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Why Oh Why AP for beginners?

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#1 MikeBOKC

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 07:51 AM

I would bet I have seen a dozen recent posts here in the beginner forum saying, in essence, "I want to get into AP soon" or "scope would be for visual and first but AP later." I wonder if many of these folks realize the major investment in time, equipment, money and frustration involved in astrophotography at any level beyond sticking an iphone up to the eyepiece? I recognize and respect the skills of a number of advanced astrophotographers, and I realize that for some it is an ultimate destination in this hobby, but I worry that most true beginners are missing out on the fundamental joy of astronomy by leapfrogging into AP before they really learn the sky or their equipment on the visual side. I am a strictly visual observer, and I have a hard time understanding the attraction of sitting behind a laptop for seven hours while a $20,000 scope/mount/camera rig absorbs photons from a faint fuzzy, but each to their own. I also doubt the need for one more pic of M51; it's not like it's going to sprout horns some night. But that aside, I would say to beginners, give it at least one (and preferably two) years in visual mode before you even think of snapping a shutter. You're going to miss the core of astronomy otherwise.
 

#2 UmaDog

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 07:55 AM

Each to his own, I'd say. There's a challenge in taking good astrophotos and I can appreciate that, even if I don't want to do it myself. Also, AP is more tolerant of light pollution than is visual observing. I agree that this must be one of the most asked questions by beginners.
 

#3 Tori

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 07:59 AM

For some the fun is in the satisfaction of looking at objects they found by star hoping. For some, they just want to look and don't want to find objects so they rely exclusively on gotos. When some people go to the grand canyon they snap a picture at a bunch of locations and they're done. Some people are so awed they forget their camera and just look for hours. For the former, I'm sure a professional photographer already captured the scene at sunrise or sunset and made it look 100x better.

Some people have a hard time looking through an eyepiece, seeing almost nothing, some people get so immersed looking through a tiny little hole that they lose themselves in space.

For some it's the journey, for others the destination. In my humble opinion, neither is wrong.
 

#4 galexand

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 08:52 AM

Another way AP messes up beginners is that people see some of the Hubble-esque Ring Nebula (i.e.) amateur photos that are being produced these days, and then they put their eye up to the eyepiece and all they see is a tiny circle that is slightly brighter at the edges. Potential for epic disappointment.

I was thinking maybe the iphone style photos would be a good remedy to this, to get people understanding how it truly looks through the eyepiece. But I happened to stumble upon the sketch forum here, and one of the recent ones I saw just absolutely beautifully got across exactly what a good globular looks like through the EP, I was blown away.

It's all about expectations. :)
 

#5 JoeM101

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 08:53 AM

While i do agree with the OP, i'm sure there's a certain satisfaction that comes from getting that shot yourself, who knows you may just be the first to catch a supernova in that pic! how cool would that be, fame / fortune? perhaps not but... either way, i do believe that one should familiarize themselves with the night sky and get really comfortable with the whole experience before undertaking AP and throwing tons of cash into that bottomless pit before they are sure that's what they want to do
 

#6 Tony Flanders

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 09:02 AM

I would bet I have seen a dozen recent posts here in the beginner forum saying, in essence, "I want to get into AP soon" or "scope would be for visual and first but AP later." I wonder if many of these folks realize the major investment in time, equipment, money and frustration involved in astrophotography at any level beyond sticking an iphone up to the eyepiece?


And what's wrong with sticking an iPhone up to the eyepiece?

My colleague Dennis di Cicco, one of the world's greatest astrophotographers, points out that he got a better picture of the Moon holding a cell phone to the eyepiece of the 60-mm refractor that he started astronomy with than he ever did after years of effort using film cameras with the same telescope.

Electronic imaging has made astrophotography into a genuine beginner's hobby for the first time. It's true that most beginners grossly underestimate the time, effort, and money required for close-ups of faint fuzzies. But beginners can take better planetary images than the best professionals could 50 years ago.

Obviously beginners need to be warned that astrophotography isn't just a matter of pushing the button and hoping for the best. But I don't think the aspiration to astrophotography hurts anybody at all. Either they give up once they realize how hard it's going to be or they persist. Or, like me, stay halfway between ...

But somebody who wants to do visual observing won't let astrophotography get in his way. As it happens, all the really good astrophotographers I know -- and I know many -- are also great visual observers.
 

#7 Maverick199

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 09:17 AM

But somebody who wants to do visual observing won't let astrophotography get in his way. As it happens, all the really good astrophotographers I know -- and I know many -- are also great visual observers.


+1. You need to have some experience visually before one plunges into AP. Knowledge of the sky, conditions for taking AP is essential.

I would agree with Mike's post had it been a few years back but today, technology has evolved so much, even a beginner can take up astrophotography by means of equipment available and modestly priced at that. For eg., a C6-SGT. Now you may not be able to take images like those taken by dedicated imagers, but enough to satiate one's appetite. It all will depend finally on how an individually settles down with his/her results.

Btw, a galaxy may not change or grow horns, but what is indeed fascinating is the fact that the image isn't the same each time. There are differences, be it in detail or color. No two pictures of the same image would look the same.

I took this image of M 42 with a modest investment of around $2500. For me this was enough to satisfy my need for AP. Bear in mind, I live in heavy light pollution in middle of the city and therefore exposures were short.

Attached Files


 

#8 Tim2723

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 09:26 AM

I think the truth lies in the very basic realization that we have two separate hobbies that overlap in that they both involve telescopes. Astrophotography has never appealed to me from the very beginning. I have never taken a photo through a telescope and have no desire to even try. I do respect the work of those who excel at it, and we certainly have our share of world-class astrophotographers here at CN.

There are many who have taken magnificent images yet can say nothing about their subjects. I don't think astronomy need be a prerequisite for astrophotography or vise versa. Indeed, one of our most valuable contributors does neither. He doesn't even own a telescope but has as much invested in his library as many astrophotographers in their equipment.
 

#9 oldtimer

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 09:53 AM

A $2500 modest investmet? My wife would kill me!
 

#10 oldtimer

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 09:55 AM

Yes there seems to be a real misunderstanding as to how great a jump it is from visable observing to taking great astrophotos. I mean this not only from a dollar perspective but also in an experience perspective.
 

#11 Tori

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 09:59 AM

When compared with (I dare say) most astro photographers, 2500 is in fact very modest.
 

#12 Tony Flanders

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 10:13 AM

The image isn't the same each time. There are differences, be it in detail or color. No two pictures of the same image would look the same.


Indeed! Astrophotography is a fine art. It requires many of the same skills as terrestrial photography -- framing, composition, control of color -- and many skills of its own.

The general public has the misconception that astrophotos are realistic. That's true in a sense, but they also involve a huge amount of interpretation.

To take one example, Pillars of Creation opened up whole new vistas. Its choice of false colors to represent different element emissions, and the accentuation of the Eagle Nebula's 3-D appearance, created a new art form. As revolutionary to astrophotography as Michelangelo was to sculpture.
 

#13 Pharquart

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 10:26 AM

I'm pretty sure that most of the beginners asking about AP don't realize what's involved. Most think (as I did a while back) that you can just snap a photo through the eyepiece, or if you want to get really good, buy a DSLR and mount it to the telescope (prime focus). The images we see from amateurs look so amazingly awesome, rivaling the best we've seen from the Hubble, that we want do do it, too. We figure it must be pretty easy.

Why do people want to do it? As many have said above, some really don't. For me, I dabbled in AP because I wanted to see the gorgeous colors and detail that I just can't get visually with my modest equipment and poor viewing location. So why not just download some Hubble pics and look at those? Same reason every tourist takes a picture of Niagara Falls, or Old Faithful, or the Grand Canyon. How many people have photographed the Eiffel Tower? All of these look pretty much the same as they have for many years. Yet people take their own pictures because, well, I don't know why. You want one you created yourself, I guess. Something about which you can say, "Yes, that's a photo I took myself" to the interested coworker walking by.

I quickly learned that the cost and learning curve of good AP was beyond my desire. I still dabble in it, both through a telescope as well as just a regular camera lens, because I like making pretty pictures.

Brian
 

#14 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 10:33 AM

I have come to recognize that Astrophotography and Visual astronomy are really two different hobbies. Still, I do cringe when I see "and AP later", AP is not just a casual add on, it's a serious commitment, not so much of money but of time...

I think it is worth explaining the effort required and the commitment of time and resources that astrophotography requires... it's good to know what you are in for, if one thinks you setup the scope and start snapping away a bit of dissuasion is probably very useful. And if one has what it takes to tackle astrophotography, a bit of dissuasion is not a road block.

Jon
 

#15 Tim2723

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 10:34 AM

Why do people want to do it? As many have said above, some really don't. For me, I dabbled in AP because I wanted to see the gorgeous colors and detail that I just can't get visually with my modest equipment and poor viewing location. So why not just download some Hubble pics and look at those? Same reason every tourist takes a picture of Niagara Falls, or Old Faithful, or the Grand Canyon. How many people have photographed the Eiffel Tower? All of these look pretty much the same as they have for many years. Yet people take their own pictures because, well, I don't know why. You want one you created yourself, I guess. Something about which you can say, "Yes, that's a photo I took myself" to the interested coworker walking by.


And that, Brian, is ample justification for the hobby.
 

#16 panhard

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 10:41 AM

I have come to recognize that Astrophotography and Visual astronomy are really two different hobbies. Still, I do cringe when I see "and AP later", AP is not just a casual add on, it's a serious commitment, not so much of money but of time...

I think it is worth explaining the effort required and the commitment of time and resources that astrophotography requires... it's good to know what you are in for, if one thinks you setup the scope and start snapping away a bit of dissuasion is probably very useful. And if one has what it takes to tackle astrophotography, a bit of dissuasion is not a road block.

Jon

+1
 

#17 killdabuddha

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 10:50 AM

I would bet I have seen a dozen recent posts here in the beginner forum saying, in essence, "I want to get into AP soon" or "scope would be for visual and first but AP later." I wonder if many of these folks realize the major investment in time, equipment, money and frustration involved in astrophotography at any level beyond sticking an iphone up to the eyepiece? I recognize and respect the skills of a number of advanced astrophotographers, and I realize that for some it is an ultimate destination in this hobby, but I worry that most true beginners are missing out on the fundamental joy of astronomy by leapfrogging into AP before they really learn the sky or their equipment on the visual side. I am a strictly visual observer, and I have a hard time understanding the attraction of sitting behind a laptop for seven hours while a $20,000 scope/mount/camera rig absorbs photons from a faint fuzzy, but each to their own. I also doubt the need for one more pic of M51; it's not like it's going to sprout horns some night. But that aside, I would say to beginners, give it at least one (and preferably two) years in visual mode before you even think of snapping a shutter. You're going to miss the core of astronomy otherwise.


Isn't it to be able to see what they're not seein? Seriously, tho, I can understand wantin to personally tease out the detail of what my eyes can't capture, if only that darned Hubble didn't already do it better than I ever could. Irony upon irony.
 

#18 Tori

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 10:51 AM

And that, Brian, is ample justification for the hobby.


This is not a critism at all for your statement, please don't take it as such. Your statement got me thinking... Why does anyone need any justification for a hobby?

If people want to do it, they should. If they're grossly underestimating the effort required that's their problem, but it doesn't mean they're making a mistake.
 

#19 Paco_Grande

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 11:03 AM

I'm baffled by such "controversy."
 

#20 FarrOut

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 11:22 AM

I've been trying to do AP for four years.
Admittedly I get out once a month at most.
I've had two pretty nice rigs. A NexStar11GPS and currently A Sirius mount with an AT6RC.
I have a total of about 5 images that are recognizable.

I will retire at the end of the year and hope to be able to spend more time on the endeavor, but I'm the first to tell you it's extremely frustrating and requires a lot of patience.

I know a guy that does only visual.
He loves to tell me 'You image, I imagine'.
 

#21 killdabuddha

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 11:27 AM

I know a guy that does only visual.
He loves to tell me 'You image, I imagine'.


Beautiful! "Suffice to say, what we behold is censored by our eyes."

(And, "I know a girl from a tribe so primitive, she can call me up without no telephone.") ;)
 

#22 MrJones

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 11:59 AM

I'm baffled by such "controversy."


Same. People do AP for the same reasons anyone does photography. And I don't know anyone that does AP that doesn't also enjoy visual astronomy.
 

#23 Maverick199

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 12:41 PM

I've been trying to do AP for four years.
Admittedly I get out once a month at most.
I've had two pretty nice rigs. A NexStar11GPS and currently A Sirius mount with an AT6RC.
I have a total of about 5 images that are recognizable.

I will retire at the end of the year and hope to be able to spend more time on the endeavor, but I'm the first to tell you it's extremely frustrating and requires a lot of patience.


You have a much more versatile and should I say adequate equipment for imaging and I am pretty certain your skies or access to darker sites would be much more than mine, unless your sky condition is the limiting factor. I have as I said earlier minimal equipment and have dozens of good images from a severely light polluted and heavily populated city. No reason why you should feel frustrated in my honest opinion unless you are trying to attain perfection.

I know a guy that does only visual.
He loves to tell me 'You image, I imagine'.


I would love to tell him, "You imagine, I will transform your imagination into an image". :D
 

#24 DonR

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 12:57 PM

I would bet I have seen a dozen recent posts here in the beginner forum saying, in essence, "I want to get into AP soon" or "scope would be for visual and first but AP later." I wonder if many of these folks realize the major investment in time, equipment, money and frustration involved in astrophotography at any level beyond sticking an iphone up to the eyepiece?


Be careful about sticking that iPhone up to the eyepiece - that's how many of us got started. My foray into astrophotography started innocently, with a telescope and primitive digital camera that I already had. That zero initial investment didn't pay off with great images, but neither were they disappointing or frustrating. Each one was uniquely mine, and the more problems I have had to solve to achieve better images, the more I have enjoyed the challenge.

Solving some of those problems has involved spending money. I have taken those financial steps one at a time, attempting to determine what expenditure would advance my capabilities without leading me into a dead end. I think most of my choices have been good ones, and none of them have been financially burdensome. For the money I've spent over several years, I could have purchased a premium large dobsonian, a nice apo triplet refractor or a decent mass-produced Ritchey-Chretien reflector, but I wouldn't be able to see nearly as much detail with them as I can in my images, without leaving my suburban back yard. And then there's the color ...

I believe in maximizing the benefits of expenditures where possible. A capable GEM, a premium focuser, a first class set of collimation tools - these are all investments that will pay dividends for visual astronomy even if the astrophotography bug fades away. Some beginners will heed the cautions and some won't. Some who don't will stick with astrophotography and some won't. I would caution anyone against jumping into the deep end of astrophotography without spending some time with visual astronomy, but I would also caution anyone who struggles with visual astronomy against concluding that astrophotography is out of the question. I know the night sky pretty well, having spent a couple of years with a 10" dob, star-hopping and just browsing. But it turns out that isn't very important in astrophotography. As Jon pointed out, astrophotography and visual astronomy really are two different hobbies.

To expand on what Tori wrote, astrophotography is about both the journey and the destination for me. The technical challenges, the creative possibilities and the satisfaction of achieving a unique and pleasing image, even if it only pleases me, are all things I enjoy. Knowing that there will always be room for improvement is part of what keeps me going.
 

#25 RTLR 12

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 01:44 PM

I bought a DSI camera for $100 about 3 months after I bought my 8SE. I was told you can't do AP with an 8SE. The first night I got some very good shots of Jupiter. The second night out I got the Orion Nebulae and started the processing learning curve. I moved on to a CG-5 with the C8 and an 80mm guide scope. I was also told you can't AP with this set up. I'm glad people know that they can't do things, but don't tell me what I can and can not do. I know better. I'll decide that for myself.

Stan
 






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