Photographing the night sky requires a variety of equipment but these are just tools. The essential element is you: your knowledge and technique. The knowledge of the night sky, knowing how to use your equipment and learning the techniques to capture the image are the important elements of this art. Like any other pursuit it takes effort, practice and persistence. Your reward is not just the final picture but also the joy of being out under the night sky.
Most astrophotography is not point and shoot. It typically takes many steps to create a picture. These include finding and framing your target, collecting the data (raw images), converting that data into images, and then manipulating the images to highlight the features you want to reveal. Those steps may take hours, or days, or even months to complete for a final picture.
Years ago I started with film, it was more difficult than today's digital world. Now I use Canon digital cameras. My primary astrophotography camera is the Canon model 350D which was modified by Hutech to increase its sensitivity. I also use standard (unmodified) Canon cameras.
Astro-Physics 130mm Starfire EDFS Refractor
A superb, 130 mm diameter, f6 APO scope. I acquired mine used in December 2001. The EDFS model has a 2.7" focuser and for photography I use the dedicated field flattener (FF) with the AP 67RT adapter for 35mm. The stars are perfect across the field of view (FOV). This is the configuration pictured to the left. I also use the AP .75x focal reducer (reduces focal length to 585mm, f4.5) and AP 2" 35mm adapter for wider field shots but that setup has slight aberrations at the edges of the field as well as greater vignetting than the FF setup.
Stellarvue 80/9D Refractor
This is my current guidescope for the Starfire, as pictured on the right. A two element, 78mm f9.6 achromatic scope. The optics perform very well with minimal color on very bright stars. The 2 inch focuser is sturdy and locks down fairly well. It came with a 2 inch adapter that screws into the flipmate body on my ST4 which provides a very solid fit in the focuser.
Televue Genesis Refractor
A near APO, 100 mm diameter, fast f5 scope with a 2 1/2 by 4 degree field (35mm film). It requires a 2" adapter to T-ring for imaging. I acquired mine second-hand in 1999 and used this as my primary imaging scope for several years.
The picture on the right shows my early photography setup with the Genesis and ST80 on the G11. Taken early morning, February 7th 2000, by Bethany, MO. After a cold night of imaging it had clouded over and everything was covered in heavy frost.
Losmandy G11 Mount
Pictured above both pier mounted and on its tripod this is an excellent mid priced german equatorial mount. All of my equipment is fitted to rid on this mount. I acquired this used and it has worked very well. In 2002 I added a Casaday Dovetail saddle for additional stability and ease of mounting the Starfire. I highly recommend this saddle plate. I also added the Losmandy Clutch knobs and highly recommend those. They allow you to quickly tighten the clutches with more force than the standard knobs.
A permanent observatory is very useful. Your telescope can be left ready for use on a moments notice. On the right is a photograph with the observatory open to allow the nights dew to dry up. After three years as a simple open air platform I finally completed the roll-off roof in the final days of 2004.
Additional information about the observatory construction will be added later.