Simple Photography

With the right equipment, it is not difficult to take high quality astronomical images. The first requirement is, of course, a camera. Most people own some sort of camera and even with a simple camera and without a telescope it is possible to take some useful photographs, as long as the camera has a shutter which can be kept open for a few minutes. The procedure is simply to fix the camera on a steady tripod or mount or clamp it to a post in your garden. Point it away from lights, houses and trees at an area of sky and open the shutter for a few minutes. Don’t exceed about 5 minutes, as background light, especially if you live in the city, will fog the film. Ordinary film will do, but faster films allow shorter exposures but can be grainier. An ASA400 or 800 film is a good compromise. Make sure the camera lens is fully open – to the lowest f number. But today's digital cameras are better than film and ideal for astronomy as you can see the results immediately !! Try taking different duration exposures and different areas of sky – pointing the camera at the pole star makes a good shot.

Once you have taken your images, download them or scan from prints onto your computer. Try using an image processing programme like Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop to enhance your images.

What can you expect to see ?? Well using an unguided camera will mean that as the earth turns the stars appear to move and will leave trails on the image and not appear as points of light. These can be quite attractive and with short exposures it is possible to recognise the constellations easily and record stars to well below those visible by eye. It is possible to keep the exposures short enough so that the star trailing is not noticeable (try 30 seconds), that is you appear to see points for the stars – try using shorter exposures and find out the limit !!

Next - Guiding the Camera

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