Sigma 70 mm f/2.8 Macro - Excellent for macro photography, sharp but slow autofocus.

What's on my shopping list

I will be getting a Nikon 28-300 mm f/3.5-5.6 VR soon as a travel lens, and it is what I will be carrying with me for the long hikes accompanied with an ultra wide angle lens for landscapes and star photography. 

Tripod & Other Accessories

I recently bought a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Tripod with BH-40 LR Ballhead and quick release lever. I also got the TA-3-FRC Rock Claw Foot for it. These are fantastic for a slippery surface and of course for rocky terrain. The best choice was to get an L-plate for the Nikon D810. It makes it so much faster to change from vertical to horizontal and likewise. The only thing that is a bit annoying is that when it's freezing, the quick lever seems to jam in the middle. If I want to change the camera to the horizontal position I need to slide it from the end of the quick release platform and slide it back and then lock it in the position. 

Remote Controller

I use a standard Pixel remote controller for time-lapse work. And a Hahnel Giga T Pro II when I need more than 20 second's to get in the frame of my shot. Usually, I use the self-timer on my camera to get sharp images with either 2 sec or 5 sec timer. 

Filters

I recently received a set of Nisi filters with the filter holder for the Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8, and I must admit the holder feels much more robust than the equivalent Lee holder. The only downside to the Nisi holder is that it seems to jam the zoom slightly when you screw it on the Nikon 14-24 mm which makes the zooming feel uncomfortable. 

Nisi Soft IR GND8 (0.9) - soft grad for balancing the exposures. 
Nisi IR ND1000 (3.0) - 10 stop filter, excellent for long exposure. Seems to have less vignetting than the Lee Big Stopper. 
Nisi HD Polarizer - This is a great filter to remove reflections or boost them. You can quickly rotate the holder so it's adjustable. 

Mavic Pro

I recently purchased a DJI Mavic Pro fly more combo to widen my possibilities in capturing different perspectives. I love using the Mavic Pro. The drone is small and easy to operate, and it fits perfectly with the rest of my gear in the camera bag. 

Favorite Resources

I'm currently reading

I used to have a lot of different books lying around my office, but once I got the Amazon Kindle, I have been using it a lot. It's so convenient to take with you rather than all the 40+ large books I have stored in it. I love the look of the display and I can read it in complete darkness when my wife is sleeping, and don't want the lights on anymore. If I really enjoy a book I will get a printed copy as well. 

Tim Ferris - Tools of Titans. Fantastic book with insight to some of the World's most successful people. 
Dan Brown - Deception Point. A fiction book with an unusual and intriguing story of Nasa and science discovery. 

I'm currently watching

Chase Jarvis - Inspiring photographer, entrepreneur and creator
Casey Neistat - Probably the most watched vlogger at the moment
Marques Brownlee - Tech review guy on YouTube
Peter McKinnon - Great source of inspiration and tips for photographers
Tales by Light - Inspiring photography documentary on Netflix

Apps I'm Using

Photographer's Ephemeris - Great tool for sunset and Milky Way scouting
PhotoPills - Another tool to make plans and see the Milky Way location
Star Walk - A stargazing app, great to learn stars and planet's

Glow

Capturing Perseid Meteor Shower is one of the things I try to shoot each year. This year we had luck with the weather and we headed to the coast with Konsta and Juuso. I set my time-lapse rail to a place I thought might work and set it to shoot for four hours. While my other camera was capturing the time-lapse, I took a bunch of different still images of the location. We were amazed at how bright some of the meteors were. 

For this photograph, I ended up using three horizontal images.

Equipment & Exif

Nikon D810, Nikkor 14 - 24 mm f/2.8, Manfrotto Tripod
Three Exposures ISO 4000, 14 mm, f/2.8, 30 sec. 

Post-processing

I used Lightroom CC to stitch the panorama together. First I edited the basic settings and added light to the detail with one of my Saga Presets: FG & Stars - Smooth. For colors, I used a Phase Preset: Color - Oldie. 

Glow - Emäsalo, Finland - 2016

Presets Collection Saga

After a long wait, I finally present you the new fine art landscape and night sky Lightroom Preset Collection Saga! If you want to add a unique look to your night and landscape photographs the Saga Presets are perfect for you! It includes over 180 presets to suit your style with my post-processing techniques. The collection uses the same technique of step by step process as the Phase Presets. Below you can find before and after photographs edited with the new collection. 

video on how to use Saga Lightroom Presets

2015 in Pictures

Happy New Year everyone! A year has gone by and what a year it has been. I feel grateful that I can continue to do what I love! Thank you all for the support! As always I have gathered my favorite pictures from the previous year. 

Mikko Lagerstedt - Glow - 2015 - Lempäälä, Finland

Mikko Lagerstedt - Searching For The Horizon - 2015 - Meri-Pori, Finland

Mikko Lagerstedt - The Whole Universe Surrenders - 2015 - Emäsalo, Finland

Mikko Lagerstedt - Pier - 2015 - Cyprus

Mikko Lagerstedt - Illuminated Night - 2015 - Porvoo, Finland

Mikko Lagerstedt - The Lost World - 2015 (published) - Emäsalo, Finland

Mikko Lagerstedt - Stillness of Night - 2015 - Emäsalo, Finland

Mikko Lagerstedt - Frozen Wrodl - 2015 - Ylläs, Finland

Thank you for viewing! If you are interested in prints, go ahead to my print shop: http://www.mikkolagerstedt.com/buy-art.

Winter Night Photography Checklist

It's that time of year when the temperature drops and snow covers landscapes. Winter is my favorite time to shoot landscapes. You can almost hear the silence from snow covered landscape photographs. The light is low and beautiful almost the entire day but as you know me I enjoy to photograph at night. Here is my checklist when I'm heading out to photograph in below-freezing weather. 

Frozen World - Ylläs, Finland 2015

Frozen World - Ylläs, Finland 2015

1. Extra Batteries

When shooting in below-freezing temperatures, batteries discharge faster, so it's essential to have extra batteries. Remember to charge the batteries fully before heading out. I put my extra batteries to inside pockets in my jacket, this way they will stay warmer and kept fully charged when I need to change to a new one. 

Night Tiles - Porvoo, Finland 2015

Night Tiles - Porvoo, Finland 2015

2. Camera Bag

Keeping your camera gear clean and easy to access is essential. I take my camera bag with me everywhere, so I take it with me when shooting in cold weather. I use Lowepro Protactic 400AW to carry my gear. Depending on what time I'm out, I might take only a couple of lenses and a Tripod. 

I always carry a big plastic bag inside the camera bag. You don't have to keep your camera inside the plastic bag when you are out shooting, instead use it when you get back inside the house. Put your camera inside the plastic bag and leave the plastic bag with the camera inside your camera bag. The plastic bag will keep the moisture out of the camera. Keep the camera there for a couple hours before transferring the photographs to the computer. It's also important to warm up the gear gradually.

For those of you who are interested in what gear, I have with me most of the time: Camera bodies Nikon D810, D800 and lenses Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8, Samyang 14 mm f/2.8, Sigma 35 mm f/1.4 ART and a telephoto lens and Sirui tripod. 

Night Glow - Kerava, Finland 2012

Night Glow - Kerava, Finland 2012

3. Gloves, Clothes & Shoes

Keeping yourself warm in cold temperatures is important. I try to have spare gloves with me or top-up mittens such as hunting gloves since these work great when you need to adjust the camera settings. When you are out the whole day with the wrong kind of clothes, it affects the energy level you have so you won't be able to capture all the beauty you might have wanted to. There are a lot of different winter clothes you can choose. My go-to clothes are Goretex to keep me dry and warm. I suggest investing in decent winter clothes. I use IceBug shoes when I'm on a frozen or otherwise slippery surface. When on a snowy terrain I recommend to get snowshoes if you need to travel by foot. 

4. Accessories

My go-to filters include UV-filters and Polarization filter. Usually, I don't bring my long exposure kit (Lee filters) with me, but when there is open-water insight I might have them with me. A remote controller can keep your hands warm when you don't have to change the settings. I keep spare batteries for my remote-controllers if I'm shooting at night or in the evening light. 

Tips for taking the pictures

  1. Don't over exposure the snow
  2. Don't rush and take a moment to appreciate the surrounding scenery
  3. Look for leading lines and interesting foreground elements
  4. Light might change quickly so keep yourself ready to shoot at all times

Learn more my techniques from my Star Photography Masterclass!