While no astronomical photo that I have been able to produce so far can compare with the views that Hubble is famous for I am pretty damn proud of my simple approach to using my telescope that has even the most reserved of my friends commenting on how good my space photos appear.
I call myself an amateur astronomer. I enjoy casual stargazing and in the last few months I have been very excited and encouraged by the photographs I have taken that give me a permanent record of my observations. I work on a very limited budget and take these photos using my smart phone. No sketching, no camera mount, no special software.
I am going to run through how to produce these very cheap photos without using any 'special equipment'.
Here are some of my favorite images;
My method is pretty simple. I take my telescope, aim it at what I want to photograph and then I put the lens of my HTC Desire to the eyepiece, fiddle around until I get a view I am happy with and I snap away.
It is not at all an exact science. This method is simple but it requires a good sum of patience, a steady hand and haste. Here are a few points I have come across while trying to take these photos;
- The movement of the Earth; You need to move quickly between setting up the view you want to photograph and getting the camera into position. Getting the lens and eyepiece to sit together is not quite as easy as you would first think.
- Blur; Because of the sensitivity of the equipment. Even the smallest bump can cause the telescope to vibrate and may result in a less than awesome picture. Practice makes perfect. You might get a heap of dodgy photos, but if you keep with it and be patient you will come out with at least one, very impressive shot.
- Full Moon vs Half Moon; Half or partial moon is interesting to photograph particularly as different portions will be accentuated. I have found that photographing at full moon is easier and you get nicer views of some craters.
- Light; Because the light collected on the mirror is so focused it has been hard for me to create a photo of Jupiter which isn't flared. I don't know if that is quite the word to describe the effect but what I am trying to say is illustrated below.
This means that the bands which were showing up are obscured. With the amount of vibration that was also present I feel extensively lucky that I actually managed to capture at least three Jovian moons in the photo!
So I think thats it for my production methods. With better equipment your capacity to produce better photographs will grow. Things like filters, camera mounts and computer software all contribute to modern astronomical photography. There are some great books out there on the subject that are easy to understand and can get you out and seeing amazing sights as soon as dusk hits.
I have even experimented a bit with the video camera app on my phone. Once I work out how to use YouTube I might even post the results! - Happy Stargazing!