Just dropped in

Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)

or

“Nickle & Dimed”

“To be nickled and dimed to death”

  Ok enough of the sayings . . . . what I am getting at is my latest adventure, hobby, pursuit, endeavor . . . yup . . . ASTRO PHOTOGRAPHY  .  I know your screwing up your forehead wondering just what and where this little tirade of mine is headed.  Well, you know the routine . . . you get excited about some facet of whatever it is that you are currently applying that 3 pounds of gray matter in your melon too, When much to your dismay this picture you’ve painted for yourself doesn’t fit reality! YUP ! A Fantasy Letdown . . .

Celestron AVX Mount & Camera Lens combo

(CGEM) Celestron AVX Mount & Nikon Camera 300mm f/4 AF Lens combo and a guide scope.

 “That ain’t the way to have fun, no” / “That ain’t the way to have fun, son” / “That ain’t the way to have fun, no” . . .  “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” !

Orion ED80 80mm f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope

Orion ED80 80mm f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope

  •  FANTASY is: get telescope go out every night and make purdy pictures of the stars and all those other heavenly sights just like what I see in all those magazines and on the internet.
  • FACT is: Get a decent telescope (type), Computer guided Equatorial mount, guide scope, focusing aids, filters, special cables, dew heater strips, boxes, batteries, more little items that are needed, alignment camera, alignment scope, specialty camera (if not using your DSLR) more special cables, batteries, specialty software, chairs, specialty flashlights(torch), maps, books, (weather) ha the weather, it seems everything from humidity to wind, cold, heat, ambient light (Light pollution if your in the city or burbs), trees, structures, the moon, planes, satellites, porch lights,  vibration from footsteps (need vibration pads if on cement or asphalt) get the hint yet? oh and we haven’t even got to summer yet . . . the bugs! or the hours spent capturing the photographs and the hours spent processing to get to a final solution that might come close to a rendering that looks like a Hubble photograph . . .
  • FACT is: You will spend some money . . . How much Money . . . Well, it all depends,  if you want that photo you just rendered to look like it belongs on a wall at NASA or in some Astro magazine . . . then as the saying goes, “wanna play with the big boys” then you need to be ready to slap your plastic HARD and it will HURT . . . OUCH!
  • FACT is: Q – can you live within your means and still pull in some eye poppin pix of the heavenly sights (well some of them anyway), A – Yes you can if you budget wisely and learn what your equipment can do and what objects are suited to it. (Hopefully you had a goal in mind and educated yourself BEFORE you slapped your plastic down.)
  • FACT is: you don’t need a telescope, just a good DSLR & telephoto lens

 

You can use BIG OLD GLASS as well, like this 200mm Nikkor f/2 manual focus lens.

You can use BIG OLD GLASS as well, like this 200mm Nikkor f/2 manual focus lens. Most older MF lenses work great for astro photography, I do stop them down 2 stops for added DOF and to help with focusing errors.

 

(To See What Condition My Condition is In)

  I am retired, that alone should be a hint as to where I am in the game (meager equipment).  Now what was my goal(s) to begin with?

  • To take photos of Galaxies, some nebulae, maybe a comet if one showed up and perhaps a few of the planets.  Each of those items has it’s own set of rules to lay by, just like the various facets of photography, wildlife, studio portraits, sports, macro . . . each has a general set of gear and rules to get to that magic place and make decent photos.
  • Budget.  I think I have met the constraints of my limited budget for the basic equipment, by that I mean a fully functioning unit that I can acquire image data to work with.  One can, if done prudently, purchase used equipment to meet budgetary requirements
  • Software: what cannot be done with my current post imaging software is augmented with a few freeware items primarily for stacking of images.
  • To build a system that had growth potential as my skill set improved
  • Lastly, to have fun
The evolving Astro rig

The evolving Astro rig

I do believe I have managed to meet my all goals, so far the Astro setup I have assembled has met my budgetary goals.  The only thing that has held me back has been Mother Nature . . . and only time and some clear skies will tell if I have succeeded in meeting my photographic goals.

There is a ton of information, some Good, some Bad, some Ugly . . . just as there is equipment that matches that previous statement. If you are already a photographer you may already have a leg up on the budget with a decent camera body and maybe a lens or two to get you started in DSO imaging.  If you have a stash of older MF lenses you may have a few treasures there as well.  The biggest issue you will have is finding your target(s).  Your DSO target may be large, but it may be dim, so ready yourself for extra long exposures and higher ISO’s and MANUAL focus . . . Manual everything.  Like photographic gear the two best things to remember are, you get what you pay for and you can’t believe everything you read/see on the internet . . . Granted you can use the reviews and the user groups and blog to get a feel for a piece of gear, but, remember these are someones opinion, if your going to use opinions then I would say exhaust every source you can . . .  and take them with a grain of salt, as the wide wide field of astro photography equipment brands and how it’s done, groups which are  peppered with the same type people you get in car circles, you know the Chevy -vs- Ford groups.  Some swear by refractor telescopes, some by reflector style, or brand A over Brand B or you have to have the latest this or that. Yep there are those which look down upon one iteration because it’s not the latest or has the latest coatings, number of elements, or lastly the Dollar value.  All those latter issues I mentioned sort of take the “FUN” and “ENJOYMENT” out of it.  I say this, it’s not the tool (well most often it isn’t, it does matter a bit in Astro Photography) but the mind behind the tool . . . There is some literature out that will answer a lot of what you basically need as far as equipment (a great place to spend some money first), and some that will describe the how to and why things are done certain ways as well where to get further help if you can’t seem to “get it” on your own.  I will say this, you may not need a telescope for what I do (but it helps), you can do some DSO (Deep Sky Objects) imaging with just camera gear, but I would suggest a decent CGEM (Computer German Equatorial Mount) & tripod because it makes it easier to find and track objects.  An old saying is “buy what you need the first time  or you will spend more in the long run to get what you want” when it comes to tripods, I believe the same goes for CGEM’s.   There are some basic types here as well, some good some bad, but, why add to the challenge when you can get a quality CGEM and make life less difficult.  Myself I have little issue with buying used equipment, some people cannot and will not do this, even so far as to expect a pristine right out of the box.  Most (not all, but most) Amateur Astronomers take pride in the care of their gear, so it is mostly in great shape.

As for finding out if you want to get into this facet of photography, know now, it is a frustrating path to achievement, find a local Astronomy club with people doing what you want to do, and try it out with them.  Amateur Astronomers will fall all over themselves to show you the ropes, explain their setup and most likely share a story or two with you of what to look out for.  Most Clubs put on a public star party where anyone can walk up and see the stars, ask questions and get some good advice.

If your brave, you can jump in cold and try this on your own like I have . . . again, BE WARNED, Astro Photography can and will frustrate the hell out of you, and can cause some real G.A.S., (also known as Gear Acquisition Syndrome),   So read, read, read everything you can about the area of this most challenging types of photography . . . from capture of data to final processing each subject brings its own challenges.

SO . . . What Condition My Condition is In

I’m

on target and within budget

My fun meter is pegged, my challenge bar is high (but not out of reach)

without breaking the bank or incurring the spouses wrath 😉

and yes

I am currently frustrated

been 3 weeks of rain, clouds, fog, heavy dew or my sinuses

but

I am ready when it clears

  The saying is among Astronomers . . . is . . . Clear Skies

this is Digi

aka

Tim

wishing Clear skies to everyone

P.S.  I’ll do a complete gear list for all you gearheads out there . . it wouldn’t be fair not to 😉  . . . and I’ll post a reading list of what might be informative literature . . .

The moon is always interesting and fun

The moon is always interesting and fun, Shiller crator (looks like a big footprint on the moon)

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