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If you want to Master your craft, read Lessons from the Masters

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If you want to Master your craft, read Lessons from the Masters


Lessons from the Masters: Current Concepts in Astronomical Image Processing (Springer, 2013.) edited by Robert Gendler is an essential addition to library of every serious astrophotographer. Gendler, who edited this 387 page work is himself a Master of the art and science of astrophotography with a rich portfolio of astrophoto accolades and achievements, including 107 NASA APOD selections. Gendler is a physician by profession and therefore technically an "amateur" astronomer. However he routinely teams with the world's leading professional observatories to create masterful images from their exquisite data sets.

Gendler articulates the book's purpose splendidly in his preface, explaining that astrophotography is a two-step process that begins with rigid and highly technical image acquisition but can only be completed through dynamic and creative image assembly and enhancement. This book, says Gendler is about the creative aspects of astrophoto image processing. As an advanced imager, no longer frustrated by any aspects of the image acquisition process, I didn't realize until reading this book that Gendler's advice is precisely what I needed to take my images to the next level.  These days, whether it's a quick lunar image, a daylight solar image or a double-digit hours of narrrowband deep sky image, I want my work to stir the viewer with whatever meaning I find in the composition. After reading this book, I feel more capable of creating an image that conveys an intentional message. 

While this is a soft cover book, no expense was spared on the extremely high quality glossy pages that bring forth the exquisite exemplar imagery created by each of the contributing masters. Admittedly, I was so impressed by the editor's preface that I skipped to the last two chapters written by Gendler himself. In Aesthetics and Composition Gendler provides the most powerful advice contained in the book when he explains that the viewing experience is deeply subjective and personal...in a visceral sense we all seem to know a powerful image when we see one. He then sets about to explain essential techniques, rules and tools to guide the astrophotographer toward creating compelling images instead of the dreaded "pretty pictures" that appear in so many electronic outlets today.

Having described my favorite chapter, it's equally easy to identify what I liked least about this book. The opening chapter by Stan Moore is poorly organized, unnecessarily pedantic and condescending. Rather than providing a few equations, Moore should have followed Steve Cannistra's lead in the chapter on Widefield Imaging and summarized his key points in tabular format. Although there are generally significant components in this opening chapter it is so off-putting as to possibly deter further reading. My advice is to skip the first chapter and focus on efforts of the masters featured in this book. Regardless of your imaging targets or equipment, this book has something for you the dedicated astrophotographer. Read this important book and you will be able to more fully express yourself through your astrophotography.



Max C.


  • Greg M, okiestarman56, Paul Winn and 4 others like this


I agree, its a great book, recommend it for any astrophotograpghers

aorion314 here, any idea as to cost of book?

Jan 10 2015 04:50 AM

$40 at Amazon.com

Agree about the first chapter... Have the book and read the first chapter about three months ago.  Haven't picked it up since because of it, but probably will start again

I'm two pages into the first chapter.  To understand just those first two pages, I've had to go back and study binomial and Poisson distribution functions, brush up on my long-dead math and stats skills and attempt to understand the quantum theory of light.  Those double-slit diffraction experiments in college are coming back to haunt me.  A tough slog for a dolt like myself, but I'm almost ready to understand the Poisson noise equation.  But what else am I going to do on these cold winter nights.  

    • Iksobarg likes this
The first chapter I think was for the Steven Hawkings of astronomy. Not for me. But the rest is a good read. You need to be working in real time with the programs that are used in this book. I'd find it hard to not glean the information just by reading alone.

A "lighter" more recent publication comes from the United Kingdom's "Astronomy Now" publication, "Shooting Stars". To me it is a much more "user friendly" approach to astrophotography. I purchased it at a local newsstand in January, 2015.
    • Iksobarg likes this

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