During the August bank holiday I went for a few days away with family and as ever, I brought a camera with me...and by a camera, I mean three. I brought my backup Nikon, the D3100, my Canon 600D and also my GoPro 2. These were all with the intention of shooting stars and 'astrophotography' for the first time; living in the centre of a city and with no car It's not always easy to escape light pollution and capture stars.
I have seen plenty of astrophotography previously and had an idea of how I should shoot: near infinite focus, high ISO and long exposure, but I wasn't expecting to hit the quality of the veterans in the field. I also had no idea what I was shooting, the stars weren't all so obvious to the naked eye and with some ambient light around from the campsite I was at - combined with the ever accidental lighting up of the LCD totally blinding me every now and again - I was shooting nearly blind.
Focus is especially hard to get right, some suggested to focus your lens during the day and tape it down so it won't move accidentally, some say to go to infinite and roll back 1-2mm, and others say to focus on the stars if they are bright enough. I couldn't tape the lens down as I was using them during the day with the family so I tried trial and error and also focusing on the stars in the distance through the viewfinder - after waiting 30 seconds for my eyes to adjust to the darkness.
The settings I had in the end were always either 1600 or 3200 ISO (no smaller stop increments on either camera) and a 30 second exposure. I believe my White Balance was on auto as my RAW settings in Lightroom differ between shots (I can't remember exactly though) and my aperture was always the widest I could achieve on the Nikkor 16-85mm. I took a range of shots including: just sky, over the campsite with sky at the top, sky through trees and various other stuff, even one involving light painting onto trees with the sky in the middle. I took a lot more shots than what I ended up with at the end, many of them I had to check the next day in the daylight to see them properly, and they were all 'darker' than you would usually shoot; but i suppose this is just the nature of shooting the night sky.
I had four shots I really liked in the end, and as a first attempt I'm happy with them, they did take a lot of post processing with HSL to make them look nice, and when I was playing with the white balance it never looked conventionally 'wrong', only ever in the blue spectrum or the orange spectrum; and I preferred the blue spectrum with purple sections.