Dive into Astrophography Tonight!

The first images I took of the sky were from a point and shoot camera sitting on a stationary tripod. There’s fun to be had with equipment you might already have, but never thought to point at the night sky. That first point and shoot camera was a 2.1MP Fuji Finepix on a rickety tripod (that I still use on occasion). Unfortunately, I’m unable to find those wide-field shots from 12 years ago, but below is a single over-processed 30 second frame from my DSLR on that rickety old tripod taken last September in humid 95 degree heat. This was from when I first started to get back into this, but I’ll be getting back to the data to improve on the processing. The inset is of M31, the Andromeda Galaxy.

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Learning From Mistakes

You will keep learning – if you choose to of course. The key is to use the frustrations of a given night as a learning experience. It sounds so cliché, but sometimes clichés are just true. Take a look below at some of the issues I experienced when I started out and what I learned from them. As I learn more through screw-ups, I’ll grow this list.

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What’s the Bare Minimum to Get Started?

What you need to get started

What do you really need to get started? A camera and a tripod. I first became interested in astrophotgraphy after pointing my slightly above average point-and-shoot camera at the sky and setting the timer. If you already have a DSLR and some lenses, you might just be looking for a tracking mount for your camera for a few hundred dollars.

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Setup Workflow

I found this helpful to create when I was starting out. I found myself missing steps, and having to go backwards time and again. I don’t need checklist every time I go out anymore, but creating something similar yourself will definitely save you some time when your just getting going. It will also help you work out the most efficient way to get through your setup. Here are the steps, in order, that I perform every time I setup for an imaging session. This would be considered a top-level workflow, as each of these steps have steps underneath them. Click on the linked steps to see more detail about each step.

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My First Shot

M42 2-16-05 1

This was my first attempt at a Deep Space Object taken all the way back in 2005. You might be able to make out that it’s M42, the Great Orion Nebula… the core of it at least. Having only used point and shoot cameras my entire life, I didn’t realize the importance of manually focusing using the Meade DSI camera and the scope’s focus. I also lacked any understanding of field of view. I think these were 4×5 second exposures.

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