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Absolute beginner guide to astrophotography?


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I was surprised not to find a sticky or primer anywhere about the very basics of any imaging through a telescope. Is there a good place to start?

I'm really talking basics, like I don't know what people mean by subs and stacks, how you even go about attaching a webcam to a telescope, can you image DSOs without a DSLR, do you use eyepieces and barlows, do you need a camera with detachable lens...

I only have a phone camera and a crappy point and shoot, so I assume I need to purchase a new camera, but I can't afford a DSLR.

Cheers

Boz

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Here's what I learned so far after reading two books representing DSO and lunar/planetary plus reading articles on magazines and forums:

- You will need a PC even if using DSLR as processing images is a must

- Cheapest way: short exposures, because no need for accurate tracking

- DSLR is not always needed, instead use CCD cameras such as webcam (cheap) or dedicated ones (can be more expensive than DSLR)

There you go, the really short guide to beginning astrophotography!

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Have to agree with Dave's (Rowan46) suggestion regarding Steve Richards book - its an essential read and you should read it from cover to cover before buying anything image related as it will definitely save you money!

James

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I'll third that :D

I really recommend that you get Making Every Photon Count (by SGL's very own steppenwolf), before making a start into astro-photography.

Easy to read, it's full of good advice aimed at the imaging novice, including choosing the right equipment - explaining what kit you'll need and, more importantly, why. Helping you avoid poor choices and costly mistakes. There's also loads of tips 'n' tricks as well as lots of other vital stuff.

Have a trawl through the imaging sections too. They're full of info and some very experienced, talented folk who, I'm sure, will be more than happy to share advice and guidance with you.

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The most important thing to know is... Its not as expensive or complex as it might initially seem :-)

I only got into it in Feb and by March had taken my first image, of M42.

The key question everyone will ask you first is 'what do you want to photograph?'

I think its safe to say planets and the moon are easier than deep sky objects such as galaxies and nebulae (easier at least to get SOME result I should say) and the equipment you need for each subject will be different.

For planets/lunar you can use a fairly cheap webcam and get results. For DSO's you can get started with any camera that has a 'bulb' setting so you can take long exposures. A lot of compacts do have this function too.

Also, DSLR's are getting very cheap. You can pick up a nice one on ebay second hand for a hundred, hundred and fifty pounds these days.

And yes... There really should be a sticky answering the basic questions on astrophotography, well, at least a glossary.

Ben

Sent from my GT-I9100 using Tapatalk

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I would like to point out that stickies and primers are written by people in their own time out of the goodness of their heart. I am a little uncomfortable with people demanding them. I apologise if i've gotten the wrong end of the stick but that's what it sounds like.

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Great link to Ray's site, thank you! That's a great example of understanding how to get into this game cheaply.

I think I'll get the Making Every Photon Count book before starting in earnest, but having a go with my point and shoot's manual exposure setting and a makeshift camera mount might entertain me in the short term.

Thanks all. My main aim would be to photograph DSO's, as now I've seen the grey smudges, I want to start getting more detail and colour. I know you can look at pictures from Hubble, but it's not the same as capturing it yourself.

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Thanks all. My main aim would be to photograph DSO's, as now I've seen the grey smudges, I want to start getting more detail and colour. I know you can look at pictures from Hubble, but it's not the same as capturing it yourself.

Then it's clear: if you want to photograph DSO, as you will read in the Photon book, it's all in the mount. Even then the best photos needs guiding as well.

Another thread on this estimated the equipment setup starts from £1000 maybe less if you get 2nd hand, and can go as high as 5 figures, that is tens of thousands.

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Well DSO Photography is slightly more difficult, but you have an EQ5 and motor drive, so with correct polar alignment you will be able to get away with short exposures, this image is from my 120mm S/T Refractor on an EQ5 with drives 20x8sec exposures at ISO1600 on my old unmodified Canon 350D prime focus:

raygil-albums-m13-great-globular-cluster-hercules-picture11475-m13-cropped.jpg

So it depends on what degree of photography you want? Hubble cost billions :D

Or you could just do the best you can with the equipment you have, when I started they told me £2-3,000 for a set up? but with a little patience and trial and error you can do it with modest equipment, but if you want to compete with the big Boys & Girls then expect to pay for the best equipment, but even the top imagers had to start somewhere? building equipment up and keeping what worked and what didn't.

So by all means read the books recommended, they will tell you how to do it with a budget of £X amount, I have these books! and although there useful, trial and error and actually getting out there and experimenting is the best way to learn.

Ray

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Well there are some on my blog:

Ray's Astro-Photography Site

And I at present i'm working through the Messier list :

Ray's Astro-Photography Site: Messier Catalogue Pictures

These are the DSO's

I like clusters, galaxies take a lot longer exposures, my next purchase is an autoglider to allow better tracking and this will allow longer exposures, but this won't be for a while yet!

Thanks for the comments, it's all trial and error at present, lot's more experiments needed but the thrill of photographing your first DSO's cannot be beat.

Ray

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I would like to point out that stickies and primers are written by people in their own time out of the goodness of their heart. I am a little uncomfortable with people demanding them. I apologise if i've gotten the wrong end of the stick but that's what it sounds like.

Sorry if my post came across as a 'demand'.

I was simply agreeing, seeing as these questions are asked SO frequently, that it'd be an extremely useful thing.

I've written such things for other forums and for other hobbies because I thought I could help others starting out in something I had some experience in. I'd offer to write one here, but I've only been doing it for three months, dont know enough, and know there are hundreds of FAR more knowledgeable people here who could do it better.

Didn't mean to cause offence, just thought it'd be a really useful thing.

Ben

Sent from my GT-I9100 using Tapatalk

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got my copy of Making Every Photon Count today after loads of advice from this forum it is a well detailed book worth every penny well worth buying as jamed packed with info thankyou for a great book.

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Start with Steve's book... Then see if you can mount your point and shoot directly to the mount... The shorter focal length will make the tracking accuracy requirements easier... ok, it'll be very widefield, but you could be very surprised at what you get. Even using an EQ1 with the cheap motor, I can get between 2 and 5 minute exposures with my dSLR mounted on it (at under 50mm focal length). The limitation will be the camera for that. Try it and see how you get on.

It would be worth looking out for a cheap dSLR to use, to be honest... the noise handling will be better and you can control the exposure time more easily.

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I'm wading my way into astrophotography. If you have any serious interest in photography, especially with CCDs then I'd highly recommend "The New CCD Astronomy" by Ron Wodaski. It's a bit expensive, but PACKED full of great info. I bought mine used on Amazon.

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