First Night at Anza (Part 1)

M31 - Andromeda
22 x 2min @ ISO1600 f/6.25 500 mm

A few months ago when I joined the Orange County Astronomers organization one of compelling reasons was that they had a private site for dark skies. Now, months later, I'd finally sorted out my setup and learned the ropes to how this Astrophotography stuff worked and felt confident enough to invest the time to drive out to Anza.

I ended up getting out there around 3:30pm and started setting up. I really ended up meeting only one person out there, but still had a good time. I shot photos from 7:40pm until 5:50am, allowing for about 10 hours of imaging time, or so I thought. As it turns out, technical issues, wind, rebalancing, and framing take up a lot more time than I'd really accounted for, however I'm still happy with the shots I got despite their very short exposure times.

M42 - Orion Nebula
22 x 2min @ ISO1600 f/5 400 mm
NGC 281 - Pac Man Nebula
25 x 2min @ ISO1600 f/6.25 500 mm
NGC 2237 - Rosette Nebula
26 x 2min @ ISO1600 f/5 400 mm


4 photos

First Night at Anza (Part 2)

IC1805 - The Heart Nebula
24 x 2min @ ISO1600 f/5 400 mm

I generally keep a log of what all my photos were throughout the night, so when I get home with a 16gb memcard full of images I know what I'm looking at. The imaging log for this trip looks something like the following.

19:40 - 20:05 NGC 281 - Balance issues
20:10 - 20:20 Rebalanced
20:20 - 20:50 NGC 281 again
21:00 - 21:20 A few Darks
21:30 - 22:20 IC5146
22:30 - 23:22 M31
23:50 - 00:20 wasted misframed IC1805 @ 500mm
00:40 - 01:24 IC805 @ 400mm
01:37 - 02:22 M42 2min exposures
02:24 - 02:40 M42 30sec exposures
03:00 - 03:56 IC2118 (wind, laptop rebooted)
04:05 - 04:55 IC434 (wind)
05:00 - 05:50 NGC2237 (no wind!)
05:52 - 06:30 2 minute dark frames

Horsehead and Flame Nebula
19 x 2min @ ISO1600 f/5 400 mm
IC2118 - Witch Head Nebula
14 x 2min @ ISO1600 f/5 400 mm
IC5146 - Cocoon Nebula
23 x 2min @ ISO1600 f/6.25 500 mm


4 photos

One last shot from September

North American Nebula
37 x 120 @ ISO1600 f/5 400 mm

The North American Nebula is a huge patch of emission nebula clouded by dark dust in the constellation of Cygnus. It was one target I'd failed at photographing properly when first starting out a few months ago, so I figured it was time to give it another try.

My second attempt came out much nicer, and with a 400mm focal length I could actually fit the whole thing into the field of view. The results ended up being pretty fantastic considering the Camera's IR/UV cut filter is still in place, and the exposure time was just barely over 1 hour.

It's certainly got me adding more Ha nebulas to my lists of things to photograph now.


1 photo

September 2009 Blue Jay Campsite Astrophotos

Orion Nebula
58x30 @ ISO1600 f/5 400 mm

After spending 4 months with my initial setup, the C6N and CG-5 mount, I upgraded. The coma of the 6" newt and the weight limits and noise of the CG-5 were my primary gripes...certainly not too big of issues, but big enough to me. The old setup is for sale here, available for pickup in LA and Orange counties.

I upgraded to an Equinox 80 and a CGEM mount which I purchased from Scope City. I also ordered a 0.8x focal reducer/flattener to use with the EQ80 in order to ensure my images would come out coma/astigmatism free. The very next night after getting all the pieces together I drove out to Blue Jay Campground near Lake Elsinore, CA to try it all out. Mike, the manager at the local Scope City, had setup the night for customers of his to try stuff out under darker skies and potentially get tips from him. The site wasn't as dark as I'd hoped, so I ended up using my CLS filter for all the shots here except for Orion. Having said that, for just being an hour away from home it wasn't bad at all and could see myself using the location again.

This night yielded several images. I'd tried to pick targets that would be great for a larger field of view since 400mm is not all that much focal length. The downside to all the targets I picked, aside from Pleiades, was that they all would have come out much better if I had a modified DSLR (which I don't). Oh well, at least these shots will give me some before/after comparisons if I do ever remove that pesky filter from my camera.

This was the first time I'd ever seen the Orion Nebula with a proper telescope, and I was shocked at how bright it was. WOW. It is big, bright, and beautiful. It was so bright I actually was blowing out the core at ISO1600 with 30 second exposures at f/5...I don't think I've seen another target that does that. In the end, that made processing a bit more difficult, and I have to say my Orion shot came out neat looking, but different compared to most. Ah well, its 99% art and 1% science right?

Anyway, hope you like the shots!

Western Veil
34x120 @ ISO1600 f/5 400 mm
Crescent Nebula
32x120 @ ISO1600 f/5 400 mm
The Pleiades
20x120 @ ISO1600 f/5 400 mm


4 photos

First HDR shot: Haleakala Observatory

Haleakala Observatory at Sunset
1/1500 @ ISO400 f/5.6 22 mm

A month before I flew out to Hawaii for vacation, I picked up a little book to see what all this HDR stuff was about. I'd seen plenty of overdone overprocessed examples of HDR, so I'd assumed it was only capable of tacky results. The book totally changed my view on that. I spent a few hours learning the ropes and playing with camera settings, and picked up a copy of Photomatix.

Weeks later, I was in hawaii and the perfect scenario presented itself. Foreground detail, great sky, and shooting into the sun...that's a formula for exposure bracketing and HDR for sure. This shot was taken at the summit of Haleakala a bit before sunset. We'd just got back from hiking around in the crater and this scene greeted us. The Haleakala Observatory being in the shot just make it feel that much more sci-fi.

I've tried to reproduce what we saw in person as faithfully as I could in HDR, it really was like being on another world.


1 photo

Older Posts >

Ocean Splash at La Jolla Cove - La Jolla, CA

1/2 @ ISO200 f/2.8 33 mm

IC5146 - Cocoon Nebula - Anza, CA

23 x 2min @ ISO1600 f/6.25 500 mm

Mud Flats - Death Valley, CA

1/1600 @ ISO100 f/4.5 31 mm

The Pleiades - Temecula, CA

22x60 @ ISO800 f/5 750 mm

Dancin' - Garden Grove, CA

1/60 @ ISO400 f/4 40 mm

Triangulum Galaxy - Temecula, CA

31x75 @ ISO800 f/5 750 mm

M31 - Andromeda - Anza, CA

22 x 2min @ ISO1600 f/6.25 500 mm

NGC 2237 - Rosette Nebula - Anza, CA

26 x 2min @ ISO1600 f/5 400 mm

Rust at La Jolla Cove Suites - La Jolla, CA

1/250 @ ISO100 f/6.3 135 mm

Haleakala Observatory at Sunset - Maui, HI

1/1500 @ ISO400 f/5.6 22 mm

sky conditions


Lake Elsinore