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astro mick

Its difficult to compete

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It's been interesting reading this – and I do hear you when you say it's harder for beginners or those with less expensive kit to compete with someone using a 20-inch robotic telescope in Spain or somewhere. I understand that.

There's no real magic formula to how we chose the images each month. We just collect them all together and choose which ones we like the most! The choices are made irrespective of where or how they've been taken, really we're just looking for aesthetic and technical qualities. That said, we do try to get good variety each month so that they're not all deep-sky images, but that there are some of the Moon, or star trails, or the planets etc included too. So we might leave out some cracking deep-sky images in favour of a decent shot of the Moon, for example. I think that's an important point to make – a starscape with a church spire or natural feature in the foreground taken with a DSLR stands just as much chance of being featured in the gallery as a 14-hour exposure of a DSO. The November issue featured an image of the crescent Moon taken with a 114EQ and a Nokia phone from the middle of Birmingham, for example, so it's not all about having the most expensive kit or the maddest processing skills. 

We do sometimes feature some images taken outside of the UK, this is partly because of the growth in using robotic telescopes, but we also have an international readership. Certainly, with the way the weather has been this autumn, I expect we'll receive fewer images than usual over the next few months because of the seemingly endless cloudy nights, and we might skew a little more towards those images taken in Spain or the USA or elsewhere in forthcoming issues because of that.

We often find that it's the same small number of imagers that submit images to us, so they inevitably end up in the gallery because we don't always receive images from other people! All I can say is, submit your images! I can't promise that they'll definitely be included in the gallery, but we do like to see them regardless. I always suggest targeting objects a little off the beaten track – we're going to be deluged with images of M42 this winter, but we'll only publish one or two of them, but if you image something a little less obvious then it might stand a better chance by virtue of us looking for variety. It's always cool when we receive an image of an object that we've not seen in the gallery before.

Anyway, I hope that provides a little bit of context, and good luck with your imaging!

Keith Cooper, Astronomy Now

 

 

 

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Thank you Keith for your comments and some good points made. Always interesting to hear the view from the “other side”.👍🏻

Edited by johninderby
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On 15/11/2019 at 13:20, steppenwolf said:

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!

Glad you saw this and are letting the guys know Steve, I do think the OP has a valid point about images taken abroad. I wonder where they send them to to get included, unless they get submitted to the TV show gallery, if that is still a thing. I don't remember exactly, but when I had images on S@N on telly, they were chosen from a Flickr group set up for pictures for Stargazing Live I think.

 

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On 15/11/2019 at 11:36, johninderby said:

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? 🤔

You are only a pro, when you make a living out of what you do.

I like looking at any astro images. 

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16 hours ago, Keith Cooper said:

It's been interesting reading this – and I do hear you when you say it's harder for beginners or those with less expensive kit to compete with someone using a 20-inch robotic telescope in Spain or somewhere. I understand that.

There's no real magic formula to how we chose the images each month. We just collect them all together and choose which ones we like the most! The choices are made irrespective of where or how they've been taken, really we're just looking for aesthetic and technical qualities. That said, we do try to get good variety each month so that they're not all deep-sky images, but that there are some of the Moon, or star trails, or the planets etc included too. So we might leave out some cracking deep-sky images in favour of a decent shot of the Moon, for example. I think that's an important point to make – a starscape with a church spire or natural feature in the foreground taken with a DSLR stands just as much chance of being featured in the gallery as a 14-hour exposure of a DSO. The November issue featured an image of the crescent Moon taken with a 114EQ and a Nokia phone from the middle of Birmingham, for example, so it's not all about having the most expensive kit or the maddest processing skills. 

We do sometimes feature some images taken outside of the UK, this is partly because of the growth in using robotic telescopes, but we also have an international readership. Certainly, with the way the weather has been this autumn, I expect we'll receive fewer images than usual over the next few months because of the seemingly endless cloudy nights, and we might skew a little more towards those images taken in Spain or the USA or elsewhere in forthcoming issues because of that.

We often find that it's the same small number of imagers that submit images to us, so they inevitably end up in the gallery because we don't always receive images from other people! All I can say is, submit your images! I can't promise that they'll definitely be included in the gallery, but we do like to see them regardless. I always suggest targeting objects a little off the beaten track – we're going to be deluged with images of M42 this winter, but we'll only publish one or two of them, but if you image something a little less obvious then it might stand a better chance by virtue of us looking for variety. It's always cool when we receive an image of an object that we've not seen in the gallery before.

Anyway, I hope that provides a little bit of context, and good luck with your imaging!

Keith Cooper, Astronomy Now

 

 

 

Thankyou and to everyone who responded to this thread.

It has been extremely interesting.

As I said in my opening sentence,that this was an observation on my part,and in no way was i applying any severe criticism.

Mick.

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I have had a discussion with the Sky at Night magazine editor and the situation is (as you would probably guess!) not as straightforward as might be expected.

It turns out that fewer publishable images are received each month than I had imagined and there will be several images of the same object within that shortlist which places further restrictions on the selection process. A further consideration is avoiding including, where possible, the same contributor two issues in a row.

In addition to that the magazine considers itself to be an international publication and the selections can only be made from the submissions received whether from the UK or further afield and some months they get more contributions from the UK than other months. Check out January’s issue for confirmation of this!

The Editor doesn’t feel that a separate ‘UK’ and ‘Rest of World’ page would be workable due to the variability of image submissions from month to month.

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Thanks Steve - that's interesting.  I haven't submitted anything in a long while because I got the impression that overseas images were being selected above UK ones given the sheer number of them.  I'll send something in and see what happens!

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I agree with some of what the OP says, as I have said before there are a number of classifications that should apply.

1. Those who set up their own equipment in the UK or abroad, manage it personally and control it personally and also process it personally.

2. There are those who supply their equipment and get someone else to set it up and all they have to do is control it.

3. There are those who rent space, don't set the equipment up or own it and have very little knowledge about 1 or 2

4. Then there are those who use other peoples images and just process them.

5. There is also those who process Hubble or similar professional images and then go for Image of the Day and win, sorry but that really to me is cheating the system.

I fall into the classification of 1. I live in Bortle 5 skies, 19.51SQM, I work very hard to learn, put into practice and capture my own images, If I haven't processed it then I don't publish it, simple. However bad the skies, I enjoy all aspects of Astronomy, whether it is playing with new technology, new software, new techniques, capturing and processing, it's a hobby and a release from the pressures of running my own business.

2. doesn't take a lot of skill as you are relying on others to help you capture and problem solve.

3. and 4. I don't even acknowledge and if people let slip that they have rented equipment remotely on a pay per download per minute, then to me it isn't cricket and I move onto the next image. I seem to remember someone saying that they took their laptop to a remote dark site and captured some very nice images, c'mon...really, in my mind it certainly doesn't count especially if the person then writes for magazines publishing the images as his own!

With 5. I can understand people wanting to play, but please don't post it on Astrobin with the intention of winning IOTD as it doesn't count, on Astrobin there is an option to exclude your image from being selected from IOTD so why don't people use it?

JMHO

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Well, I've just sent in my first submission to AN. After the generally favourable comments it received I sent my 17 1/2 hour bash on Deer Lick and Stephan's Quintet.

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5 hours ago, steppenwolf said:

I have had a discussion with the Sky at Night magazine editor and the situation is (as you would probably guess!) not as straightforward as might be expected.

It turns out that fewer publishable images are received each month than I had imagined and there will be several images of the same object within that shortlist which places further restrictions on the selection process. A further consideration is avoiding including, where possible, the same contributor two issues in a row.

In addition to that the magazine considers itself to be an international publication and the selections can only be made from the submissions received whether from the UK or further afield and some months they get more contributions from the UK than other months. Check out January’s issue for confirmation of this!

The Editor doesn’t feel that a separate ‘UK’ and ‘Rest of World’ page would be workable due to the variability of image submissions from month to month.

Good on you Steve.

I can understand the situation they find themselves in.

I have on several occasions submitted to both Mags,although not at the same time,and as said never been successful,so recently have,nt bothered.

Maybe time to re-submit,if I can get one fairly decent image I like.

Mick.

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For us clouded out in the UK an image of total integration of eight hours can sometimes take several months to gather whereas that can be gathered in one night elsewhere.  My own current Perseus A project is a case in point.  I've lost count of the number of sessions where I only got two x fifteen minute lights.  I've got all the data other than Green and I've waited four weeks now with no clear night.  As it happens, tonight maybe the night!

 I can accept that the magazines want to show amateur Astro photography at its best but I kind of agree with the sentiment of the original post, that maybe UK based magazines (and subscribers) should maybe expect to see more UK gathered AP images.  Indeed, images presented form overseas do not pique my interest as much as those from our own shores.

And one more thing....  No Deep Sky West pictures should be allowed in the magazines either!  My opinion of course.

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Ouch, I feel tempted to don a tin helmet before peeping above this parapet! :icon_mrgreen: However, some jottings:

- I feel it would be, almost by definition, a shame to bring earthly parochialism into our study and enjoyment of the vastness of space, so magazine sections 'From Britain' and 'From Elsewhere' would sound a very wrong note for me. (I'm tempted to add, 'Especially at the moment.')

- A magazine article or 'occasional series' on the trials and tribulations of a beginner or LP dweller strikes me as interesting. It might include suggestions from an experienced imager at the end. (This is very much the astro forum format, after all.)

- Magazines are physically quite small and print resolution is lower than screen resolution so many of the advantages of extremely long exposure and very expensive equipment are lost in print. The print playing field, if you like, is much more level than the pitiless screen playing field with its potential for zooming in to full size and (hiss!!!) pixel peeping. 

- Data acquisition is a learnable mechanical process with a clear and not terribly high ceiling. Processing is far more complicated, open to more varied approaches and limitless in terms of potential for improvement. I know not everyone agrees with me on this but I don't really care where the data comes from. My own joy lies in interacting with it (and so with the objects it contains) at the processing stage. (Great artists used to mix their own paints from pigments etc. Now they mostly buy their paint. Is this important? OK, that's a tenuous analogy. :icon_mrgreen:)

- Having been addicted to sporting competition on motorized and non-motorized vehicles for more than half my life I absolutely love the fact that astrophotography is not a competion!

- I hope Keith isn't going to turf me out of the pages of his excellent magazine because I... well, you know, sort of...   live in France.

Olly

 

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32 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

Data acquisition is a learnable mechanical process with a clear and not terribly high ceiling.

In so far as the actual 'process' of acquisition then, perhaps, yes.   What else is there to it apart from:

  • a firm base (pier / tripod / block of concrete / ...)
  • a good mount
  • good enough polar alignment
  • a firmly mounted guide scope
  • good guiding parameters
  • adequate dew control measures
  • choice of camera
  • filters (and how to change them!)
  • camera cooling
  • calibration frames (bias / darks / flats)
  • focusing (and keeping the focus over temperature changes!)
  • framing (and choice of target, for that matter)
  • maybe an observatory (and, if its a dome, control of that)
  • SOFTWARE !!!!
  • WEATHER !!!!!
  • ... (feel sure I've missed a few things here.)

Er..., OK, actually this list is longer than you might think.

How does any of this ever work long enough to get an image?

Tony

Edited by AKB
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55 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

Ouch, I feel tempted to don a tin helmet before peeping above this parapet! :icon_mrgreen: However, some jottings:

- I feel it would be, almost by definition, a shame to bring earthly parochialism into our study and enjoyment of the vastness of space, so magazine sections 'From Britain' and 'From Elsewhere' would sound a very wrong note for me. (I'm tempted to add, 'Especially at the moment.')

- A magazine article or 'occasional series' on the trials and tribulations of a beginner or LP dweller strikes me as interesting. It might include suggestions from an experienced imager at the end. (This is very much the astro forum format, after all.)

- Magazines are physically quite small and print resolution is lower than screen resolution so many of the advantages of extremely long exposure and very expensive equipment are lost in print. The print playing field, if you like, is much more level than the pitiless screen playing field with its potential for zooming in to full size and (hiss!!!) pixel peeping. 

- Data acquisition is a learnable mechanical process with a clear and not terribly high ceiling. Processing is far more complicated, open to more varied approaches and limitless in terms of potential for improvement. I know not everyone agrees with me on this but I don't really care where the data comes from. My own joy lies in interacting with it (and so with the objects it contains) at the processing stage. (Great artists used to mix their own paints from pigments etc. Now they mostly buy their paint. Is this important? OK, that's a tenuous analogy. :icon_mrgreen:)

- Having been addicted to sporting competition on motorized and non-motorized vehicles for more than half my life I absolutely love the fact that astrophotography is not a competion!

- I hope Keith isn't going to turf me out of the pages of his excellent magazine because I... well, you know, sort of...   live in France.

Olly

 

Hi Olly.

I bet you have been sat on your hands,trying not to respond to the thread.But temptation often gets the better of us.

I don't think,or implied that what we do is a competion,in fact all the title says (Its difficult to compete) which I still think it is.

I did like the idea of a UK section,but this has been thought not to be practicle.

Please don't remain below the parapet.

Actually although the word compete,was,nt meant to imply a competition,but in reality that's what it is.

They have to choose from amongst the photos which to include in the mag,theirfore the photo,s are in competion with each other.(I think).

Anyway clear skies to all.

Mick.

 

Edited by astro mick
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On 16/11/2019 at 22:53, Keith Cooper said:

 a starscape with a church spire or natural feature in the foreground taken with a DSLR stands just as much chance of being featured in the gallery as a 14-hour exposure of a DSO.

Yes this is my thought exactly; I feel like I've seen every possible deep-sky portrayal, and that we won't get anything truly different until the days of interstellar travel! But an 'artistic' shot is still of interest, and 'unusual' or time-specific subjects such as occultations, conjunctions, fireballs etc remain both scientifically valuable and aesthetically beautiful.

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1 hour ago, AKB said:

In so far as the actual 'process' of acquisition then, perhaps, yes.   What else is there to it apart from:

  • a firm base (pier / tripod / block of concrete / ...)
  • a good mount
  • good enough polar alignment
  • a firmly mounted guide scope
  • good guiding parameters
  • adequate dew control measures
  • choice of camera
  • filters (and how to change them!)
  • camera cooling
  • calibration frames (bias / darks / flats)
  • focusing (and keeping the focus over temperature changes!)
  • framing (and choice of target, for that matter)
  • maybe an observatory (and, if its a dome, control of that)
  • SOFTWARE !!!!
  • WEATHER !!!!!
  • ... (feel sure I've missed a few things here.)

Er..., OK, actually this list is longer than you might think.

How does any of this ever work long enough to get an image?

Tony

Yes as countless images on SGL testify. Having a permanent set up reduces the problems considerably, having a less cloudy than typical UK skies reduces the issues further still.

Regards Andrew 

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1 hour ago, AKB said:

In so far as the actual 'process' of acquisition then, perhaps, yes.   What else is there to it apart from:

  • a firm base (pier / tripod / block of concrete / ...)
  • a good mount
  • good enough polar alignment
  • a firmly mounted guide scope
  • good guiding parameters
  • adequate dew control measures
  • choice of camera
  • filters (and how to change them!)
  • camera cooling
  • calibration frames (bias / darks / flats)
  • focusing (and keeping the focus over temperature changes!)
  • framing (and choice of target, for that matter)
  • maybe an observatory (and, if its a dome, control of that)
  • SOFTWARE !!!!
  • WEATHER !!!!!
  • ... (feel sure I've missed a few things here.)

Er..., OK, actually this list is longer than you might think.

How does any of this ever work long enough to get an image?

Tony

I would agree and I think this is where the difference lies between imaging from the UK and from a more ideal location, to get to 40-hours on my current image that has so far taken me 14 nights of imaging. You have to take 2 hour windows or even one hour windows of clear sky to make it all add up. In an ideal climate you will get that in half the number of nights and while those 14 nights span two seasons for me I am going to guess they might span a couple of months for some other locations. Every single time you have to battle with all the factors above and just one of them can ruin a night for you. Collecting data from the UK often feels like a battle for me and I have an observatory. 

2 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

- Magazines are physically quite small and print resolution is lower than screen resolution so many of the advantages of extremely long exposure and very expensive equipment are lost in print. The print playing field, if you like, is much more level than the pitiless screen playing field with its potential for zooming in to full size and (hiss!!!) pixel peeping. 

- Data acquisition is a learnable mechanical process with a clear and not terribly high ceiling. Processing is far more complicated, open to more varied approaches and limitless in terms of potential for improvement. I know not everyone agrees with me on this but I don't really care where the data comes from. My own joy lies in interacting with it (and so with the objects it contains) at the processing stage. (Great artists used to mix their own paints from pigments etc. Now they mostly buy their paint. Is this important? OK, that's a tenuous analogy. :icon_mrgreen:)

Olly

I agree with the first statement but it I am sure that they will print the better images larger within the magazine and the more "marginal" images smaller to compensate. I have certainly seen some images online that look much better in the magazine than they do on the monitor. 

The second part that I quote above I am not able to agree with, data acquisition in the UK is a battle against the elements and light pollution, I am lucky but most will not have gardens sufficiently large to place an obsy in them and they will be surrounded by other houses with security lighting and the rest. I am going to guess that at your location you get 3 to 4 times the number of clear nights per season that we do in the UK and that you get longer windows on those nights.

Last year was so bad that I started a heart nebula project in October 2018 and I am still collecting data for it now.  If you don't have an obsy then setup time means you cant even take advantage of the more frequent 2 hour windows we tend to get, if you do then a cat walks past next doors security light and you just lost a 20min sub in the middle of a 2 hour window. So much to go wrong every time you setup and take down. It only takes one thing and the night is lost, it takes some grit to start setting up at midnight for a clear window predicted at 1am because that might be all you get this month and then get up for work the next day. So I think that you have a different experience of data acquisition than me if you consider it a mechanical process, but with me having an obsy I am probably closer to your experience than most in the UK. 

What I will say is that I don't think that it should be UK only and would miss seeing your images, astronomy is an international community after all, but at the same time I do have a personal preference for seeing and reading about images made by people I have more in common with in terms of the overall imaging experience. 

I will qualify all this with the fact that I have never submitted any of my own work to a magazine or anything else for that matter, recently I don't even post all my images on here as my current goal is to have them printed and hung on my wall for my own enjoyment. I find processing that is optimal for being printed is different to what looks best on a monitor (Probably my rubbish monitor). Maybe Ill submit the heart when its done and see what happens.  

Adam 

Edited by Adam J
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I stopped subscribing to printed astro magazines years ago, and at the time when I did subscribe, it was a UK magazine (Sky at Night) even if I live in Sweden. I thought at least Sky at Night saw itself as an international magazine (as was also pointed out in the thread above) so from my perspective I would find it very odd and unfair if UK photographers were favoured. If people living in parts of the world prone to be cloudy or light polluted should be favoured, then that would at least include most of northern Europe.

One reason I stopped subscribing was that I find all the astrorelated info I want or need on the net, including SGL. And if I want to look at astrophotogaphs from fellow amateurs I can do it here and on Astrobin. I picked up a copy of Sky at Night on Manchester Airport a few days ago to have some reading on the plane back. It had a few interesting equipment reviews but looking at the images published there was mainly frustrating. They were too small and magazine printing makes them too grainy and I have no idea how well the colours were reproduced. That reminded me why I do not subscribe to printed magazines any more. The net is a much better outlet for astrophotography, and there we can also get feedback on out images, so personally I have never considered submitting images to a magazine.

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22 minutes ago, Adam J said:

I find processing that is optimal for being printed is different to what looks best on a monitor (Probably my rubbish monitor). Maybe Ill submit the heart when its done and see what happens.  

Adam 

This is certainly true. For what it's worth I prepare images for print by adjusting the curve along these lines:

1258437291_printcurve.JPG.62c489caaa346e5410ba72d0359aff30.JPG

The idea is to lift the lower brightnesses so that faint detail will not be compressed into oblivion. I find print has an effect rather like black clipping, but since it can also white clip I'm careful to hold down the brightest parts. The good news is that print resolution will not capture the finest pixel structures and these include noise.

Tony's list of things to get right at capture is certainly a sobering one! I'm not suggesting for one second that it isn't both expensive and sometimes exasperating and certainly I think that those who do it while fighting bad weather and LP are downright heroic. As for those who have to drive their kit out to dark sites every time, well, they are beyond heroic. But, while the list is long, there is no one thing on it which you could really call difficult. When everything works ( :BangHead:)  an experienced observer, new to imaging, can get to the successful capture stage in a couple of nights. I see this fairly regularly here. However, I have never seen anyone teach themselves to process successfully in three days. Anyway this is an aside to the main point of the thread. Apologies.

Olly

 

 

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I've been sitting on replying to this thread because I have strong feelings about images toiled over by imagers living in countries with poor skies, and living in LP locations being compared to those taken by people living in really dark and copious clear skies, or those who don't even bother to capture the data, but simply process downloaded data. It doesn't seem fair and I have made my feelings about this known on several occasions both here and on Astrobin.

But when it comes to magazines publishing nice images for people to look at it is a different situation, it is not a competition.  All it takes is for the magazine to be sure to sometimes include a beginners image and one taken in challenging circumstances (and state these facts with the image in question), and I know they have done this on occasion as I had one of my images picked when I was a beginner with a DSLR stating the circumstances it was done in. 

I agree that we can't compete, but that's not what magazines are all about.

Carole 

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Perhaps magazines should just accept that they aren’t the best place for images to be seen and concentrate more on equipment reviews and how to articles etc. and have a website to properly display images. They could then show a web address for an image along with the printed photo.

Perhaps a first time submission section for beginners would help. 🤔

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33 minutes ago, johninderby said:

Perhaps magazines should just accept that they aren’t the best place for images to be seen and concentrate more on equipment reviews and how to articles etc. and have a website to properly display images. They could then show a web address for an image along with the printed photo.

Perhaps a first time submission section for beginners would help. 🤔

What do you think most people buy the mag for? I suspect hard core imagers are a small proportion of the readership. 

Regards Andrew

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I'd find a magazine quite boring if all it contained were adverts.

Carole 

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