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Astrophotography - 101: How to get started.

dave.gt

Well-known member
Wow, for the last several months, since the acquisition of a D850, and using both the H5D, and a tiny Leica X1 for grins, I have been frustrated with the weather, location and the overall slow learning curve that I am on. Looking at all of the magnificent images in this thread, I really should pack up and head home.:(

The logistics of my finding and going to a dark sky area are impossible.

However, over the weekend, I read about the meteor shower event that was to be at its peak and Saturday was rainy and clouds remained the next day. So last night around 11:00pm, I sallied forth to my observatory... our terrace/patio in the backyard. Street lights abounding, I paid them little mind and set up the tripod anyway with the D850. Clouds... ugh... I shot them anyway and I have even made one interesting image with Jupiter and Saturn, shining bright and eerily through the clouds.

At 2:30am, I went back out on the terrace. More clouds, but I could see the stars quite well. I spent the next two hours shooting, checking the images on the computer and pretty much gave up when I walked out one last time to see how far the stars had moved. No clouds!:)

I set up quickly as it was 4:48am and sunrise would catch me or more clouds would move back in. Shooting went quickly with wide bracketing and I could clearly see the faint trail of the Milky Way on the camera screen.

My first captures of the Milky Way! They even looked similar to what I had seen online. :toocool:

In all, I have several images of what resemble Milky Way shots. They still suck, though...

Congratulations to me for reaching Level One!:

Here is one, complete with a meteor, or a bug:
Milky Way Meteor May 6, 2019 FINAL.jpg
 

dave.gt

Well-known member
After a short night of catching up on sleep, I have found, as usual, that a little bit of clarity of mind has graciously returned. Life is that way and always has been for me.:loco:

Landscape Astrophotography is beautiful, inspiring and fascinating! It is also not the kind of visual art that is convenient, or easy, for many reasons, including environmental, geographical, technical, and many other factors. After months of working on a personal mission to learn more about it, I am convinced that it will take a lot more time than I have available to learn how to make good images.

Perhaps I should have started this endeavor years ago, but reflective wishing is not productive. As we are just moving into the Milky Way Season, it is ironic that I now choose to simply let it be. My personal time for such ventures is closing fast.

My season for standing in the freezing cold of dark nights while my even my neighbor's dogs are smart enough to stay indoors :),is changing. I will re-visit the amazing area of L/A at a later date, sooner than later. Other priorities beckon, no... demand, my attention and energy.

Until a future date uncertain, I have my Night Sky books to keep my mind satiated. I hope others will continue this thread on L/A while I devote myself to other things with an occasional casual shot of the dark skies above while listening to music that fits my mood and fills the inspirational void.:thumbup:
 

dave.gt

Well-known member
Oh, and for those who I have spoken with who would like to learn Landscape Astrophotography, the images on this thread are amazing and the amount of talent, time and energy that is required of those artists to produce such images should not be underestimated. My greatest respect and appreciation goes to all of them!

As a Level 1 dweller, I am both happy and content to be inspired by their work.

As an artist who would like nothing better than to inspire those who are broken by life, I am frustrated. However, I post about my struggles and failures to emphasize that the beautiful L/A images on this thread and on-line are not easy by any means to create. Whatever they charge for someone to purchase their work is certainly under-priced, in my opinion.

A final grainy, embarrassing, failed attempt at a Milky Way image from my backyard beneath a thick light pollution dome, only recently partly shielded by the new foliage on the few trees we have outside of our old wooden fence, best viewed from 10' away :ROTFL::

Milky Way 1 May 6, 2019 FINAL.jpg
 

Don Libby

Well-known member
Had a bit of luck earlier this week with clear dark skies.

Fuji GFX 50s, GF 23mm f/4, ISO 6400. 12-shots at 15-seconds each for a total of 180 seconds. The files were opened in C1 then stacked using Sequator before finishing in PSCC.
 

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Don Libby

Well-known member
Is there a polar scope? How do you align? (I use a Losmandy G11)

Joel
Sorry I should have pointed this out. This is the newer revised Sky Guider with an iPolar scope that connects to a laptop for proper alignment. I haven't done an alignment yet as I need a slightly longer USB cable that should come today. While were have crappy skies I'll nevertheless attempt my first alignment this evening so I can get used to the software.

As a side note, I've removed the viewfinder to reduce the footprint and tried the 23mm, 45mm and 32-64mm all of which have worked well balance wise. I tried the 250 and found I need either another inch or more weight (I have an extra weight on order). I might try my 120 and 100-200 just to see what happens.

All in all I'm very pleased with this guider.

Don

The software for the polar scope seems to be straight forward and while I'll need to use a laptop (I use a Surface Book II) it should eliminate issues I had before using an older method which among other thing made me bend over way too much for way too long trying to get the proper alignment. I'll report back later...
 
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glennedens

Active member
The Polemaster is the way to go to polar align, it does require a computer of some form, takes about 5 minutes or so and is very accurate.

Here's my imaging rig from the Texas Star Party. No polar alignment necessary. Unfortunetly due to a problem with my guide scope setup I didn't get any images worth sharing :( And of course now the H2O Nebula has arrived!

_DSF7394.jpg
 

dave.gt

Well-known member
Whoa!!! Very impressive, Glen!:shocked:

Can't compete with that! But, I was able to pull something out of a cloudy evening while hoping for a power outage in the neighborhood... it didn't happen though.:ROTFL:

Night Sky Jupiter and Saturn May 5 FINAL, 2019.jpg
 

glennedens

Active member
Dave, the clouds are very cool and add mystery to the image. So in fact you are competing just fine :)

I forgot to setup my autoguider for an alt-az mount so it was trying to guide in RA only thinking it was attached to a german equitorial mount - so nothing but blobs, sigh. Operator error. Now we are in for a few days of rain.

The mount is interesting: it is alt-az, however it can be used for astrophotography, there is a rotator unit that rotates the entire payload - optical tube assembly and whatever camera is attached, finder, guider, etc. The telescope in this case is a 4" refractor, the main camera is a Nikon D810A, the guide camera is a QHY monochrome camera attached to a 30mm guidescope. The small box on top is a power distribution unit that provides 8V for the camera and 12V for the rest as well as running the anti-dew heaters.

The mount is designed by a brilliant mechanical engineer in Denmark. Once you align on two stars it is dead accurate in putting the requested object nearly dead center. Since it is alt-az no polar alignment is necessary and it does not have to be level. While it is heavy the mount packs down into two bags 24" x 12". It is made by Track the Stars and is called a Panther TTS-160.

I'm waiting for some adaptors to be fabricated so I can try using the X1D, this particular telescope will cover the X1D's medaium format image circle.

Glenn
 

JoelM

Active member
The Polemaster is the way to go to polar align, it does require a computer of some form, takes about 5 minutes or so and is very accurate.

Here's my imaging rig from the Texas Star Party. No polar alignment necessary. Unfortunetly due to a problem with my guide scope setup I didn't get any images worth sharing :( And of course now the H2O Nebula has arrived!

View attachment 141382
Nice setup. I used to have various Takahashi refractors as well, but am now using TMB and a Mak-Cass. Also, when the H20 nebula leaves San Diego as well, I will break out the 90mm double etalon solar scope. What a crazy winter/spring it has been, but for "normal" photography, the light has been very nice.

Joel
 

Don Libby

Well-known member
First clear sky since the day I received the Skyguider. Good new/bad news is that I got to fully kick the tires and get everything aligned and calibrated. System works well with my Surface Book II. The bad news is that the moon was bright enough to almost read from so no images taken.

I plan on working through the next couple clear nights to make certain I know what the heck I'm doing regarding the setup and wait until we go into the next dark cycle before attempting any images.

We've got a dandy place picked out to shoot with 30-minutes of the house and plan to go there for a couple nights then move over to CA and Joshua Tree for new moon with maybe a side trip to the Salton Sea.

Took about 40-minutes tonight to complete the calibration and setup; hopefully we can get that down to about 15 by the time we're ready to begin actually shooting. I must say I like the iPolar scope.

Don
 

dave.gt

Well-known member
First clear sky since the day I received the Skyguider. Good new/bad news is that I got to fully kick the tires and get everything aligned and calibrated. System works well with my Surface Book II. The bad news is that the moon was bright enough to almost read from so no images taken.

I plan on working through the next couple clear nights to make certain I know what the heck I'm doing regarding the setup and wait until we go into the next dark cycle before attempting any images.

We've got a dandy place picked out to shoot with 30-minutes of the house and plan to go there for a couple nights then move over to CA and Joshua Tree for new moon with maybe a side trip to the Salton Sea.

Took about 40-minutes tonight to complete the calibration and setup; hopefully we can get that down to about 15 by the time we're ready to begin actually shooting. I must say I like the iPolar scope.

Don
Great to hear the bonding is ongoing, Don. I went through the same iterative process getting the setup time down and now it is really fast.

The iOptron is a great instrument, and appears to be of really good quality. :thumbup:

If I ever get to a dark sky location, I am ready! It sounds like you are only a short time away from the right conditions and making more awesome images:):):)

Can't wait to see them!
 

Don Libby

Well-known member
Sorry, no photos. Just a quick update on the iOptron Skyguider with iPolar Scope. Took it out second night in a row last night with the primary purpose of getting used to both the physical and software setup. Last night I attached the GFX 50s along with the 32-64 just to test weight. The system balanced perfectly with room left beyond the weight. The 23 and 45 both balance further up as they are lighter. I removed the viewfinder to conserve weight as well as the L portion of the bracket (also makes it easier to change batteries if needed and use the remote). It took me approx. 10 plus minutes to properly set up the scope after I was finished setting up, I'm using a Surface Book II and had no issues with the software or alignment. The moon was brighter than the night before so no real work done. I plan on several more night of "kicking the tires" before setting out around the end of the month to actually get dark skies. All in all worth the money.


Don
 

darr

Well-known member
Watched this today and thought others would enjoy it too.
Published on May 20, 2019
Chasing Starlight: Adventures in Photographing our Night Sky | Jack Fusco | TEDxUIUC

 

Don Libby

Well-known member
Lost some sleep this morning shooting between 2 and 4 a.m. however happy with the results.

Shot the Milky Way in an empty corral that also has a tall windmill and water tank. Fuji GFX 60s, GF45mm f/2.8 ISO 4000 and a total of 12-images files ( total of 60-seconds) and 1-dark frame.

Opened in C1-Pro, stacked in Sequator before final processing in PSCC.

Enjoy!
 

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