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Old 11-05-2010   #1
Guanaco
 
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Default Astrophotography Thread

Hey folks.

I wanted to start an astrophotography thread, a place for people to post thier astro pics, and discuss techniques, tips, locations etc.

My first attempt at AP (astrophotography) was a few years ago during a camping trip in colorado. All i had was my Nikon D40 and a 35mm 1.8 lens. I figured i would give it a shot and my results were not terrible. It was over a year before i tried again

Due to the long drive and weather/moon phase requirements i try to prepare myself as much as possible each time.

The 2nd time i tried AP i drove about 50 miles east of Denver and got away from the city lights. I show with my Nikon D90 using a Tokina 12-24 lens, ISO 3200, 30 second exposure, all NR turned off, exposure delay mode (sort of like MLU) and a wireless remote. Moon was about half full.

The results were good but there was still too much light pollution. The next time i went it was a new moon, a few weeks later 70 miles east of denver, and i was much happier with the result. I checked this online resource Dark Sky Finder to find a spot with as close to zero light pollution as possible. I was much happier with my results, but realized that the truly spectacular images require ISO 200 and under, with multiple long stacked exposures.

Tomorrow im starting my scotch mount built (barn door tracker) which will move the camera 15 degrees per hour in alignment of the polar axis, which should yield in long term exposures without the star trails.

My current goal is to get a high enough quality of shot of orions belt to get the Orion Nebula (M42) and horsehead nebula (b33) clearly visable

I will be using a Nikon D90 for this, and a 70-200 2.8 AFS VR lens. I checked through the viewfinder at 200mm last night and the magnification is enough to fill the frame with all three stars of the belt.

Anyway, here are a couple shots of my last expedition, this next time through i hope to have more than just the outer band of the milky way, i plan to do my research and come home with some shots of nebulas.

I will be including photos and video of the build for the scotch mount, the design should allow up to an hour or precise tracking.

Anyway thank you for checking out the thread, any questions, advice, experience, would be great, please no arguing or bickering.

here is the outer band of the mikly way, single shot, no stacking, 3200 ISO, F/4 12mm NR off, shot 12 bit RAW, noise reduction in Photoshop CS5 Camera Raw.


same settings, the larger glow is Denver 70 miles out, the lighter glow i believe is Colorado springs well over 100 miles away


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Old 11-05-2010   #2
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Default Re: Astrophotography Thread

WOW.....Never knew the results would be so good without super expensive NASA stuff...Love it...Your in a great place for this type of photography...I am on the east coast and would have to go out in the middle of the ocean to get this....Keep posting, this is cool stuff...
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Old 11-05-2010   #3
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Oh WOW!! Great job with these and I can't wait to see what you get while tracking. I've tried this only once the shots were okay but we had a campfire burning 6 feet away. It looks like a pretty short shutter speed as well.
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Old 11-05-2010   #4
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a big part is just finding an area dark enough. about 50 miles out of denver i can see the outerband of the milkyway clearly, however the level of noise and quality of image greatly improve another 20 miles out.

there is no reason people cant get "stellar" images. <--DOH! haha

if i was not stuck at work right now i would be building the scotch mount right now

Here is a quick shot i took to check the framing of orions belt at 200mm. No cropping just resized. This is the area i will be targeting. Red circles indicate orions belt, and the green circle is the area i should find the horsehead nebula (b33) This was a 6 second shot and the stars are already becoming pill shaped. This was on a tripod, and even light wind was obviously causing some vibrations. the focus was definatly good, i used lived view, zoomed was in on the middle star on the belt and manually focused it. But i think i have a solution to the micro vibrations caused by the wind. Once i get the tracker build and find a clear night with no moon im gonna go for the shot. i will be at F5.6, ISO 200, 200mm, and will have to play around with exposure time.

If you have never seen how much stuff is in here, go to google images and search "orions belt astrophotography"

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Old 11-05-2010   #5
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Ok. Tried some shots tonight, still a little bright in my area. 3200 or even less and around 15 seconds seems to be about right before the images come over exposed. Tried 25600 for 30 seconds. Yeah, just a bit hot....

I only took like 14 shots. This was the one I was happiest with. This is just one of the jpg's. Tungsten WB.
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Old 11-07-2010   #6
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Nice shot!
thats actually better than i would have expected out in florida, if you can go a bit longer on the exposure and stack the images you might be able to get rid of decent amount of light pollution
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Old 11-07-2010   #7
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so i spent the day yyesterday building my mount anf controller circut, i had some problems with the circuit and had to double up on the juice.

The mount itself is finished, it could ue a little spit and polish to make it pretty, but hey. im looking for results more than looks.

This analog circut works well and i can get pretty close but over time it does get out of whack, but the accuracy should be prettty good, but i dont know if ill b able to get orions nebula. I plan to do some test shooting in my yard tonight and see how well it tracks. Im sure for a 12-24 i could shoot iso 200 and go a 20 minute expoure with no problems. however 200mm gets a little bit pickier.

the next mount im planning to build will be using a stepper motor and an adreno circut controller which should give extremely accurate results. a friend of mine is sort of hobbiest engineer and is building the control script for the adreno circuit. i feel i should be able to hit 100% time accuracy with that/


anyway, here is a shot of my mount, my droid phon shows the lap accuracy, which i pretty good. i actually had to re-do this because the added weight of camera and lens slowed it down about 2 seconds per rotation, once i played with it again i was getting 59.5 seconds per rotation, over a 10 minute period that means it will be roughly 5 seconds off. no biggie in this shot, i had to hit the lap button o there is some variance seen due to my own reaction time

ill get sopme shots tonight if the skies are clear, there will be a lot of light pollutio, but for testing purposes i want to see how long i can shoot and keep dot stars.

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Old 11-07-2010   #8
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Wow, I'm completely amazed by those shots. I've always wanted to capture something like that, but there's far too many lights around my residence.

Anyway, I really hope you post more- astronomy has always captivated me. =0)
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Old 11-07-2010   #9
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Id love to get one of those mounts that track for long shots, but they are too expensive. And I dont have the technical know how to make one.

One of these nights, Ill try again. Theres a park enterence where I shoot at, but friday there were people hanging around (I heard their voices) and since you dont know if they are friend or foe when you are basically in the middle of a swamp at night, I didnt want to hang around since I go by myself.
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Old 11-07-2010   #10
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Default Re: Astrophotography Thread

Here it is, my DIY astrotrac.


ok, everything is assembled and ready to go!



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My Astrophotography Thread
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