What is Astrophotography

November 2010

When I see people lecturing, or simply voicing their opinion about what astrophotography is and what is not, often times I feel as if they forgot (or simply do not know), that astrophotography is a lot more than taking pictures of celestial objects, and certainly more than a set of rules or procedures that one must or must not follow. At least for me, it is. I’ve said before that in astrophotography there are as many schools of thought as there are astrophotographers. Leaving aside all those considerations, this is also what astrophotography is for me today – and hopefully for a long time…

Astrophotography for me is…

…knowing weeks ahead when the Moon won’t be up and bright during the wee hours of the night.
…checking the weather days ahead during the 10-14 days of the month when there’s no Moon.
…checking it (the weather) 3-4 times a day in the morning when I’m hoping to go out that evening.
…chatting with others online about what sites they (and I) will be going tonight, tomorrow, or the day after.
…the excitement that builds up as I start to load all my equipment in my car any day that I’m going out.
…the drive to a dark site, whether it takes me 50 or 300 miles to go there.
…arriving at the dark site, getting out of the car and stretching after the long drive. Yes, astrophotography is also that, for me.
…saying hello to other friends, when the night will be spent in good company, or just thinking “ok, another night alone” when I know nobody else will be coming.
…starting to set up all the gear, paying attention to all details.
…turning everything on – we are about to start!
…looking up. Enjoying the night sky in all its glory, feeling small, and getting ready to steal a bit of the Universe and take it home.
…sometimes (fortunately not too many), waiting for some high clouds to go away.
…slewing the scope to the target, framing, focusing, finding a guide star.
…of course, start capturing data.
…talking “shop” with other friends when there’s company, during those long nights.
…sometimes, stealing a view here and there from someone doing visual, while my equipment is capturing photons.
…checking that first frame, and the one after, and maybe all of them, as they come.
…making adjustments during a session, refocusing, readjusting guiding… So many things, and so many can go wrong!
…maybe trying to take a short nap inside the car, especially if I’m very tired and I know I should rest a bit in order to get home back safely once I’m done.
…drinking a lot of coffee during a session. Or maybe hot cocoa during the winter nights.
…taking my flats at the end of the session, when all I really want at that time is to pack and go home.
…the tired drive back home, often around 4-5am.
…once at home, the next day, or a few days later, starting to calibrate, register and stack all the data.
…taking that first look at the data once it’s been calibrated.
…thinking about the processing strategies to follow, in order to make the best out of the data.
…the entire “image processing” ordeal.
…hitting SAVE (and “Save as JPEG”) that final image.
…sharing the image with other friends, listening to their feedback, appreciating their comments.
…doing the same with images from other friends.

All of that and a lot more is what astrophotography is for me today. Of course, I’m not imposing these ideas on anyone. This is my story, and everyone have theirs. I guess you could say I don’t just do astrophotography, I live it.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Cookie Policy