Author: Lee

Learning My Telescope, Focusing

Learning My Telescope, Focusing

If like me, you are new to Telescopes and using it for Astrophotography then you too are struggling with a tricky learning curve.

I’m writing this in the hope maybe I can help you with some of the issues I’ve had to try and overcome.

I want to mainly use my telescope for astrophotography. My 2 main issues have been polar alignment of my eg5 mount and focusing to get sharp photos.

My first problem was polar alignment, but I got away with it for shorter exposures, so I concentrated on trying to solve the focusing and getting pin point sharp stars.

I was amazed with my first ever Orion Nebula photo, but on closer inspection I notice it wasn’t fully in focus.

Now to me, when I took it, I thought it was in focus. I’d been told to use Live View on the camera and to zoom in 10x. It was tricky to see, but I thought it was in focus.

I learned a few things here.

1. Zooming in 10x on Live View still isn’t enough to get perfect focus
2. I need some extra help focusing.

Needing glasses for reading, I’d already thought to put those on for looking at the screen to know I’m focused, but I had been told that a Bahtinov Mask would really help as doing it by eye is not enough.

You can buy these, but you can also make them. So I made one from a downloadable template on the web.

Now when you look through a scope with this on at a bright star, you’ll see a 6 pointed star burst. Now you can adjust the focus to get the middle, ’12 to 6′ (top to bottom) line to be exactly in the middle of the other 2 lines. It’s easy enough to do and then you have perfect focus!

So now I had a lot sharper stars. As you can see from this image.

But now the star trails started and this was down to my polar alignment. This image was a 30s exposure, but I wanted more.

Polar alignment took me a lot longer to sort. My next post will talk about how I worked it all out.

The Moon

The Moon

As you may know, my first photos that I took using the telescope were of the moon, then the lunar eclipse. I was pleased with them, but did realise the weren’t quite as sharp as I would have liked. I only had a couple of attempts to crack the focus and hadn’t quite sussed it.

Now I think I’ve got a better grip on it.

Then another a couple of days later.

When I took the top photo and downloaded it, I just said, wow! The detail I could see in the craters was amazing and the most detailed photo I’ve ever taken of the moon.

Now, I just want to get the full moon in that much detail.

The Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula

In my last post I mentioned that my next project after the Eclipse, was to attempt to photograph the Orion Nebula.

This is the brightest nebula in the winter skies and can be viewed with the naked eye with a pair of binoculars.

My first attempt I was pleased with, but I had a focus problem with it and all the stars looked like ringlets.

I created a Bahtinov Mask to put on the scope to help with focusing and this made a massive improvement in my focusing

So, my second attempt at the Orion Nebula NGC 1976 was big lot better!



Really pleased, but… I still can’t quite sort my polar alignment, so I had slight star trails. Easily edited, but not the nebula, so it’s slightly softer than what I’d like.



On my next attempt I had slight less trails, but they were sill there. Still really pleased with them and I’d like to try and capture the Flame Nebula a bit more, or the other nebula further. The Horsehead nebula, is going to take a bit of work,so maybe not this session.

I’m going to have a go at a galaxy next, Andromeda, so stay tuned for that!

Lunar Eclipse January 2019

Lunar Eclipse January 2019

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am new to Astrophotography, especially using a telescope (as I’ve never had one!).

So for Christmas I got this beast and a big learning curve. (taken with iPhone at dusk) A Skywatcher Explorer 200p with goto EQ5 mount.

I knew before Christmas I was getting it, I also knew that there was a lunar eclipse not long after Christmas and the last total eclipse for 10 years! So no pressure to get a photo of it then!

We hadn’t had many clear nights before the eclipse. so I really unsure as to what I would get, whether I would see it or indeed even I could view all of it from the background as the moon was going to be towards the house at that time.

I’d set a couple of alarms for that night. The total eclipse was between 04:41 & 05:43, but it all started at 02:36. All day I’d been checking the sky, cloudy, clear patches, cloudy…, 8pm clear, I grabbed some test shots and the moon showing full incase it was cloudy when it started. When I went to bed at 11, cloudy, 2:00am cloudy!

3:15am however, clearing with hazy, I could see the moon, but with haze. Ok, go for it!

I had the telescope outside by 3:30 and and ready to shoot just before 4am. I’d missed the start but not the main event.

The first photos before total eclipse were looking good, I used the same settings as my test shots. However the moon in the sky was red, my photos just showed the shadow. Also, as totality got closer, my images were just darker due to less light from the moon. I hadn’t really expected this, or thought about it.

Decreasing the shutter speed allowed more red to show, but of course introduced the potential camera shake on the telescope or of course motion blur from the moon moving.

I pushed the shutter time a but more, up to a 1 second exposure.

But in the end I increased the ISO to keep the blur chances to a minimum.

And this was it, a Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse!

now it was just a matter of making sure I had enough in focus images. The Totality lasted for an hour, so there was plenty of time to take lots of photos.

Plus a quick warm up and drink, then with the cloud still staying clear I was able to continue with shooting the moon from that stage back to partial. About 06:20, a big solid cloud bank came over, but at least I had been able to shoot to the same amount of moon crescent as what I started from.

In the end I was really lucky with cloud cover and the temperate and managed to shoot for 2.5 hours. It was a great experience and I was please with the results which were an improvement on my last attempt.

Next on my list to shoot now is the Orion Nebula and close up images of the moon.

Something Totally Different… Astrophotography

Something Totally Different… Astrophotography

I’ve been interested Space since I was about 6 or 7 years old. I’ve loved reading about the planets and all the probes NASA were sending in the 70’s. I watched the first Space Shuttle launch on TV (and the last on an iPad). I have encyclopaedia’s on Space, the Planets, a map book of Mars. Books on Rockets and Spacecraft and Star charts. But one thing I do not have is a telescope. Not even a small one.

I’ve had to wait 40 years, but I have finally got one! I got it as a joint Christmas present with my Son.

Now, the problem I had and have, is I’m totally new to this. I know nothing! The scope came with a lot of extras, which was good and i made sure it had a GoTo tracking function on it. This of course made knowing how to align it for tracking important (and I still not 100% convinced, or have fully tried it). The main reason was this…

A Lunar Eclipse

My priority was to learn how to connect my camera and take a photo of the moon. Easier said than done. However with a little help from a friend I learnt a bit about the Polar Alignment and how to get the camera setup on it. All I needed now was to practice.

With only a couple of weeks to the Eclipse, clear night were essential. In the end, I had about 3 before eclipse night!

My first moon photo was taken at 4 in the afternoon.

Not quite as sharp as I would have liked, but there was still some hazy cloud around.

My next attempt, or the next clear night, was just the day before the eclipse. This time the moon made its appearance at nearly 5pm. So i got a darker sky to photograph against.

I was really pleased with these and felt a bit more ready for the next night.

I’ll write about my Eclipse experience in my next post

Hello 2019, Hello Valley of Rocks!

Hello 2019, Hello Valley of Rocks!

Happy New Year to all my readers and customers.

So, it’s yet another new year, Christmas all done with and back to work for everyone.

New Years resolutions or not, there is nothing to stop you getting out with your camera and visiting places.

Living in Surrey for most of my life, there was plenty to see, but since moving to Devon, it’s opened up a whole new world of places. So, as the kids were still on holidays we’ve managed to get out a visit a couple of new places already.

Our first trip this year was to Valley of Rocks in Lynton. By the time we’d got out and got to Lynton, then found the ‘free’ winter car park, that was no longer free in winter, then walked to the valley it was nearly 3pm.

The sun was starting to set, it was cold, but it made for some great photos, even if they were tricky with the position of the sun.

The valley is an incredible site and definitely a place to visit and explore. As we were pushed for time, we just walked down to this viewpoint and followed the cliff path back, which gave some impressive view too!

The cliff walk took us all along the cliff, (back to where we had originally driven too, but couldn’t park) with great views back to the rocks lining the coastline and path and view towards Lynmouth. The walk also took you over the Lynton Cliff Railway.

I’ll post our next trip out in a little bit, so check back soon.

Another New Year!

Another New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone.

I’ve done a quick look back at what I’ve done and helped people with over the past year.

Although not a conclusive list, it covers a range of topics.

My main project last year was at Torview Vineyard.
I photographed life at the vineyard for a year, from pruning, to grapes growing and harvesting. As well as the wine creation progresses, bottling and finished product photos.

On the photographic editing notes, there was lots of Lightroom tuition helping people learn to edit and maintain their photos and memories. Allowing them to get the best from the photos they’ve taken , find them and more importantly safeguard them.

I helped people backup, secure and free up space on their computers.

I’ve sorted email issues, setup printers, helped with slow running macs and advised on upgrade issues.

Other tasks I’ve done for people, have ranged from creating and setting up Child Apple IDs so the parent can have child free iPads and iPhones again and help on iPads and iTunes.

I did a couple of photo restorations for someone, for use with the WWI commemorations.

The other big project for me was running a days photographic workshop on Dartmoor with a follow up half day editing session at a local retreat.

So, as you can see, it been a varied year, with a range of tutoring sessions which hopefully have enabled people to learn new things and progress with their business, or hobby.

For me, this is all in a day work, so if any of this is something the you could benefit from, please give me a call.

Tutoring Vouchers for Christmas

Tutoring Vouchers for Christmas

If a friend or partner likes photography and you are struggling with a present idea for them, why not think about a tutoring session?

I offer gift vouchers for tutoring in Photography & Photo Editing using Lightroom or Photoshop.

Maybe they want to organise their photos, or have Lightroom and done understand it? Or just want to know what some of the setting on the camera are for?

My tutoring sessions are done at your location, or you can could an outdoor workshop.

Either way it is a great Christmas idea.

Tutoring & Workshops

Tutoring & Workshops

If you regularly visit my website or facebook page, you would know that I’m also a Tutor as well as Photographer.

I offer tutoring in photography and also editing or photograph management using Lightroom, Photoshop or your preferred piece of software.

My tutoring takes place at your location, and your level of ability. The sessions are 1-2 hours long and are tailored to what you want to learn.

I also run workshops on Dartmoor so you can learn more about using your camera out in a real environment. This is then followed up with an editing session to help you get the best from the photos you have taken.

Here is a photo from a recent workshop on Dartmoor.

Torview Vineyard Though the Year

Torview Vineyard Though the Year

If you’ve been reading my blog, you would be aware that I have been photographing a vineyard through the year. This was to show the processes and daily activities that happen on a vineyard and the production of wine.

Not only has this shown how wine is made, the grapes ripening, but also the vineyard through the seasons.

I tried to show this by creating and image showing the changes through the year along the same row in the vineyard.

You can definitely see the changes of the seasons and growing of the vines