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x6gas

The Deep-Sky Imaging Primer by Charles Bracken

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The Deep-sky Imaging Primer is a relatively new book, published in 2013, written by American amateur astrophotographer Charles Bracken.  The book is very well researched and written in a clear, authoritative style and contains a wealth of information that will be of use to beginner and intermediate imagers.  It's therefore a very worthy next step on from Steve Richard's popular imaging bible, Making Every Photon Count.

The book runs to just over 200 10 x 8", double column pages and contains almost 200 figures.  I believe that my copy was digitally printed on demand in the UK but the figure reproduction stands up well - no mean feat since some of those figures contain dim nebula or star fields.

The book is split into three sections: Understanding Images, Aquiring (sic) Images, and Processing Images.  It's written almost as a text book in parts (with some question and exercises throughout) but don't let that put you off.

I. Understanding Images

The first section covers the fundamentals of sensors and signal to noise and provides useful background for the topics covered in the rest of the book.  It's necessarily a little bit theoretical but clear examples and explanation is given and it is therefore easy enough to follow.  If you really find it too heavy going then you could skip this short section without missing out on too much.

II.  Acquiring Images

The second part of the book covers everything you need to know about taking your images.  There are 11 chapters in this section covering advice on choosing and aligning your mount, cameras, optics, through to image scale, focusing and autoguiding (largely centring on use of PHD), filters and narrowband imaging, and diagnosing problems.  Also included in this part is a brief guide to imaging targets that will suit your imaging set-up and advice on actually taking your exposures (including the calibration frames).

III. Processing Images

The third and final part is the most substantial and contains 12 chapters on image processing.  The author primarily discusses the use of Deep Sky Stacker for frame registration and stacking and Photoshop for imaging processing but the subject is covered in such a way that it will still be useful for other stacking and layers based image processing software.  There is a very useful chapter on colour management (which again covers the theory but in a clear and concise manner) and other chapters cover a wide range of processing topics including the calibration process, use of layers, stretching, background adjustments, colour adjustment, sharpening, star adjustments, and noise reduction.  Also included is a simple post processing workflow that can be used as a starting point for your own workflow.  The section finishes with processing examples for images captured using a DSLR (using The Witch's Broom Nebula) and a mono CCD (using the Rosette Nebula).

As I say, there are parts of the book that cover fundamental concepts that some might find heavy going, but it's very useful stuff that promotes a deeper understanding of the issues and it is very clearly written.  There is plenty in this book for the beginner and intermediate imager alike whether you are using a DSLR or a dedicated mono or OSC astronomical CCD.  My only minor gripe is that there are a number of typos in the book and it would have benefitted from thorough copy editing but this does not detract from the clarity of the text and I can forgive the author for this minor transgression given the obvious time and effort he has put in to researching the book and to writing it in such a clear and accessible way.

The book complements Making Every Photon Count really well, is a good read and I am sure that I will find it a very useful reference resource as I continue to develop my imaging skills.

Very highly recommended.

Ian Russell

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Great review Ian, it looks the business. Any information on publisher & price?

Thanks, Martin

It's self published I think Martin.  Cover price is US$40 but it's on amazon for a smidge over £19.

It really did hit the mark for me and I'd be very interested in the views of anyone else that has a copy...

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A most timely review Ian - I received and read my copy last week.

I agree that it is a step up from Steve's most excellent 'MEPC', as it doesn't cover the basics such as Polar aligning etc. It's much more theoretical, but thankfully that's something that you can dip in and out of.

The explanations in the book are straightforward and easy to follow with many illustrations. This is especially relevant in the Processing section, where there is a processing walkthrough for a DSLR image and a mono CCD image.

All in all I have found this really useful to read and have learnt stuff along the way. Well worth the purchase.

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Glad you agree Sara!

By the way, I have just heard from the author (I should point out that I don't know him and have no affiliation with him, I'd just dropped him a note to say how much I appreciated the book) that he is uploading a new version correcting some of the typos so the book may not be available from amazon for a few days...

Edited by x6gas

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You may be right Ian. I ordered a copy last night (16th) on 3 - 5 working days delivery. The confirmation email said the estimated delivery will be 22nd to 25th Feb.

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Hi, I'm the author of the book, and I just wanted to say thank you all for the kind words.  The book took three years of my spare time to create, and it's gratifying to hear that people are finding it helpful.

Ian notified me of his review, and I've revised the interior file to correct for some typos and one instance of an overset illustration  (which is indeed why the book was out of print for a couple of days there).  For those of you who have ordered it recently, please feel free to send me a note if you have any questions or think of anything that would make it better.  Your feedback will shape the second edition, which I'm working on now.

I'm also pleased to discover this site.  I spend most of my online time at CloudyNights, but from the looks of the imaging forums here, I'm going to have to spend some time on SGL as well!

Clear skies,

Charlie Bracken

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Glad that you joined us Charlie - I found your book excellent and certainly learnt stuff in there, even if I avoided the maths like the plague!

Look forward to seeing you around, I'm sure that your contributions on the forum will be most welcome :smiley:

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Yes welcome to SGL Charlie... and congratulations again on producing such an impressive and useful book single handed!

Hope to see some of your images in the Deep Sky section of SGL in the future.

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Welcome to SGL, Charlie, you'll find a lot of very supportive people here and congratulations on your new book, I hope it is a great success for you. I know how much it takes to write such a book single handedly as I am currently going through this again with the 'sequel' to 'Making Every Photon Count' - I am currently on page 73 so I have a bit of a way to go still! :grin: :grin:

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Welcome to SGL, Charlie, you'll find a lot of very supportive people here and congratulations on your new book, I hope it is a great success for you. I know how much it takes to write such a book single handedly as I am currently going through again this with the 'sequel' to 'Making Every Photon Count' - I am currently on page 73 so I have a bit of a way to go still! :grin: :grin:

Well done Steve - I'm sure it was in the 30's last year!!! Progress is indeed afoot :grin:

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Welcome to SGL, Charlie, you'll find a lot of very supportive people here and congratulations on your new book, I hope it is a great success for you. I know how much it takes to write such a book single handedly as I am currently going through this again with the 'sequel' to 'Making Every Photon Count' - I am currently on page 73 so I have a bit of a way to go still! :grin: :grin:

I hear you, Steve. One page at a time... :smiley:

And thanks for the welcomes from everyone. I'm excited to be here, and I've got some forum reading to do now!

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My copy arrived this morning. Obviously not had time to read it yet but have been thumbing through it all day.

From what I have seen I agree with Ian's comments and the many figures make the text much easier to understand. Looking forward to a good read.

Many thanks Ian for the original review otherwise I would probably have missed this one. Many thanks to Charles also, I reckon you have done a darn good job.

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Just placed my order!

I hope you'll get as much from it as I have.  When you're read through it, Alistair, please do post here what you though of it.

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I just got it and am taking in the section on processing images. Good stuff!

Maybe I post a follow up.

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