Astrophotography - The Learning Curve

Discussion in 'Astro Photography' started by Mike Lewis, Nov 27, 2018.

  1. Mike Lewis

    Mike Lewis Staff Member
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2018
    Messages:
    379
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    Colorado
    Home Page:
    So I wanted post something to show my progress in the hobby, as illustrated by 4 images of M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, spanning a 6 year period from 2009, when I started out in the hobby, until 2015, when I took what is at least for now my best image of M31. This hopefully not only illustrates how much improvement one can make with both acquisition and post processing if you stick with it, but also serves to highlight a 2nd point which is, in spite of the quality difference between each of these successive images, I was pretty elated each time I captured a new version. It was because I could see that I was improving. Of course there are always images out there that are better (my best shot I post here is easily surpassed by countless others posted online by other amateur astroimagers such as myself) but instead of comparing my results to those, I compared my results to my previous results, essentially competing with myself. In this way, not only did I have a rush of accomplishment each time I tried for the target, I also improved my results noticeably along the way. And hopefully the last point to be made is getting a really impressive result is typically not a singular event but a journey, especially if you continue to push yourself to try longer integration times, or higher magnification, or for smaller and/or fainter objects.

    So here is my M31 journey in pictures:

    M31, circa 2009, right after I started. Shot with a DSLR piggybacked on a mount, through a lens, and processed with free post processing software. Not a lot of detail, but you can recognize an a spiral galaxy in there!


    M31, 2012, using substantially the same equipment but with more data. Post processing has brought out more detail in the larger data set, but the color is pretty poor and the post processing is a bit heavy handed, destroying lots of detail


    M31, 2014, running still with a DSLR and lens, but now on my own tracking mount. A wider crop showing decent detail but still with color that is off, showing a greenish cast. But now unmistakenly an image of M31 and its most prominent satellite galaxies as well


    M31, 2015, shot from truly dark skies on the shore of Abiquiu Rservoir in Northern New Mexico, using a dedicated astro camera, a very accurate tracking mount, and a refractor telescope. The more sophisiticated gear helped, but the big contribution comes form the dark skies and the longer amount of total time on the target. But always room for improvement, as the SVQ100 580mm focal length scope has a little too much magnification for this object with my astro camera, causing the end of the galaxy to be cut off.


    Some day in the future I will no doubt go back and image this amazing object yet again, and hopefully be able to surpass my 2015 result as well, and in the process get another rush of accomplishment.

    ML
     
    #1 Mike Lewis, Nov 27, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2018 at 4:06 PM
    Brian, Jim Dockery and AlanLichty like this.
  2. AlanLichty

    AlanLichty Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2017
    Messages:
    7,058
    Likes Received:
    5,552
    Location:
    Vancouver, Washington
    Home Page:
    Very cool set showing the progression of your journey into astro photography. It's almost hard to believe this is the same stellar target given the the differences between the first image and the last.
     
    Mike Lewis likes this.
  3. Bruce Rabalais

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2018
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    1
    Nice showing! It's good to see where you've come from. This object is a great one to do this sort of review of progression, and there's so much to do with it.

    Thanks for sharing the history!

    Bruce
     
    Mike Lewis likes this.
  4. Leslie Hunter

    Leslie Hunter Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2017
    Messages:
    803
    Likes Received:
    302
    That is great to see the way you improved through almost 10 years of honing your craft.
     
    Mike Lewis likes this.
  5. Mike Lewis

    Mike Lewis Staff Member
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2018
    Messages:
    379
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    Colorado
    Home Page:
    Thanks everyone! And great to see our new member Bruce on here!

    ML
     
  6. Ben Egbert

    Ben Egbert Forum Helper
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2017
    Messages:
    6,689
    Likes Received:
    4,125
    Location:
    American Fork Utah
    Home Page:
    This is a great story of your journey, I look forward to following it. The time and effort and cost not to mention late nights will keep me out of it, but it's something I can certainly appreciate watching others do.
     
    Mike Lewis likes this.
  7. Jim Dockery

    Jim Dockery Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2017
    Messages:
    1,524
    Likes Received:
    1,801
    Location:
    Lake Stevens, WA
    Home Page:
    Great post. I'm more into astro-landscapes, but sure appreciate the pure astro stuff too.
     
    Mike Lewis likes this.
  8. Mike Lewis

    Mike Lewis Staff Member
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2018
    Messages:
    379
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    Colorado
    Home Page:
    Jim,

    Thanks for the comments. I love the astro-landscape stuff quite a bit too, but have yet to get a really compelling image of that genre. Considering the amount of time I have hung out under some really dark skies, that is a bit frustrating. But those shots are as much about the ground part of the image as the sky, and I guess I have not yet been in the right place to be able to start out with the kind of engaging composition that is required to make a memorable image.

    ML
     
  9. JimFox

    JimFox Moderator
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2017
    Messages:
    9,701
    Likes Received:
    6,508
    Location:
    SoCal
    Home Page:
    What an awesome journey you have detailed Mike. It was really interesting to see where you started and each incremental step along the way. It's cool that you have that area that you had photographed so many times over the last 10 years or so, that really made the chronicling so much easier to understand.
     
  10. Tom Narwid

    Tom Narwid Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2017
    Messages:
    521
    Likes Received:
    617
    Location:
    Cottonwood, Arizona
    You made it.....keep going......nice work!
     
  11. Bill Crawford

    Bill Crawford Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2018
    Messages:
    84
    Likes Received:
    105
    Location:
    Yakima, Washington
    That's a really cool story! That's the great thing about this hobby- There's always more to learn. Thanks Mike!
     
  12. Colorado CJ

    Colorado CJ Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2017
    Messages:
    74
    Likes Received:
    76
    Great post!

    You hit the nail on the head about not competing with other's photos, but seeing improvement in your own images as time goes by.

    I am just starting in on this astrophotography side of photography, and I can't tell you (well maybe I can ;)) how exciting it is each time I sit down and start working on a new image. Even seeing the faint fuzzy in the camera for the first time while out capturing the image is extremely rewarding.

    I'd recommend to anyone who is getting a little burned out with photography to just buy a cheap tracking mount, or even build a wood barn door tracker and start some astrophotography. It is addicting and fuels the love of photography all over again.
     
    Mike Lewis likes this.
  13. Mike Lewis

    Mike Lewis Staff Member
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2018
    Messages:
    379
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    Colorado
    Home Page:

    Yes, so CJ's psot really distills down exactly the point I was trying to make here. There is something really fascinating about seeing your data come alive and start to reveal some of these amazing objects, many that are out of reach of what the human eye can see but that can be revealed in amazing detail using a digital camera. So get inspired by other images, but do not worry if your images do not start out at the same level. Go out and get some way to track the stars, point your camera at the sky, and see what you can get! But look out, it is pretty addicting stuff!!! :)

    ML
     
    Colorado CJ likes this.

Share This Page

  • About Us

    Welcome to Focal World. As a Guest you have access to view the resources here. But it is totally FREE to Register and participate in the forums. If you find FocalWorld useful, please support it be Upgrading your Account to a Premium Account located in your Profile page. It is only $15 a year and will give you added ability of uploading photos directly from your computer and also the allows you to create your own Galleries. We will be sharing the Daily Featured Photos on FaceBook, Instagram and in a Pbase Gallery to help share FocalWorld with others and to draw in new users as they view the incredible photos shared here. All photos share will include the name of the photographer who took them. If you do not want your photo to be shared in this method please let me know. But hopefully everyone will participate in helping to spread the word of FocalWorld in this manner. Thanks, Jim Fox