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One more from Death Valley

Forgot I had this one! Taken near Eureka Dunes.


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!











Death Valley 2014

Just spent another week around Death Valley. 8 days of camping, 1000 miles of driving all over the place and nearly three-hundred gigabytes of photos to go through. I’m in the process of moving this week so I won’t have time to go through anything but I’ll post one of my favorites for now.

Trona Pinnacles in the pre-dawn sky.


Nice weekend.

Drove up to Pine Mountain Club this weekend to help Stephen do some work on his new truck (a beautiful 1990 Toyota Pickup 4×4) and got a chance to do a bit of help with his 17″ CDK project. Scope is almost ready for first light but it required three people to fix it to his mount.





And of course one of my favorite parts of visiting PMC is this amazing view looking down the Grapevine towards Bakersfield and the Sierra Nevada


So you can see the Milky Way from Orange County

Always wanted to try this from some of the southern beaches of San Clemente so I headed out to Califia, waited for the moon to set and got this. I’ll have to go back soon.


Waucoba Mountain

Going through some photos I took in Eureka Valley last year.

Wacucoba Mountain


Cepheus Mosaic


And a labeled version!


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:


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.


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.


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.


Lately I’ve been on a layered mountains (?) kick. Can’t help myself, not one bit.


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.




Camping on the Edge of Forever

Stitched Panorama

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

A Peak Into The Rho Ophiuchi Complex

I’ve always been fascinated by this region of the sky, contrasting colors, dark dusty areas, open clusters and brand new stars all swirling together.


Image Location and Date: OCA Anza site, Grandview Campground May 25th, 26th and 30th.
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 4c.
Lights: 76x180sec @ ISO1600

Calibration: flats, Bias
Guide scope: 50mm finder with Orion StarShoot Auto Guider
Other details: guiding with PHD, captured with APT, processed in PixInsight


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



Image Location and Date: OCA dark site in Anza, CA May 3rd
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: 25x300sec @ ISO 400 Cooled to 0C
Captured with APT Processing done in Pixinsight

Little Blair Valley

Some pics from a few wonderful nights here.


Stitched Panorama


Trip to the White Mountains

White Mountains
Day 1 5/22/2014

Left Rancho Santa Margarita around 10 am after spending the previous night packing everything up. Ordered Pizza the night before as I figured I was going to be eating simple camp food the rest of the trip.
Didn’t hit any traffic, arrived in Victorville around 11:40 and fueled up. Jumped back on the 395 for a few hours, traffic was again light (a benefit of leaving on a Thursday). Hit a few rain showers on the way but it was pretty patchy, nothing that concerned me. Got to Big Pine aroud 3:00 pm, fueled up and then took the 168 to Death Valley Road. Next destination was supposed to be Eureka Dunes. The drive was a lonely one, only passed one other vehicle near the beginning. The paved road wasn’t in too bad of shape. Passed through a cool canyon with some interesting anticlines (I think thats the right term), a Joshua Tree forest in what I think is Papoose Flats and then the road spit me out into Eureka Valley. From here it was an unpaved 12 miles. Road was a little bit washboarded but nothing 40 mph couldn’t take care of. The general area of Eureka Dunes was coming into view when all of a sudden several lighting strikes broke out of the dark clouds above. I could see them hit the ground around the area I’d be staying at. I reached the end of this section of road and turned onto Eureka Dunes Road (I think). The washboard here was much much worse, similar to the road on the way to the Racetrack. Granted, this was only 10 miles vs the 30 mile road to the Racetrack, I didn’t want to get a flat by myself out here. A few more lightning strikes directly to the ground a few miles away from me convinced me to turn around and head 1.5 hours back to Big Pine. The storm seemed to follow me, a light rain on Death Valley Road turned into a torrent once I hit Big Pine. Hail started coming down, could barely see anything in front of me. I seeked cover in a Shell gas station parking lot and waited the storm out. Since I had reception I figured I’d call Kaela and update her on the situation.
Rain seemed to subside after 30 minutes and since I still had a bit of daylight I got back on the 168 but this time headed up to White Mountain. Very twisty steep road, down to one lane in a narrow rocky canyon section. I was alternating between 2nd and 1st gear the whole way up, this was a result of all the equipment I decided to bring. Arrived at Grandview Campground (8,400 ft elevation) and began unpacking the basics. Skies were still cloudy but looked like they may clear. I didn’t want to take a chance on my gear getting soaked so I just got the tent set up. As I was in the middle of preparing my home for the next five days it began snowing! Quite a contrast from last week in Southern California reaching temps of over 100 for five days in a row. Ground temp seemed to be too warm to support much snowfall so it melted right away. Snow eventually trickled down to a little flurry and I could see the sunset poking through the clouds. Drove up 2.5 miles to the Sierra Viewpoint where I actually got cell phone reception. That was great to know for the next few days as I like to check in with Kaela and make sure she knows I didn’t drive off a cliff.
Took a timelapse of a beautiful sunset over the Sierras from the viewpoint and headed back down. The sky had cleared up but things still felt very wet as if the clouds would roll in and it would start snowing again any minute. I opted not to set up my equipment, rather just two cameras for timelapse work. If it did begin to precipitate they would be much easier to cover up than two scopes, laptop, etc.
Next morning I awoke to below freezing temps. Got dressed, made a fire to cook some brats on and then headed further up white mountain for a bit more exploring. I checked out the Schulmann Grove but it was too tourist oriented for my taste so I headed further up the unpaved roads. Some some awesome landscapes, all dotted with the Ancient Bristlecone pine.
That night two engineers from JPL had come up for the much hyped Carmeloesdidis meteor shower and they joined me as we waited for the sky to clear. It didn’t. I was briefly able to show them Jupiter and Saturn in the XT8 but that was all the sky allowed. It wasn’t exactly cloudy, just a thick haze that completely destroyed the wonderful clarity this site boasts. Instead we discussed working at JPL which of course I found fascinating. Their names were Danny and Mike, roommates. One of them an electrical engineer, the other one mechanical. They worked on science packages for satellite missions. They also had only worked there a year but it was still interesting to hear them talk about. Like many professional astronomers and space-faring engineers I had met they knew little of the night sky and amateur astronomy but they were still up there so at least they had some curiosity.
The next day I went further up White Mountain, nearly all the way to the Barcroft Gate but deep snow hindered me. While the BF Goodrich All Terrain K/O tires are fantastic for dry off roading they are terrible in mud and snow and I didn’t want to get stuck. I spent several hours photographing some of the more desolate looking Bristlecone Pines. The landscape up there is very stark, I’ve seen pictures but it really looked like what I’d expect dry frozen tundra to look like. Just sand, light scrub and a few Bristlecones. The sky was bright too, being at 12,000 feet elevation sunglasses are 100% necessary.
After exploring for hours I eventually returned back to camp. Skies looked much better this night, just a few cumulus clouds. No haze, no looming thunderheads, just deep blue sky and a few puffy clouds that would disappear once the sunset.
I couldn’t believe how dark it gets up here. And I use the word dark not to mean how little I could see but I use it in the sense astronomers use it. The darker a site is, the more you can see. The zodiacal light was clearly visible, airglow flashed in the upper atmosphere above me. The milky way looked light a bright cloud rising from the east and the few clouds that were floating around where completely black. That is a very cool site to see, normally you expect clouds to be brighter than the surrounding sky but here its the opposite, just like ink blots wandering around.
From the east side of the campground you can look down into the beginning of the great basin that stretches all the way across Nevada and into Utah. This is a land where supposedly no water escapes and hardly any other water reaches. I’ll have to get out there some time.
The milky way rose over the great basin and it was clearly visible even right on the horizon. I have not been fortunate to experience that before, normally its hard to make out from the background muck until its maybe 20-30 degrees overhead. I stood at the edge of this overlook for an hour with the 6D and a tripod taking a timelapse and then a panoramic shot of the milky way rising over the mountains.








M16 Eagle Nebula


RGB subs were taken from Grandview Campground in the White Mountains and HA was from my clubs site in Anza.

Image Location and Date: OCA Anza site, Grandview Campground May 25th, 26th and 30th.
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 4c.
Lights: RGB 35x180sec @ ISO1600 HA 24x180sec @ ISO1600 Calibration: flats, Bias
Guide scope: 50mm finder with Orion StarShoot Auto Guider
Other details: guiding with PHD, captured with APT, processed in PixInsight

New Site

Hello all, I will no longer be updating pocketrubbish. All new stuff will be posted at my current website, danwattphoto.com

Screw that, I like this site. Portfolio sites are stupid for a hobby.

Some wide angle stuff I’ve been taking here and there.

Been doing lots and lots of off roading lately to some pretty interesting locations, figured I’d share a few images!

Milky Way over the Fish Creek Mountains

Mars overlooking a canyon in Fish Creek

Another image of the Milky Way rising over the Fish Creek mountains. This is 1 frame from a timelapse.

The OK Mine north of Joshua Tree National Park in the Old Dale Mining District.

A Cave in Anza Borrego

The Wind Caves in Anza Borrego

Big Orion Mosaic – HA almost done

Figured I’d post my progress on the mosaic I’ve been working on for the past two or three months. Dual 180mm Nikkors on Canon T3s, six frames total so far. Here is the hydrogen-alpha image (the easy one). Still haven’t started on the color and to be honest I’m kind of dreading it.


So far I’m at six frames, each frame is around 20 600 second exposures so I guess this is 20 hours of exposure time. I also have 20 hours of color data but its not quite there yet.

This was taken with a $150 Nikkor 180mm AI-S I bought off ebay and it was described as being in “rough” condition. Don’t let anybody ever tell you that you need an expensive scope to do this. Just patience and gas money. Since the local dark sites are several hours away from my apartment in south Orange County I’d estimate I’ve put nearly 1,000 miles into driving to get this shot.

Other stuff: f2.8, Astronomik HA 12nm filter, Orion Atlas mount, Canon T3, ISO 1600. Camera cooled to 0c. All processing in Pixinsight.