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Astrophotography Weekend

Spent a few nights out in the desert doing some astrophotography. Didn’t have much else to do out there so I figured I’d make a short film about the process of photographing and processing an image of M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy.

Newish Timelapse Work

Earlier this year I completed work on my 5 axis robotic timelapse rig. Here is a little demo of what it can do:

And a video of the rig in action!

From The Lagoon to Saturn

Holy cow, an update! Finally got a bit of astrophotography done last week. Been extremely busy with work (I’m a freelance cinematographer now) and haven’t been able to get out nearly as much as I’d like. Anyway this is a 3 panel mosaic right smack in the Milky Way. Shot over two nights.



Image Location and Date: SDAA club site, Tierra Del Sol.
Mount: Orion Atlas EQ-G
Imaging scope: Nikkor 180mm f2.8 AI-S ED
Imaging FL: 180mm
Imaging focal ratio: f4
Imaging camera: IR Modded Canon 6D (for the left frame), Canon 5D Mark III for the center frame and right frame.
Lights: RGB 91x300sec @ ISO800 (~8 Hours)
Calibration: flats, Bias
Guide scope: 60mm finder with Orion StarShoot Auto Guider
Other details: guiding with PHD2, captured with APT, processed in PixInsight + Photoshop

Photo dump.

All film:


Sagittarius area of the Milky Way, Fuji Neopan Acros 100. 20 Minute exposure, Canon 50mm f1.8 stm @ f4.


Tri – x


Tri – x


Tri – x. This is a super long exposure of me setting up a milky way shot up in the mountains.


Fun with strobes. Tri – x


Tri – x 400


Fuji Neopan Acros 100. 20 Minute exposure, Canon 50mm f1.8 stm @ f4.


Fuji Neopan Acros 100. 20 Minute exposure, Rokinon 14mm @ 2.8


My Skytracker needed surgery while camping.


I’ve been having fun with film lately. I really love how it forces me to be a better photographer (not sure if it shows though). Even single click of that shutter costs me money, every click means I have one less exposure, and every click means more time in my bathroom developing. So I take my time, make sure the exposure is where I want it, make sure focus is good (I only have one auto focus lens, everything else is manual. Not to be cool, but because I really like old soviet lenses. They are cheap and good enough), and then reallllly pay attention to composition. Thats always been the toughest thing for me, good composition. And I’ve noticed over the years my old personal way of composing a shot seams to emphasize patterns and lines rather than emphasize depth; foreground, background, etc. Like I either prefer 2 dimensional images or I’m just not talented enough to see potential ways to add depth to my image. And I don’t really get bothered by that either. I also like not developing my film for a month or two. Sometimes I have no idea what the picture is of. Sometimes I’ll forget even going to that location. But I like it because it lets me view my photos in a more objective way. Gone is the immediate emotional attachment from a weekends batch of photos… now its akin to viewing somebody else photos and picking up what you like and what you don’t like. Rambling.

I’ve been using a Canon A2e I picked up at the oceanside Swap Meet for $10. ITS AWESOME. I like it better than my 5D and 6D! For use with my previously mentioned one autofocus lens (Canon 50mm 1.8 boring) I can use the eye control focus to pick out my focus point. That means wherever I point my eye in the viewfinder, the camera focuses on that. So instead of having to figure out my frame, than move my camera to focus on whatever plane I’m focusing on, then move the camera back to reframe, I can do it all from one spot. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal but man, once you use eye controlled focus you can’t go back. NO IDEA why modern DSLRs omit this completely.

I also picked up a Soviet Practika SLR with no light meter, no motor, no nothing. Full manual control. I’ve been trying to get better at guessing exposure since I read about Douglas Slocombe, the DP for Raiders of the Lost Ark (amoungst a bunch of other movies). Apparently he was so good he didn’t use a handheld light meter, he just used his eyes and called off the exposure settings to the camera operator. For 35mm film. For major motion pictures. That’s amazing. So I’ve been practicing that and surprisingly its not all that hard. Especially when you can just use the sunny16 rule during the day.

Okay photos. Most everything is tri-x. (more…)

Its been awhile

I haven’t been posting as much here as I’d like. Doesn’t mean I haven’t been taking photos, I have, but instead of uploading them anywhere I just sit on them and move on to the next project. I’ve been busy as hell this year. Started working as a freelance cinematographer the last few months. Did a music video, some product videos for my friends company, a dark comedy web series and about to start filming on a really dark bizzaro comedy I wrote called High Desert. So thats been that. I have been dabbling in an interesting timelapse experiment involving astroids and nebula but processing isn’t finished quite yet. I’ve also been using film again, even dabbling in film astrophotography. I don’t know how it looks yet because I still have to develop it. I told myself I’d do that tonight, we’ll see. I’ll post soon (I hope). In the meantime here is a big dump of photos!


Sunset on the Sunrise Highway. Near Mount Laguna. Canon 5d mark III, Zeiss Jena 35mm @ f8.


Santa Rosa Mountains area near Anza. Kodak Tri-x 400, Zeiss Jena 35mm. I don’t remember what settings.

Milky Way from Toro Peak. Rokinon 14mm, Canon 6D, two remote strobes set up, one obvious one in the distance, another with an umbrella to light the underside of the trees. I think this was 5 minutes. Mounted on my iOptron Skytracker.


Star trails with tri-x!

Thats it for now. I have more. Just need to remember what they are.

Assorted Stuff

Haven’t gone out as much as I’d like lately, but I have a few new photos I haven’t shared yet.


Fonts Point Milky Way + my girlfriend as a Wizard

M31 – The Andromeda Galaxy – 3 Panel Mosaic

Haven’t really been able to post in awhile, been working on other projects that are taking up way too much time. Finally got two nights over Labor day weekend. Figured I’d do M31 since its been a long time since I’ve attempted it. I’m imaging at 800mm with a Canon T3 so I had to do three panels to get it all to fit and even then the wispy bits on the edges are cut off. Lots of nasty gradients to deal with on account of lots of high altitude haze. This summer in Socal has been too humid. Only got about two hours per frame over two nights because of the clouds. Processed in Pixinsight and Photoshop.

Image Location and Date: SDAA club site, Tierra Del Sol.
Mount: Orion Atlas EQ-G
Imaging scope: Orion 8″ F3.9 Astrograph
Imaging FL: 800mm
Imaging focal ratio: f3.9
Imaging camera: Canon 1100D (Rebel T3) Modded and cooled to 12c.
Lights: RGB 25x300sec @ ISO400 per frame (3x)
Calibration: flats, Bias
Guide scope: 60mm finder with Orion StarShoot Auto Guider
Other details: guiding with PHD, captured with APT, processed in PixInsight + Photoshop

Death Valley 2014 PART TWO


We left  Eureka Valley, back through the Inyo Mountains and into the town of Big Pine where we fueled up. I must also note that the bathroom at this particular Mobile station is excellent. I’ve used it before and by God I’ll use it again. Nothing better than a nice flush toilet after crapping in holes and outhouses for days.

On that note we drove south on Highway 395 to our next destination, the (Huells voice) beautiful town of Lone Pine, California! Here we decided to get a hotel for the night. We needed a shower bad and had four more days of exploring to do. Plus, I’ve always wanted to check out this town.

We went into the darkest looking bar we could find. Can’t remember the name or if it had one. Probably something creative like “Two Doors”. Even out here they had some microbrews on tap. I think we got Coors. The lovely lady behind the bar asked us what were were doin in these parts. Why, on vacation in Death Valley my fair lady!

“Why the hell would you spend a week in Death Valley?”




Haven’t done a lot of shooting lately, been working on a web series project. I did get the chance to go back to Trona though.








Winter Sky over Lake Henshaw

Took a drive out past Palomar to the Lake Henshaw overlook. Took a few quick pics before the moon rose.



Canon 6d, Rokinon 14mm @ f4, 180sec exposure, ISO1600

Comet Lovejoy and M31

Went out to Lake Henshaw Friday night and got a few quick pics of Comet Lovejoy approaching M31 before the moon came up.


Canon 6D ISO1600,

Nikkor 50mm @ f5.6,


Mounted on an Ioptron Skytracker

Processed with Pixinsight

New Timelapse!

Threw some stuff together from my Death Valley trip and various other adventures, a great beat from Ken and well here it is.



This was mostly the first test run of my jib system. Almost got all the bugs worked out of the software so I’ll start shooting clips for a new one soon. Enjoy.

Death Valley 2014 PART ONE

I know I posted the images a few months ago after the trip but I haven’t gotten around to describing the experience in detail. I took notes along the way and committed much more to memory but I figure I need to write this all down before the hazards surrounding my current field of employment (watching paint dry) destroy those brain cells containing those memories.




M78 Revisited.

This was one of the first objects I was ever proud of imaging. M78, a reflection nebula in Orion. Check out my attempt from a few years back.


This was also the first time in a long time I’ve done proper imaging through the telescope. It feels good to be back for a bit, I love doing timelapses and scenic photography but I think astrophotography is my true love.


Image Location and Date: OCA dark sky site in Anza, CA on January 17th 2015
Object: M78
Mount: Orion Atlas EQ-G
Imaging scope: Orion 8″ f3.9
Imaging FL: 800mm
Imaging focal ratio: f3.9
Imaging camera: Canon 100D (SL1) Modded
Lights: 55x300sec @ ISO 400
Calibration: Darks, flats
Guide scope: 50mm Finder with Orion StarShoot Auto Guider
Other details: guiding with PHD, captured with APT, processed in PixInsight


Winter Milky Way around 0 deg declination

Went out to the mountains. Rather than focus on what I forgot to bring, I’ll list what I did have. Tripod, iOptron Skytracker, Canon 6D and a Nikkor 50mm. I was stuck shooting whatever was at 0 deg declination so I aimed at a big starry patch and took an hours worth of exposures. Stopping down does wonderful things for tiny star detail, to see what I’m talking about check out the high resolution version.




Taken from the Orange County Astronomers site in Anza.

Joshua Tree New Years Eve

Headed up to Joshua Tree for New Years Eve to check out the recent snowfall. Quick trip but well worth it aside from the 10f temps.

jtNYE-1 (more…)

Canon 100D Full Spectrum Mod

Finally had to replace my poor old 1100D. I ran the peltier cooler below the dew point which resulted in condensation hitting the sensor. Ordered myself a new 100D (SL1) and immediately upon arrival I tore it apart to remove the IR blocking filters built into the camera. These filters prevent hydrogen-alpha light from reaching the sensor and as that is the most prominent spectrum of light emitted from nebulae (the red!) those filters had to go. I’ve never modified a 100D before and couldn’t find any guides online but since I’ve done plenty of T3’s and other cameras I decided to go for it. Took about 50 minutes from start to finish, pretty straightforward process with the exception of having to hunt down my T7 star driver for the three screws that hold the sensor carriage to the camera body. Please excuse my filthy keyboard and work area (or don’t).

Rokinon 14mm is perfect for wide field astrophotography

Yes, its very good wide open. With a decent camera (as in low noise as ISO 6400) you can easily expose the Milky Way in 30 seconds. I’ve done plenty of that, I decided to see how good it was stopped down a bit and with a much longer exposure on an iOptron Skytracker.


14mm @ f5.6, ISO 3200 240 Seconds



Thanksgiving weekend in Anza Borrego

Was fortunate enough to spend a couple of nights out by myself in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Didn’t really get much sleep, but that’s the point isn’t it?

A moonlit Sandstone Canyon