We like the Moon!

Taking pictures of the Moon is probably Astrophotography 101 in any book – but hey, look at that, I’m a beginner!

I think the first pictures of the Moon that I took were during the lunar eclipse of 2018. Turns out – it’s not a GREAT idea to start there, because, well, it’s significantly harder (because it’s less bright, which makes light problematic, and focus even more so). Still, I did get SOMETHING.

I tried again a month later, and there was only a half-moon up, so again – not making my life easier.

But it felt pretty satisfying, still, and I let that one be for roughly a year. Then, we had the “Moon” theme in the Scavenger Hunt – a good way to revisit the subject! That’s what I had submitted for the Hunt:

This was obviously less in the pure “astrophotography” category and more in the “trying stuff out” category – and I still like that image a lot, for what it’s worth. I still have one cropped shot from this time (that’d be February 2019):

Those were all shots that I did with only my DSLR, a tripod, and a telelens.

Fast-forward a couple of years to, well, now – and it so happens that we have a telescope and a friend who knows how to setup that thing and I have a Pierre who’s interested enough in the whole “so, how does that thing actually WORK” to make it work for me. A few weeks ago, we set it up on the balcony, and I was actually quite impressed with what I was able to get from my phone aligned by my shaky hands on the eyepiece (there’s absolutely zero processing there apart from whatever the phone camera does – which is A LOT and TOO MUCH in other contexts, but that’s another story).

Since that night, I procured a so-called T-ring for my Pentax which allows me to basically use the telescope as a gigantic lens. I did an half-assed attempt on Friday evening; I had focus issues because the live view of my camera was completely blown out, but I still managed to get this one.

And finally, last night, I figured out how to not blow the live view of my camera (the secret was to set the exposure detection as “spot” and not “whole picture”). Pierre also managed to setup the lunar tracking on the telescope mount, which helped tremendously. I took several pictures, and I played around with their stacking/processing in Planetary system Stacker (and Lightroom for the final image).

And, I must say, I’m quite happy with the end result. I definitely want to try to experiment a bit more with that setup (and probably shoot at 1/400 instead of 1/500, 1/500 is a bit dark) and try to stack a bit more images (this one is a stack of 8 out of 20), but this pleases me 🙂

Next step is to try to find another interesting, deeper space object that’s visible from my balcony, both in terms of “angle” and “luminosity considering I’m, well, still in a city 😉 The Orion nebula was an option earlier in the month, but I think it’s now too bright outside when it would be visible/not hidden by the building 😛

52Frames – 2021-17 – Nature

The theme for this week’s 52Frames was “Nature”, with an extra credit for “Use a tripod”. We setup the telescope a few weeks ago, but there’s been a conjunction of “not having the correct adapter” and “weather is stupid” that meant that I had not tried to take pictures with my DSLR on the telescope yet.

Yesterday evening, I had the correct adapter and the weather was nice – so I tried to fiddle a bit with the equipment. It’s far from perfect – for one thing, the focus was a lot of click&pray (I need to see how to do that properly – I have the theory, I miss a crucial part on my camera interface, and it was dark last night); still, this is my best shot of the moon so far, I think.

And, well, astrophotography was explicitly in theme, and the scope mount definitely counts as “tripod”, so there, I have a picture for this week!

Neowise and Jupiter

A friend asked me yesterday whether I was up for an attempt at comet photography – since Neowise is currently visible in our skies. I hadn’t seen it yet, because it was either visible very early or quite late, but these days it’s visible around 23:30, which is… past my bedtime, but we don’t see comets every day, so I made an effort 😉

We went a bit outside of the city and, after a bit of meandering, found a spot where the comet was visible and there weren’t too much other lights around. (Note: roads in Switzerland have waaaay too many street lights.)

After a bit of fumbling (I need to train my camera gear manipulation in the dark!), including a very embarrassing “oh, THAT’S why I don’t have anything on my pictures! <removes the lens cap>”, I finally settled into trying to take pictures of stars 🙂

I don’t have much experience in astrophotography (… yet?), but I’ve shot the moon and the like enough that I do know a couple of things:

  • Earth moves more than I think it does
  • My camera live-view 16x zoom is my best friend when it comes to focus
  • I can definitely expose to the left, the data will be there, and less noisy than if I don’t
  • Wide aperture is my second best friend (I had taken my telelens “just in case”, it didn’t get out of the bag)
  • Shutter remote is my third best friend
  • My tripod is actually my BFF, even though it’s a pain to lug around

So I took some comet pictures, and it was nice, and I have one where you can see the double tail:

Looking in other parts of the sky, well. I had never seen that many shooting stars, and I definitely saw multiple yesterday. Someone mentioned that the two brighter spots we could see were planets – and indeed a quick check on phones established them to be Saturn and Jupiter, quite close from one another in the sky. There were attempts to see Saturn’s rings, but we didn’t have the right hardware for that, but… I HAVE JUPITER’S MOONS.

I am honestly amazed – I would NOT have expected that to be a/ at all visible b/ capturable with a 70mm lens 🙂 When it comes to astronomy and astrophotography, I definitely have more “star-struck” and “starry-eyed” enthusiasm than knowledge – although I actually learnt stuff yesterday. I also know that my camera DOES have an astrotracing feature, but I didn’t manage to make it work properly yesterday, I think. MORE EXPERIMENTS WARRANTED. Also, next time I shoot Jupiter, I probably need to take into account the fact that it’s ACTUALLY SUPER BRIGHT. Aaand I need to read up on astro photography processing, because right now I have no idea what I’m doing and there’s a fair chance it makes no sense (but the pictures are pretty!)

So, there. All in all, I’ll consider this astrophotography session a large success (because it makes me want to do more of it 🙂 ). I have some more pictures available in the full album: Neowise and Jupiter.