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Widefields

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.

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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:

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

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Tri – x

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Tri – x

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

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Fun with strobes. Tri – x

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Tri – x 400

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

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

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My Skytracker needed surgery while camping.

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.

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Canon 6D ISO1600,

Nikkor 50mm @ f5.6,

17x180sec.

Mounted on an Ioptron Skytracker

Processed with Pixinsight

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.

 

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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.

 

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Taken from the Orange County Astronomers site in Anza.

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

 

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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
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One more from Death Valley

Forgot I had this one! Taken near Eureka Dunes.

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More pictures from Death Valley

I have a lot more to go through but I figured I’d post these for now. I also have a bunch of journal entries I need to edit but I’d like to finish a few things up first. Here you go for now!

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Cepheus Mosaic

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And a labeled version!

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I’ve been working at capturing data on this one for a number of months now as sort of a real first light image for my 6D. A total of eight nights (only two of which were consecutive) and at least 40 hours of imaging time. This is a partial HaRGB Composite image. I say partial because no HA data was taken for the left side of the image as I really did not deem it necessary.

Imaging Location: Little Blair Valley, OCA Anza, and Julian Starfest.
RGB Data: Canon 6D unmodded with a Nikkor 180mm AI-S @ F4 ISO800
HA Data: Canon T3 full spectrum with a Nikkor 180mm AI-S @ F2.8. Astronomik 12nm HA filter. ISO1600. Camera cooled to 7C.
Mount: Orion Atlas EQ-G Guided

40+ hours exposure time.

Processed in Pixinsight and Photoshop. Processing was a huge challenging, taking 1.5 days of focus.

This was what the original image looked like after calibration and alignment:

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As you can see it needed a lot of work. Hardest part BY FAR is overcoming sky gradients from light pollution and airglow. I also did a terrible job of aligning my frames, this is something I’ve always had issues with.

Julian Starfest!

Spent the last new moon weekend of August at Julian Starfest, a fantastic event near the beautiful town of Julian in eastern San Diego County. Three perfectly clear nights and four comfortable days, absolutely wonderful to get out of the heat of lower elevations. I finally finished capturing data for my huge mosaic of Cepheus and now I’ve got a three day weekend to process it!

The drive out there was spectacular, some mid summer thunderstorms had been pounding the deserts and mountains and I caught the tail end of them as I was driving up highway 78 through Ramona and on to Julian. Saw a real bonefide double rainbow which in Southern California is pretty rare as it hardly rains, especially the last couple of years. What struck me was how brilliant the colors were all the way down to the ground.

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Arrived at the Menghini Winery around 7PM to a wet and muddy field with maybe 50 observers waiting to set up. Took a look at the Wundermap radar and it seemed that there would be no more rain for the night so I excited started unpacking the Toyota and began setting up. The night stayed clear but the seeing was pretty bad (no big deal since I was just going to be imaging at a focal length of 180mm) and the dew was horrible. I have a blow dryer for dew but no AC power to plug it in to and it uses a lot more power than I’m comfortable putting through my inverter. No matter, a periodic equipment wipe down was all I needed.

Went to bed in the back of the Toyota around 1 am but not before setting an alarm on my phone to wake me up every 2 hours to check on things. The night got much colder than I anticipated, what with the damp ground and moisture in the air. I had neglected to bring some of my normal cold weather gear as its the middle of summer in Southern California, who needs thermal pants? I did.

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Morning came. I had parked with the rear of the truck (where I was sleeping) facing east which resulted in a harsh dose of the one astronomical object that is hardest to avoid, the sun. I tried denying it for awhile, putting the sleeping bag over my head while trying to ignore the rapidly rising temperature. Eventually I had to come to grips with the fact that I was being baked alive in the sleeping bag. Alright, I’m awake. Stumbled out of the truck and started planning breakfast.

Whenever I do these multi day trips my biggest source of stress isn’t money, shelter, weather, navigation, fuel, local regulations, clothing, entertainment or forgetting crucial pieces of equipment. That stuff is easy, its static, matter of fact. Food is hard. I hate planning my meals, I hate having a predetermined amount of cooler space. I could care less what Dan two days from now wants to eat. I am too impulsive with food to even think about what I want for dinner. So planning for multiple days, even a week is a major annoyance. Sometimes I can just solve it by buying a couple of boxes of clif bars and tossing them in my backpack. Or at least I think I can solve it, on day three of eating cliff bars I get pretty cranky. Water is easy too, one gallon per day + four gallons for the truck in case I loose a radiator hose or something. But food? I’m out here working, not here to eat.

And thats what made Julian Starfest great. There are food vendors on site! There is the town of Julian a couple of miles up the hill! Markets, restaurants, gas station crap, its all there! All I put in the cooler was some energy drinks, beer and a six pack of hot dogs. How great is that?

I power my equipment in the field using a deep cycle marine battery hardwired into my trucks electrical system. The battery is recharged by the alternator which is really great, not having to worry about finding some AC power to steal is a big relief. But this necessitates me driving around for an hour or two to fully charge the battery back up. While the battery should easily last me two full nights I like to be on the safe side and top it off every day. Which means I get to drive around Mount Laguna, one of my favorite areas of San Diego County. Drove around Lake Cuyamaca which is pretty low at the moment (drought!) and stopped at a few overlooks on the side of the Sunrise Highway to get some photos of the Anza Borrego Desert down below. Witnessed quite a few cliff diving swallows in my general vicinity which was a pretty cool treat, I had never noticed them before.

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Lately I’ve been on a layered mountains (?) kick. Can’t help myself, not one bit.
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I just picked up a Rokinon 14mm Cine lens for the 6D, great lens for the price. Even though its the cine version I really love it for regular photography, the de-clicked aperture ring is a real treat when trying to get the perfect exposure. Almost no coma in the corners, great color rendition and while there is a bit of distortion its quite easy to correct in software. The real trick is trying to get the perfect angle, a small movement in any direction completely changes the whole feel of the image.

Palomar Mountain Milky Way

Took a drive (my favorite drive!) up Palomar Mountain and over to Lake Henshaw one night. Didn’t stay (extremely rare that I don’t camp) the night, just went out for a nice drive.

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Camping on the Edge of Forever

Stitched Panorama

Grandview Campground, California. Milky Way rising over the Great Basin

Cygnus

Took this a couple months ago during my trip to the White Moutains, an amazing grey zone site at 8,400 feet. Used a rental 6D during the trip which convinced me to buy one and I couldn’t be more pleased with its performance.

31 subs at ISO 800, 240sec exposures using a Nikkor 50mm f1.8 @f4 on an unmodded Canon 6D

Cassiopeia to M31

Taken during Julian Starfest

Canon 6D unmodded
50x300sec @ ISO800
Nikkor 50mm 1.8 @ F4
Atlas EQ-G unguided

Little Blair Valley

Some pics from a few wonderful nights here.

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Stitched Panorama

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Sadr to Crescent – 9 panel mosaic

This one took quite awhile to get done. This was done over six different nights, representing a total of 1200 miles driven to and back from Anza, the local dark site I use. Quite a lot of work to stitch together!

I had loads of problems along with way, issues with tracking, noise (had problems with my DSLR cooler), a few crummy nights full of clouds and I had completely disassembled my scope more than once to figure out some collimation issues.

I tried to get around 3 hours per frame, some ended up being more, some less due to weather and these darn short summer nights.

Image Location and Date: Orange County Astronomers dark site in Anza, CA, May, June, July
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
Lights: 317x300sec @ ISO 1600

Calibration: Darks, flats, Bias
Guide scope: Tair-3c with Orion StarShoot Auto Guider
Other details: guiding with PHD, captured with APT, processed in PixInsight + PS

A few widefields from Joshua Tree

Visited Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree National Park last weekend for a little camping trip with some friends and I decided to try out the Tokina 11-16mm for widefield work. I’ve heard good things so I rented it for the weekend.

I was pretty impressed with this lens, pretty dang sharp for an off-brand zoom and the distortion is still visible but not bad at all for how wide it is. I mean, this is close to a fisheye for field of view. Really fun to play with.

Anyway, the images!

Milky Way with 18mm lens from Anza

This came out looking good. 15x300sec (1 hour 15 minutes) @ ISO400 with Canon 18-55mm II on my 350Da

Milky Way from Palomar Mountain

Decided to put the 8mm Peleng to work so I drove up Palomar Mountain around 2 in the morning to catch the summer milky way rising. Conditions were perfect… weather was nice, there was a fog below the mountains that was blocking all the LP and the moon had just set. So even though I had to work in the morning I decided to drive the 1.5 hours up to the top and go for it.

My new Canon T3 will not come to focus with the 8mm, I suspect this is because it is full spectrum modified and I need to adjust the sensor position. No matter, I still have my 350D. Roughly polar aligned the CG-4 and started taking a series of 300sec exposures.