Thursday, April 25, 2013

My First Attempt at Astro Photography

I have had a fascination with Astro Photography since a trip to Arizona about six years ago. My company hired someone with a very powerful telescope for a company event. One look at Saturn and all of its rings, and I was hooked! However, I did not want to just see the galaxy, I wanted to capture it with my camera. So, I have been building up to buying a telescope of my own to give this a try.

At first, I purchased an expensive telescope and a t-mount for my Nikon camera, but I never took the telescope out of the box. It was really an impulse buy and I thought I needed to do more research. So, I took that one back and started to investigate more.

I finally talked to a guy at B&H Photo Video that actually started the telescope department there. He was very knowledgeable and very helpful. The research I did on my own was pretty good, but he finalized what I truly needed.

Here is a list of my purchases:
  • T-Mount for Nikon (already owned this one)
  • RS-N2 II Wired Remote Switch for Nikon D7000
  • 1000mm Computerized Telescope 114LCM
  • Night Vision Red LED Flashlight (came with telescope)
  • AC to DC Power Adapter
  • SLR Camera Adapter with Integral 2x Barlow Lens
So, the first thing I learned about, after setting it all up, is that the computer has to be aligned each time to find three major stars, planets, or the moon. The second thing that I learned is that the best laid plans go out the window with weather... it is slightly cloudy a lot of the time! The third thing that I learned is that the camera attached to the barlow is not as sharp and clear (or as magnified) as looking through the stronger eye piece. The fourth thing that I learned about is that the closer you get to objects in the sky, the quicker they move out of your view finder!
I did get to see Jupiter and its four moons! That was the only thing I was able to see with this particular telescope and strong eye piece, other than what I can see with my naked eye. It was fun seeing sooooo many stars at one time, too!

Here is the only successful picture, and it is of the moon, that I was able to take:

I did try to take a picture with my iPhone through the eye piece, which was much sharper and closer, too:

These two photos are actually from the same date/time... however, I did not purchase the inverter for looking through the eye piece. If there was an attachment for the iPhone with a telescope eye piece, then this might have turned out great.

Never the less, I decided that all of this equipment was too expensive for just taking photos of the moon. I returned the telescope and accessories. So, my one successful photo cost me a whopping $24... the return shipping cost!

Here is a photo that I took shortly there after with my Nikon D7000, 18-200 mm lens on a tripod:

Can you see Jupiter up in the upper right corner?

So, I have not given up... just decided to change my approach. I thought that it would be better to invest in a cheaper lens that has a far range and I can shoot other pictures with. I found a Tokina 80-400 mm lens on Craigs List and I have purchased that. Here is a photo that I took one morning with the new lens:

My intent is to purchase a 2x Tele Converter and try my hand at 800 mm! I have already taken this lens to a local park and gotten some great water fowl photos, too.

I guess I am going to have to just admire the photos from the really, really large telescopes around the world for other celestial objects like Saturn!

I might not have completed my mission, but I had an awful lot of fun trying... and, isn't that what it is all about?