Astrophotography, in general, is an exercise in patience. It is also deceptively expensive depending on your expectations. It would seem that the more I learn, the less I know. Ironically, there is a life lesson there that can be applied to so, so many things.
This photo is of me at my father’s ranch. I had accumulated a staggering amount of doodads for not having created a single arguably-appealing photograph. Here is the list short list for the curious:
- Orion Atlas EQ-G Mount
- Five 1.25″ Sirius Plossl eyepieces (40mm, 17mm, 10mm, 7.5mm, and 6.3mm)
- Five 1.25″ color eyepiece filters (#12 Yellow, #23 Orange, #25 Red, #58 Green and #80A Blue)
- 1.25″ 2x Shorty Barlow Lens
- 1.25″ neutral-density Moon filter (13% transmission)
- Orion Dynamo Pro 17Ah Rechargeable 12V DC Power Station
- 1.25″ Extension Tube
- 105mm Guide Scope Rings
- Guide Scope Ring Mounting Bar (Vixen)
- Orion ShortTube 80 Refractor
- Orion StarShoot AutoGuider Monochrome CCD Camera
- ADM Accessories DSBS-DUAL D-Series Side-By-Side Saddle
- Astronomics 7.9″ Universal Dovetail Plate (Losmandy)
It took me some time to piece this together. In fact, at every turn and just when I thought I was done ordering parts, I found something I had forgotten or something I miscalculated. I started before the new year in wrestling the tendrils of intellectual thread needed to take the required steps to get started and here it is nearing spring with little progress. Eventually, the UPS man and I high-fived on my porch enough times to bolt this rig together.
This goal of this Frankenstein setup was to leverage the existing (substantial) investment in my wildlife photography gear for capturing stars… in the wild. Last year, I finally upgraded my tried and true Canon 1Ds Mark II after 8 faithful years in the field and around the world to the current Canon 1Dx body. I own a Canon 600mm f/4L IS lens (not the II-series) that is an amazing work of art in optical craftsmanship. The custom machined side-by-side saddle from ADM allowed me to mount the 600mm camera lens in one saddle and the ShortTube 80 in the other saddle (parallel) for imaging and auto-guiding respectively.
My dad lives far from the flavor of light pollution I deal with at home, so naturally a test of all this gear at his place on a new moon seemed like the perfect christening. It was a gorgeous night. Sirius was twinkling with more color than a police squad car’s light rack and the only way this launch could have been better is if I shattered a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin over the right ascension axis of my mount.
Alas, it was not to be this night. I spent hours trying to get the mount aligned and went to bed defeated without a single shutter release. I did enjoy the darkness and saw some green fireballs courtesy of the Lyrids shower in progress.
In hindsight, I can say that had I known how to change the slew speed on my mount (on the hand controller), I would have been able to finish the star alignment. That is just how new I was/am to all this… even the table stakes are challenging exercises.
This is how we learn.