Minchinhampton Milkyway

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Stayed up to the early hours of this morning as it was clear and the milkyway core visible period was between 1.30am and 3.30am…

Didn’t fancy the trip to Broadway Tower without knowing if they lock the gate (they have not replied to my recent contact as yet) so popped up to Minch Common instead…

Was very cold, spookily quiet and seemingly dark… however due to the milkyway’s position at this time of year I had to point the lens towards the town and this gave me more air glow than I would have liked…

I started shooting around 2.30am and finished around 3.30am… it was only when I got home I actually felt tired lol…

So the results of my efforts… first up a panorama… 16 shots in total (2 rows of 8 images), processed in Lightroom then tweaked further in Photoshop…

Minchinhampton Milkyway

Just to be sure I also took a couple of single landscape images
Minchinhampton Milkyway

…last shot included my little workhorse daily… need to get one with the S3 in sometime 🙂
Minchinhampton Milkyway

Happy with the results… was more air glow than I realised so need to play with white balance of the shots (currently use daylight to ensure consistent results) and learn more about editing in photoshop to try and improve the output.. seems astro photography is very post edit intensive especially DSO…

Here is a single unprocessed image from the panorama to give you an idea of the start point..
Minchinhampton Milkyway

I may revisit these images at a later date to see if I can improve things 🙂

<tuffty/>

Moon Rising

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Planning a moon rise shot is one thing… executing it seems to be a different thing altogether!…

Planning wise you ideally want to be getting the rise in the day(ish) light if you want some foreground interest to be included due to the moons brightness… if the sun is down its difficult to get the exposure right as the moon is bright and the background dark which the camera can’t handle well…

The weather (being the UK) is the unpredictable variable… the skies overhead were clear enough, blue with a few wispy clouds… arrived at the location I had chosen and looked promising..

Moon Rising

As the sun sank into the horizon it became evident all was a little cloudier than first thought…
Moon Rising

I waited it out though as you never know…
Moon Rising

…hummm… looking a little ‘misty’ to say the least but sure enough the moon started to poke up over the horizon…

Used the 6D, 100-400L and 2x Extender to get the moon a decent size in frame, meant I lost AF of course but no drama… apart from I hadn’t fitted the stabilising bracket I normally use on this setup so focusing was a pain plus with the ever decreasing light from the sunset and the stark contrast of the moon I was struggling a little with exposure… I think I was just rushing to be honest as it was the first opportunity I had in all my recent planned shots to actually try capturing the moon rise…

As a result I did get a couple of shots in…
Moon Rising

Moon Rising

Happy enough with the outcome as its the first time I have been able to be in a position to get this type of shot…

As always I learnt from the experience… need to bring my stabilising bracket, focus on ‘focus’, bracket the shots to ensure a chance of exposing correctly against the fairly rapidly changing lighting conditions..

I think I was also a little late in the cycle on the cross over between sun set and moon rise… if I was a day or so earlier then I may not have had to battle with exposure as much… now I have finally popped my moon rise cherry I can go into the next opportunity a little wiser 🙂

<tuffty/>

Where has all the time gone!!

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So it would appear that I haven’t posted for some time… to be honest there has not been a load to post about as I have not taken many pictures and been busy fixing cars and work related fun and games…

As mentioned in “Last post of 2016” the S3 was broken… turns out it wasn’t the rear diff/haldex after all but the centre CV of the prop… the cage had shattered and it was pretty much carnage in there..

Where has all the time gone!

Joys of owing a car with power… didn’t help as the trusty daily A2 developed a fuel leak from the tandem pump and made all the coolant hoses swell and leak… so ended up with two broken cars at the same time!!

Both are now fixed and working as they should… for now at least lol..

Inspired by borrowing my dads old Nikon film camera I grabbed a cheap Canon AE-1 from eBay… came with a couple of lenses and needed a proper clean so the detailer in me got to work… pleased with the results of what is essentially a 37 year old camera

Where has all the time gone!

Where has all the time gone!

Where has all the time gone!

Have loaded some Ilford HP5 B&W film in and will post the results when I have finished the roll… the main downside of actual film photography is the whole end to end process of taking pictures to getting the final images can be so protracted for casual use…

I recently managed to acquire a cheap tracking mount… I have been looking at these for some time now but they are generally too expensive to justify the amount of use I time to give it at the moment.

The Sky Watcher Star Adventurer comes as a kit of everything you are likely to need to get started… I won’t go into detail in this post but you can have a read of Phil Harts review here…. I will do a write up at a later date when I have had a chance to produce some results… It will warrant a post of its own as tracked astro photography can get quite involved.

I did a quick test at the weekend to get my head around polar alignment and the basics of setting it all up… The moon is up at the moment so wide field stuff was off the table for now plus the Milkyway’s core is visible at around 3am this time of year… not much chance of that happening on a school night.

The velux in my loft office is north facing so meant I could do a test setup in relative comfort.. using a combination of Stellarium and a Polar Finder app on the phone I got the mount polar aligned (hopefully)

I tried a variety of settings and exposure times… not quite hit the sweet spot yet I feel but its close and will of course be largely dependant on conditions on the night of shooting…

I used my 6D body and the 70-200f2.8 for the test… typical exposure time for this using the 500 rule would be around 2.5 seconds before star trailing would potentially start to creep in… the shot below was taken over 2 minutes on the tracker!!

Where has all the time gone!

Some more editing would have gotten rid of the glow but tbh it was more to push exposure times and validate polar alignment… 2 minute exposures would be the extreme to be honest as DSLR sensors heat up on long exposures causing noise…

The mount also had a lunar setting so had to try that too… with lunar tracking engaged it appeared to keep the moon in frame pretty much all the time… this is ideal as it gives you more chance of getting focus spot on…

Took 5 shots using the intervolmeter as the trigger… all were in the same spot in frame and all sharp.

Where has all the time gone!

I have some time off work soon so plan to explore getting a Moon rise, Milkyway and a DSO (deep sky object) shot of the Andromeda galaxy…

Thats about it for now… I should be updating a little more regularly now the weather is getting better… I will feel more like getting out shooting… plus I need to use up the B&W films and get them developed…

Here are a few pics I have taken over the past couple of months though… nothing spectacular but I like them 🙂

Where has all the time gone!

Where has all the time gone!

Where has all the time gone!

Where has all the time gone!

Where has all the time gone!

Where has all the time gone!

Where has all the time gone!

Where has all the time gone!

<tuffty/>

Super Moon

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So tonight there was a ‘Super’ Moon… this is where the moon’s orbit brings it really close (well, some 221,485 or so miles 🙂 ) to the earth and is typically larger and brighter than normal…

Things did not look promising to be honest with the weather forecast being quite frankly rubbish!!

Super Moon

Spent an hour or so out the back garden waiting to see if the clouds would break long enough to get a decent shot…

Every time there was a break I had to quickly re-frame, re-focus and tweak shutter speed as it was never 100% cloud free… there was always a bit of a haze even when you could see the moon which just made it very difficult to get a properly focused and exposed shot…

But after a little perseverance I finally got a shot that I was happy with…
Super Moon

All things considered I am happy with the shot… the full moon is a tricky shot to get at the best of times.. details can be difficult to maintain due to the brightness and the way the light reflects off the surface… waxing/waning moon shots are generally better on detail especially at the terminator…

As you can see from this Lightroom screenshot the exposure was all over the place…
Super Moon

Glad I managed to capture it though… next one is November 25th 2032…

<tuffty/>

Finally a Milkyway shot!!!

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Been a while since I have had looked at doing nightscapes as we were in the middle of ‘summer’ here in the UK… its only just started being astronomically dark again (albeit at around midnight for about an hour) and the weather has been pretty cloudy despite being warm…

Last night presented an opportunity for a night shot as the weather suggested a clear night from 11.30pm and astro dark at midnight… this was good as it coincided with the milky way centre being in a fairly decent position…

As I had yet to bag a shot containing anything that looked remotely like the milkyway so far I was not full of confidence but I had done my homework and read loads of stuff to help me understand what settings I need, what position the MW will be in the sky etc and used my favourite planning app to get an idea of where to be and when…

Finally a Milkyway shot!!!

Biggest issue I have is I live in a class 5 (bortle scale) area for light pollution and I didn’t have the time or inclination to venture too far from home… checking the weather for the immediate area suggested that it may not be as clear in potentially darker areas with a bit of travel so really didn’t fancy going all that way for nothing so I stayed local and was pleasantly surprised at the results…

Finally a Milkyway shot!!!

I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am with the result… granted its not the best example of a MW shot ever but its a milestone for me and has boosted my enthusiasm to improve…

I can’t wait for the autumn/winter 😀

<tuffty/>

Transit of Mercury across the sun

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So today Mercury passed in front of the sun making it visible with the appropriate equipment…

I took the day off with the intention of taking up to half a dozen shots so that I could put them together to give the even perspective… however… as this is the UK the weather (which looked ok in Fridays forecast) had other ideas and I was greeted with an endless blanket of grey skies….

I did try planning to travel further up the country to find somewhere I could at least grab a few shots but sadly without travelling half way across the country (not something I was looking to do unless there were other photo opportunities available so had resigned myself to the fact it wasn’t going to happen… until… the cloud cover thinned and the sun popped out around 12.30pm (BST) so I set up and grabbed a shot… this is around the time that Mercury was first visible…

Mercury's transit across the sun

Sadly this was the only shot I could get all day as it shortly clouded over again…

Facking weather!!!

Massive disappointment tbh but thats the way it goes…

Mercury is quite a small dot of course so fired up Photoshop anyway to make something of what I had..

Mercury's transit across the sun

Still… I got a lay in this morning so not a total bust lol..

<tuffty/>

Pano head version 2 and a clear(ish) night

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I am a serial modder… I will mod just about anything if I can find a reason too… regular readers (all two of you… well maybe one… ok, just me!) may recall I modded a cheap and nasty panorama head (read here)… this was working fine but it was still a bit rough and ready and I couldn’t do multi-level panoramas as the arm was fixed…

So I grabbed another cheap rotating head and some cheap arca swiss rails… this gave me a more solid head with the ability to do multilevel pano’s

Re-calibrated the head for the no-parallax point on the Samyang as I wanted to try for a pano nightscape…

Zero’d for center…

Then 30 degrees rotation…

…and finally 30 degrees up…

Last night presented an opportunity to try it out…

Slight distortion on the electricity structure of course but this picture was made from two rows of 4 images (8 in total) so the head seems to work ok… just a pity light pollution is still high and subject matter is still a little unexciting (soz)

I took a few more pics to try stuff out while I was there…

I was out there a while but only really came home with those two captures… as is most of what I seem to do these days it was a learning exercise and I am happy that I can use the pano head at night

Not content with the last lot of mods to the head I moved onto the next weak point… the ‘L’ bracket… the 6D and Samyang/16-35L combo is heavier than the 50D and 10-18 EF-S… the ‘L’ bracket is quite thin so inspired by the 300 quid pano heads I have seen I bagged a cheap 30cm length of 20×40 aluminium extrusion from eBay (used to make frames for 3D printers) to make a sturdier bracket…

First I cut it into two sections, 100mm for the ‘foot’ and the remaining 200mm for the upright then tapped the bottom of the upright to take M6 bolts…

…then drilled and counter sunk the 100mm piece to attach it to the upright…

Next I fitted a couple of rivnuts to allow the bracket to be fixed to the arca swiss rail

Had to open the slots on the rail a bit to get the M6 bolts in…

Last thing was to drill the upright for the other head…

And job done…

The result is a really solid ‘L’ bracket and the whole head feels very sturdy indeed… just need to re-calibrate for no-parallax again 🙂

<tuffty/>