Thursday, June 4, 2020

Pictures longer than 30 seconds

March 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Equipment, How To's

Someone just asked, “can I take exposures longer than 30 sec. using my Nikon DLSR?”

Nikon D40

Nikon D40

The answer is yes. You can take exposures much longer than 30 sec. but you have to do it manually. Set your Nikon DSLR (D40, D50, D60, D70, D80, D90) to manual (M) or shutter priority (S) and move your shutter speed to bulb. Now manually hold the shutter open for as long as you desire. You might find the use of a stop watch or timer helpful.

Hold the shutter open for 60 sec.,  for example, and release. The trouble with this is that you actually touching the camera will likely create enough shake to blur your image. So there are remote and hands free options available.

Nikon DSLR cameras that use an InfraRed trigger sensor can all use the Nikon ML-L3 Wireless Remote Control. This is a small remote control with one button. You press the button as if you were pressing the shutter release on your camera with the big difference of not actually touching the camera. This will eliminate your physical contact with the camera and any shake and blur caused by your touch.

The big challenge here is that you’re still holding the shutter open manually. In order to automate this process and set more accurate exposure times beyond 30 sec., you need to use a computer and some software to control your camera. Nikon offers Camera Control Pro, which allows you to control all of your camera’s settings from your computer.

For Astronomy.

There are also astronomy tools available for astro-photographers that will allow you to program and script shutter times longer than 30 sec., for less money.

page10_1Stark Labs writes software called DSLR Shutter, that will allow you to control shutter times past 30 sec., and repeat multiple exposures. DSLR Shutter is available for Free download from their site (however they’re always accepting donations.) DSLR Shutter will control the shutter only, allowing you to set multiple exposures of any time.

DSLR Shutter works great using an InfraRed USB Shutter Control unit. Shoestring Astronomy makes an IR remote that will connect to the USB port on your computer. The software works with the USB unit to trigger your camera’s shutter without having to touch the camera.

dsusbir1jpgShoestring Astronomy USB Shutter Control Adapter (DSUSB-IR1)

There are also IR cable solutions available from another manufacturer, Happ Griffin Astrocable and you can find them online at

When you combine the Shoestring Astronomy USB Shutter Control Adapter with the Stark-Labs DSLR Shutter software – you can shoot multiple exposures of any length – fully automated, without touching your camera and blurring images.

Another word of advice.

As you continue to take longer exposures you’ll notice your camera battery won’t perform as well as you’d hope. The longer exposures means longer recording times and more drain on your battery. You should always carry multiple, fully charged batteries or consider an AC adapter for your camera. Depending on which Nikon DLSR you use, you’ll most likely need a Nikon EH-5A AC Adapter. D40 and D40X users will need a second AC adapter part, Nikon EP-5 Power Supply Connector (see the links on this page). Once you have an AC adapter, your shutter times can extend beyond your expectations, allowing you full exposure freedom over time and space.

I use these tools for taking astronomy pictures – so please feel free to ask questions.

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