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astro mick

Its difficult to compete

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As I peruse my two monthly British Astro magazines,i,m finding more and more that the majority of the published astro photo,s are been taken abroad(Not all).Also by people using very expensive and high quality equipment.They also consist of a lot of imaging time well into double figure hours.

Yes we do occasionally see , should I say beginners efforts,and why not indeed.

I,m also noticing that a few names crop up again and again,very similar to a few names on this site.Now I am not at all criticising this,yes we all like to see the efforts of others people,but I think the magazines could try and balance this out a bit more and try too accommodate all levels.

I,m sure they receive numerous photos eager for publication monthly.

Now I know my efforts are not great,but I use relatively cheap low end equipment and battle UK skies.Needless to say my efforts have not been rewarded by the mags,and I do submit occasionally. 

No I,m not desperate to see my efforts in print,this is just an observation on my part.

After all this is Amateur Astronomy.

You may disagree.

Interested in your thoughts.

Mick.

 

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We all have our own ideas on Astro photography Mick and is is great that we are all different. My interest is purely observing but I love to see any images whether it be from someone like you or the NASA space telescope. I don’t think I will ever be interested in the photography side of astronomy but it doesn’t stop me enjoying other people’s contributions, please keep it up.

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When does an astro imager stop being an amateur and become a pro? Is that a fair question or not? 🤔 

Can’t blame mags from wanting to showcase the best but perhaps they are not including enough of the beginners efforts? 🤔

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Considering how much space is devoted to the best images I would have thought half a page at least could show inexperienced efforts as an encouragement to others.  😀

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I agree with the OPs sentiments.  Perhaps they could have two sections - one for images taken in the UK and a seperate section for images taken from foreign soils.

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1 hour ago, astro mick said:

Interested in your thoughts.

Thoughts abound!

I've been actively taking part in this hobby now for three years during which time what impresses me has changed significantly.

Suffice to say that what impresses me now is people who achieve impressive results with modest equipment in challenging circumstances and demonstrate tenacity in so doing.

Perhaps a separate aspect is what "inspires" as opposed to what "impresses".

I am neither inspired or impressed by Hubble images - with all that spend I expect amazing results that are 'out of this world'.

I guess it would be interesting to know what impresses the editors of the two popular magazines (neither of which are scientific journals) to inspire their readers.

Adrian

 

Edited by Adreneline
Typo
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It's a tough one but I agree that there do seem to be an increasing number of images taken outside of the UK and I think that's a real shame.  IMO the balance used to be better a few years ago.

Many hours of integration time often makes for a much better image and personally I prefer to see images from the UK where those clear nights are a rarity - it seems so much more hard fought than data captured from the clear skies of Mexico or where ever.  I also draw inspiration from targets that I can actually image too so I'd prefer if they reduced the overseas contributions to no more than one or two an issue.

With respect to kit, I've had images published using a fairly inexpensive CG5-GT mount, albeit with a nice 90mm APO and a mono CCD strapped on it, but there are plenty of terrific images taken with DSLRs...

Ian

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21 minutes ago, Peter Drew said:

Considering how much space is devoted to the best images I would have thought half a page at least could show inexperienced efforts as an encouragement to others.  😀

Inexperience is one thing but in my opinion the images still need to be excellent to be published.  Printing average images would devalue the whole thing from my perspective and I wouldn't have any interest in seeing them in the magazines, though I do try to offer encouragement when such images are posted on here; after all my imaging only improved thanks to the help and advice I've received on SGL.  It would also be a complete lottery as to which images were selected (if it isn't already...)

But getting an image published should be a thrill, not a participation award.

I suspect a lot of factors come into play when deciding what to include.  I had three images published on the spin when I bought my CEM60-EC - which was new to the market at that point - and I do wonder if keeping the advertisers happy plays a part...

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There is always the danger that those who struggle against the odds will come to the conclusion that they will never be able to compete and give up.
Which is precisely why I post my solar "daubs" here. I openly laugh at my results with my post titles to encourage others to post.
If that "bumbling idiot" is willing to publicly humiliate himself than why not "me too?"
Which is why it is so vitally important to encourage others who do have the courage to post their efforts.

Almost every hobby and pastime has its entry level investment in equipment. Beyond that the sky is often the limit.
There are always those who can and will invest in "power" shortcuts to achieve admiration. Others are just naturals with special gifts.
The vast majority lie midway in skill level, ability and investment but have no desire to win any races.
It is the activity itself and pleasure of ownership of nice equipment which satisfies them. They may like a narrow speciality that appeals.
Remember that there are tens thousands of amateurs around the globe with fine equipment but without the will or desire to compete.

With astrophotography and imaging you do at least have the chance to compete on the software side.
You can really develop your processing skills to compete at a level to satisfy your own investment in time and building competence.

You can and must use "best practice" with your more limited equipment to have any chance of competing.
Or you can make everything you possibly can within your skill level, tools and budget.

A "slapdash" or DIY approach, like my own, will take far longer to rise through the ranks to achieve even modest success.
Set your own sites carefully and know where you are going. Do not go into debt just to satisfy your cravings for recognition.

The cyclist with the most expensive bike rarely wins. It is the thoughtful and [probably] OCD rider who trains and trains.
They study and practice and exercise every aspect to hone their abilities, stamina and fitness well above the average.
Their investment is in time and effort. Not spending huge sums on "trinkets." :wink2:

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I sometimes wonder if astro imaging is worth all the effort and frustration in the UK but I can't help it.  When I do get a few hours of clear sky every few weeks I feel elated and my interest is resurrected.

Edited by Gina
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As a non imager, I full support those who wish to try their hand under the skies they have with the equipment they can afford including the processing tools. I see how the challenge can be rewarding and worth while. 

Personally,  looking at yet another Mxyz or ICabcd of almost any quality is a been there seen it before experience. Which is why I went into spectroscopy. 

I suspect most magazine readers are non imagers and are looking to be impressed with images and artist's impressions. Impact over content seems to be the order of the day in both text and visuals.

Go to any gallery or concert hall and they seek to display the best. Can you condem a popular magazine for following suit. You may (should) delight in your children's nativity play but it won't get to the west end. But, it is nonetheless worth while. 

Regards Andrew 

Edited by andrew s
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I think the OP makes a valid point and bearing in mind that the magazines we are talking about are a UK based, it does seem a little strange that amateur images from around the World abound in the reader galleries.

The issues that I see here are:-

1. I think that all the images posted should be good quality - that is the point of publishing them, surely?

2. Ruling people out because they own high end equipment would not be a fair system as we all have choices in how we spend our money

3. How can the magazines possibly decide who is an 'evolving beginner' and who is a 'old hand'

4. Having two tiers for the gallery leaves it open to potential abuse

1 hour ago, michaelmorris said:

I agree with the OPs sentiments.  Perhaps they could have two sections - one for images taken in the UK and a seperate section for images taken from foreign soils.

This surely the best solution?

I am going to bring this thread to the attention of the magazine that I write for but I can't promise anything as their workload is already heavy enough without complicating things further!

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I'm not convinced one needs to compete with the kiosks and newsstand's glossy racking fodder. Indeed, as vinyl and tapes were to yesterweek are glossy magazines even relevant today? Stretching the analogy further, sure, vinyl isn't dead but is it still the place where one goes to find the best of new music being produced around the world these days?

The decline in printed magazine sales correlates remarkably well with the rise in digital media and personally, I think that's where the majority of the best - not all the best - is being produced. Specialist magazines - those into ponies and knitting, or scale modelling and astronomy and the such- are likely to always have a print fanbase - in the old day that media used to be called 'zines' or 'fanzines' but one is no longer restricted to them.

I still love magazines, newspapers and the such but only ever read them online for free or via a very shallow subscription fee. I'm not an imager, but if one is and produces images that work on a desk-top at home, it might be an idea to get those images on to platforms around the world and gradually reach an audience. Engaging in relevant social media and networking those images to expand and broaden one's reach is probably a good way of dealing with the current state of affairs. Spain's biggest astro magazine, for example, is predominately an online affair and I'm sure this practice isn't restricted only to Spain.

In short, the internet provides much of the content we are consuming these days. Personally, I look forward to the day when SGL & FLO start producing its very own PDF magazine and if produced with care would surely become one of the most widely read and greatest astro-magazine in the world :smiley: 

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29 minutes ago, steppenwolf said:

I think the OP makes a valid point and bearing in mind that the magazines we are talking about are a UK based, it does seem a little strange that amateur images from around the World abound in the reader galleries.

The issues that I see here are:-

1. I think that all the images posted should be good quality - that is the point of publishing them, surely?

2. Ruling people out because they own high end equipment would not be a fair system as we all have choices in how we spend our money

3. How can the magazines possibly decide who is an 'evolving beginner' and who is a 'old hand'

4. Having two tiers for the gallery leaves it open to potential abuse

This surely the best solution?

I am going to bring this thread to the attention of the magazine that I write for but I can't promise anything as their workload is already heavy enough without complicating things further!

I think its essential that they place a mixed bag of images up, if its all £20k setups in elevated and dry climates then that would be discouraging and or lack relevance to the average UK reader. 

At the other end if it was all beginners in the Class 8 back garden with a DSLR then we would not get to see so many nice pictures. 

So I think that I would want to see a selection from both ends of the bag and everything between, I would not want to see it restricted to formal classes because that would lack flexibility, but clearly if its something that the editor has lost sight of then it needs addressing.

I think there should be a hard floor to this mind you, I don't want to see everyone's first ever astro image being printed, but above and beyond this I think that people with a good image for the equipment / location should be up with a chance of having their image printed, maybe with a slight bias to the UK audience. 

I like to see good efforts on behalf of people who exceed their equipment limitations and interesting images / stories attached to their image the few lines of text currently allocated seem insufficient to do much more than list the equipment used, so where is the story? I want to see their image read the text and relate to how they suffered from equipment issues and bad weather, why they like the image and what they were trying to achieved. 

Buying very expensive equipment is not cheating, but in my view it should very significantly raise the quality bar for their work being published. 

Adam

 

Edited by Adam J
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In my view it's not about making the image available, Rob, it's the selection and curation that's important.  I agree the media (print or digital) is not important.  Getting an APOD is way more difficult - and in my view way more prestigious - than having an image published in a print-on-paper newsstand magazine.   I'd also argue that placing in one of the SGL challenges is at least as rewarding...

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I don't do imaging. I'm an appreciator not a producer :)

Neither do I buy any of the mags any longer. I've been a subscriber to most, if not all of them. Now I get my entire astro fix from SGL. I don't need to look elsewhere for excellent images nor do I look for excellent images in particular! 

Rob Sellent, makes an interesting point above. The magazines are in a bad place. They fight for market share in a dwindling printed media market. Sure they need to be all glitzy and visually inspiring. But maybe some of us tire of perfection!

I think, no, I know imagers give themselves a hard time over esoteric issues with their images. But they shouldn't worry. I equally enjoy seeing a beginners effort and the latest efforts of a seasoned imager. Anyway, surely imaging is about showcasing your target object? If your image does that then you've been successful?

So forget competing in the mags. SGL is a world class audience and you get the benefit of instant feedback! :) 

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I think where this issue falls down is the emphasis on "competition".  There are of course established advertised competition where the reader should expect to see the best on offer.  Other than that, in the main, imaging should be only a "competition"  between the challenges and the imager's personal desire for improvement.   😀    

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I can’t help comparing it with the photography magazines. Yes it’s a vastly bigger market but a number of magazines have been successful in catering for the beginners market. Maybe that’s the way forward for astronomy magazines and perhaps one oriented towards the beginner could succeed. 🤔

I do feel that astronomy magazines could disappear completely if they don’t take a fresh approach.

Edited by johninderby
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Having top end equipment is absolutely no easy route to great images so I think we need to be a little careful on this point - my first ‘image of the month’ published in Astronomy Now magazine in 2007 was captured using a Canon 300D and a 200mm telephoto lens!

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Yes, it's the same with terrestrial photography, sometimes the best photos are taken with inexpensive equipment.

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I once or twice played golf with a guy who only ever had 4 items - putter,No 9,No 5 and No 1 Wood. He was a scratch player and would regularly challenge the "Course Pro's" and beat them even though they had many thousands of pounds worth of kit.  He was lucky he was a natural and was fun to play along side - not "up his own "

Why do you have to worry about what other people do/say  if you enjoy your hobby and the science behind it - that's all that matters !

 

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1 hour ago, Rob Sellent said:

In short, the internet provides much of the content we are consuming these days. Personally, I look forward to the day when SGL & FLO start producing its very own PDF magazine and if produced with care would surely become one of the most widely read and greatest astro-magazine in the world :smiley: 

There's a surprisingly huge amount of work in producing a professional magazine, even in PDF format - as I am all too aware.

It's not a  cheap thing to do, so you need to be assured of a sizeable paying readership, plus an assured supply of quality content well in advance of first publication.

🙂

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I dont worry too much about other peoples images if they have obvious advantages over me....location, equipment etc. the pictures may be vastly superior to mine  but they dont greatly bother me.

However when I see someone post a great picture from an area similar to mine using similar equipment, then I do sit up and take notice to see what he/she has done different from me, then try to learn from them to improve my own results. ( there are lots of these people on here....).

 

I am fiercely competitive all the time......with my last images, not other peoples.

 

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My thought is an editor will most likely go with the best images submitted based on various factors. One might be high image quality and composition. Another might be uniqueness - just being different to usual images - or perhaps an image with a narrative or story. I had two images published back when I had only a very basic 60mm refractor and no camera at the time.  I simply drew what I saw and those little sketches clearly stood out enough to be included in the gallery amongst what to me were amazing images taken with scopes I could only dream of. I guess because they were just different.

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I'm in competition with myself, not anyone else (aside from the light-hearted SGL competitions!)

If I see better pics than I get I think how can I get there?

If I see someone who is starting out, they are usually doing better than my first attempts, and if I can offer useful advice or encouragement I try to.

 

Getting published, an APOD or AAPOD isn't about being better than other people, it's about achieving a standard, but equipment and experience can and should be taken into account as results achieved with limited gear (for example) can be particularly inspiring for beginners.

 

I like the approach taken at most model engineering competitions, where most of the entries are judged against a standard, not against each other.

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