Montag, 14. März 2011

Adventures in Deep Sky Astrophotography

I've been quite busy last months with a lot of projects and of course our little daughter Elena :), so it was relatively silent here... But if you know me that doesn't mean that nothing's happening - the opposite is the case!

For example one of the assignments (for a well known German Nature Magazine) requires me doing astrophotographic images - I dubbed it "CSI Orion".

So I took a deep dive into this special kind of photography (a exciting new challenge anyway). And I have to say that Astrophotography totally rocks! It inherits both a STEEP learning curve and requires all my photographic and post processing skills.

The equipment used for Astro-images is also a new experience: I am using
AstroTrac's TT320X-AG and a special modded astronomic Merlin controller head (which is also capable of GigaPixel Photography as a nice side effect due to the tweaks by the frenchies at Kolor). The Merlin Controller is completed by's legendary Stage Zero Dolly (another story) for a full programmable 4-Axis Camera rig. Amazing. Lot's of testing, testing, testing setups etc.

Furthermore the outdoor side of the project appeals to the adventurer in me: cold feet, drinking tons of hot tea from thermo bottles (if I do not forget them home), hanging out in dark remote mountain areas for the best possible clear and dark skies, long nights alone - which is very demanding. but one is busy: navigating the sky for galaxies and nebulae staying awake triggering camera shutters, changing batteries, programming intervalometers, managing external power supplies, controlling astrophotographic gear. Like back in the days...

I can only say: The first moment I saw the M108 spiral Galaxy appearing on the Monitor of my D700 was truly magic. But also hard work with hours of searching and adjusting the extremely narrow view of field one gets at 1500 mm lens, and tuning in exposure and ISO.

Check out the galleries
here for some more Astrophoto samples...

At the set...

Classic Orion M42 with 1500 mm (D300 + TC2E-III + AF-S 500/4 IF ED)

M97 Owl Nebula and the M108 Spiral Galaxy. Hard work on those ones without GOTO and 1500 mm in front of the nose... I had to mess around with the ball-head...

Star Trails with AF-S 14-24/2.8, incredibly sharp even at f2.8...

Moon is fun @ 1500 mm...