Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Heavens Above -- Guest Post

 Hi everyone and thank you for having me here, I'm Steve, Ruth's son, and Mom asked me to share and talk about some of my astrophotography and give a little history into where it all began.

I'll start off with a little background... I've always loved the stars!  From a little boy, growing up out in the country I remember spending time out on the yard, under a black sky looking up at the stars with Dad (Jake).  We'd often look up and count satellites and meteors, we'd spend hours doing this.  As I got to be a teenager, the interest was still there and Mom & Dad bought me a telescope for Christmas.  Well the first scope was very short lived, the second scope, a little better lasted about a year, if I recall correctly and then I started saving up to buy a much bigger and better telescope.  Well being a good father that Dad was after I saved up 500.00 he pitched in to help ME get the telescope... yeah, I think he wanted the telescope just as badly as I did and if he "helped" me he could justify the purchase to Mom... shhhhh don't tell her 😊

Well this last telescope was good, it was an 8" diameter Celestron telescope, and it saw a lot of use over the years.  However as I got older I started leaning towards photography, which as many of you may know led to my career as a professional photographer, but the scope still stayed.  There were times I wanted to sell it because I never really used it, pulling it out on rare occasions to view Jupiter or Saturn.   Honestly that was about the extent of my astronomy for many years until one evening traveling home from Winnipeg with my friend Doug.  I remember as we were driving and we talked about how beautiful the stars looked that night.  After dropping him off at home, I took a little detour and stopped on a quiet country road to grab this image of Orion.  Funny thing is it's such a poor shot I had to draw it out so that could be seen.


Well it's crazy how things you've grown up with just stick.  I believe it was 2 or 3 evenings later I was back out trying to get another image, and another.


The above is a collection of different images I've done of the area over last 3 years since the bug bit me once again.  I've loved the learning process and seeing the image quality increase as I've moved along this amazing journey and all time spent under the stars which is something that I'd never give up.   As good as these images got to be I wasn't satisfied, and as I'm sure Mom can testify to if it's possible to do better I will do everything in my power to get the better image.

As I said I was thrilled with some of the images I had gotten up until this time.  I remember the lower left image in the collage, when I got it I was so thrilled because I could see the Horsehead Nebula, which was something I always wanted, so I made a canvas print for my wall.  These shots range anywhere from 20secs, to maybe 5 mins of exposure time on a star stracker.

  This brings me to this final image of Orion.  I had seen some amazing images online and thought to myself "I bet I can do that".  So I set out to show how the Horsehead Nebula and the Orion Nebula are all connected in one giant gas/dust cloud.


This image is nearly 7 hours of exposure time over about 5 nights of shooting.  The camera is mounted on a 40lb mount that tracks the stars perfectly.  Although this is shot through just a 135mm camera lens, the lens is mounted on a specialized and dedicated astrophotography camera which keeps the camera sensor to -10ºC (14ºF) no matter the outside temperature. (see image below)


This sort of photography can be very rewarding when all is said and done, but does require a lot of patience as you go out night after night and shoot the same image over and over, but like I said it is worth it in the end when it all comes together.  I do have plans to go back and add more image data to the Orion project, I'm thinking I'd like to settle on around 20-30 hrs total time.

I do have one example of an image shot with my telescope, it was a 6 image mosaic that has been stitched together... the total amount of time spent photographing on this image is 33 hrs, and then roughly 10 hrs of editing to complete the project.


I hope you enjoyed these images and learning a little about what goes into making them and where it all began.  If anyone has any more questions regarding any astrophotography feel free to contact me, I'd love to help you out if I can, it's an amazing hobby.  You can reach me through these links:

Instagram  Facebook  Website 

22 comments:

  1. What a fascinating Guest Column! It's incredible to worship the Master Artist, our God and Heavenly Father, who speaks all this into being! WOW - leaves a person speechless! I've seen Orion countless times, but what your camera work shows it to really look like, is phenomenal; blows me away. Now I still wonder what it looks like to God Himself!

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  2. The only thing I can say is WOW!!! These images are incredible. I can hardly wait to see what you can capture in the future.

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  3. Stunning and spectacular.
    The Horsehead nebula is jaw dropping.
    so many hours to capture the photo.
    Isn't God amazing?
    What creation..
    Sue

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  4. I can only think of one word to describe your hobby and your expertise and your dedication: AWESOME! Thanks for sharing!

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  5. These photos are absolutely amazing. They really should be on the cover of a magazine. Do you have a very large photography business? Is this the real color of what is in the sky? I always enjoy seeing your shots on your Mom's blog, they are fantastic.

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  6. These photos are amazing! How I'd love to be able to capture such glorious beauty in the heavenlies. God is the Master Creator/Designer, and He certainly does "marvelous works"...(there are no human words to describe it). Did you get any pictures of the "Bethlehem Star" last month when it was coming together? I would love to see what you saw if you did. I tried so hard to get some pictures with my little Kodak EasyShare Z650 camera, and it was kind of interesting what I ended up with, but of course nothing spectacular. This camera wasn't made for night skies. Thank you for sharing with us. This was fascinating.

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  7. Incredible, Steve. You are SO talented. My youngest son (Jeff) loves the study of the stars also--so I sent him a copy of this link.... Keep sharing... Love it!

    Betsy

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  8. I very much enjoyed the images. Quite stunning....absolutely beautiful. Glad your mom invited you to post.

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  9. Thanks you, Steve, for posting these amazing pictures and for your explanations! I really enjoyed it and, as others have said, it turns my thoughts very quickly to our amazing Creator! You captured beauties of what He has put out there, that most of us would never see or even know about. Keep up your wonderful hobby!

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  10. How wonderful that you can combine both your love of photography and astronomy together. The photos are spectacular. Thanks for sharing how it all came about.
    I love looking up at the stars but can never figure out the pictures up there. It all looks the same to me.

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  11. Now, I loved reading this so much. And I'm glad you took the time to share your knowledge & talents!! But I have a question, as stupid as it seems to a professional such as you from a novice like me...your end result, are there several images of the same object/subject taken over several nights, super imposed? This was a bit confusing. Help!

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  12. Hootin' Anni, thanks for the question. Yes a lot of these images are 40, 60 or 100+ images that are stacked together. Each exposure is usually not more than 5 mins in length, just like taking any other picture in low light, it often looks grainy or noisy. Stacking many layers of the exact same image together helps to eliminate that noise, it also helps to build up the very faint gases and clouds that are not usually visible. The telescope mount is controlled by a computer and ensures that I can get the exact same field of view night after night, I could even go out next year and reshoot that exact same target again and add more data to an existing image. It is a very time consuming process but one that is well worth it. I hope this helps explain things.

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  13. Photography and astronomy are a great combination. Parents can influence our interests through our lives. You do beautiful work. Bet your dad would be proud!

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  14. Wonderful photos that show your skill. Wow!

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  15. Very Technical and interesting how you take your photos. Thanks for posting.

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  16. Thanks Steve, for taking the time to guest post for mom, I really enjoyed it!! And Ruth, I LOVE your new header!!!

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  17. I am incredibly captivated by the magnificent photos you have captured and shared with us! They need to be recognized by the astrophotography world! I am a photographer, and have sought to capture the night skies, as they intrigue me as well, although not at all to the extent that you have captured here. I am impressed with the equipment you are using to take such magnificent images, and then the work that needs to be done to edit and bring the images all together. Like another commenter, I wonder if you were able to get any closeup pictures of the Bethleham star this past December? I very much enjoyed your post, and will look for you on Instagram. Thank you, Ruth for sharing your son's amazing talents and skills with us :)

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  18. Steve (and Ruth)...
    Thanks for the input on "how". This was truly fascinating.

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  19. they really are beautiful and the most fascinating to me is how much time and work it takes to get these images. your Dad and Mom each passed down specials gifted genes to you and you have taken them to the top of your profession. I always enjoy your photos and your mom is gifted also.... thank you for the explanation. a short 1 mile from our home there is a huge planetarium you would love. my cousin, who passed away this past year, was an avid skywatcher and had a huge telescope, also spent hours in the planteairum

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  20. Amazing...I had no idea how much time it took for photographs of this quality. These are just so beautiful.

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  21. Ok, this is amazing! I love astronomy, and I am that crazy standing in the cold outside when there are celestial events happening. This was such an informative post. Thank you for sharing all the details. I loved it!

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  22. Wondrous! I see so much in the images but probably my creative side popping out! We often forget what is there in the skies above us, especially during the day. Thank you for sharing.

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Thank-you for taking the time to visit this blog.I appreciate your comments.I read everyone,but do not always take the time to respond to each one.Please come back again real soon.
Ruth