Fuzzy Constellations

By: Alan Dyer

Feb 21 2011

Tags: , , ,

Category: Constellations


Focal Length:50mm
Shutter:240 sec
Camera:Canon EOS 5D Mark II

I’ve tried for years to create the effect of fuzzy haloes around stars to pop out the brighter stars and make the constellation pattern more obvious. It’s the “Akira Fuji” effect, named for the ace Japanese astrophotographer who has long perfected the technique with beautiful and widely-published results. I’ve tried various soft focus and diffusion filters, scratched UV filters, vaseline-smeared filters, breathing on filters, etc., etc. None have worked well. Till now.

The Kenko “Softon” filter offered by Hutech Scientific works fabulously well! It’s a tough filter to find in local camera stores here — but Hutech sells it. And it really changes the way I do constellation shooting, making any previous shots obsolete. I take several shots without the filter then one or more of the same exposure with the filter in place. I stack the two types of exposures  in Photoshop, with the fuzz-filter layer blended with a Lighten mode to a varying opacity to “dial in” the level of fuzziness that looks good. Too much and it looks overdone and fake.

The technique also pops out the star colours, like here on red Betelgeuse amid the blue-white stars of  Orion. This was from January 2011 from my backyard and is a stack of four 5-minute exposures w/o filter and one with. All with the Canon 5D MkII and 50mm Sigma lens, a terrific combination for constellation portraits.

– Alan, January 2011 / Image © 2011 Alan Dyer

3 comments on “Fuzzy Constellations”

  1. The camera is tracking they sky — you can’t take images like this unless you are tracking. So it’s no problem taking the filter on and off the lens. Plus in stacking the images, Photoshop aligns them. Nor do you need to refocus, not with a filter in front of the lens, only with filters near the focal plane.

  2. Hello Alan
    Do you thread the Softon filter onto the lens? It seems this would take time and then you’d have to refocus, takes more time, and if not tracking, then everything will have moved.

  3. [...] are from natural causes here, and are not produced by filters (as in the blog from last year called Fuzzy Constellations) or by post-processing. The glows bring out the star colours, particularly orangish Betelgeuse at [...]

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