Dear Cloudy Nights Community:
The layout of the Cloudy Nights imaging fora are a product of evolution (versus design) and have caused confusion over the years. On one hand, we have fora defined by technology, but we also have fora defined by targets and skill-level. Moreover, technology continues to change, and astrophotography has also become an increasingly mainstream pursuit. As we have all seen, enthusiastic and aspiring imagers come to Cloudy Nights every day and often lack the background that we would have expected in the past. While it is true that the increasing use of technology in AP has simplified many aspects of imaging, technology has also increased the breadth of knowledge and skills that a typical new imager should understand.
So how can we, as a community, evolve our fora in a manageable and non-disruptive manner? A manner that encourages discussion and the sharing of information, but also provides an organizational structure to help members find information and participate in conversations of interest to them? In an effort to answer this, the Cloudy Nights team extensively discussed ideas and then involved some of the membership to comment on these ideas and suggest alternatives. This was followed by even more internal discussion among our staff.
In the end, we have decided that Cloudy Nights will modify the names and purpose of some of the site’s imaging fora. We expect to make these changes over the weekend of October 24 & 25. Specifically:
The "Beginning & Intermediate Imaging Forum" will be changed to the "Beginning Deep Sky Imaging Forum". The idea behind this change is to clarify that this forum is the place to discuss all aspects of beginning deep sky astrophotography with any kind of equipment. This includes suggestions for starting gear & software, as well as basic-level discussion relating to acquisition, field work, calibration, processing and display. This will also be the place for beginners to post images and ask for help or constructive criticism. More experienced imagers are also welcome to participate and start topics in this beginners’ imaging forum but are asked to keep discussions at an elementary level and maintain a welcoming and supportive tenor.
The "CCD/CMOS Astro Camera Imaging & Processing Forum" will change to the "Experienced Deep Sky Imaging Forum". The name change is an attempt to position this forum as the primary place on the site to discuss the art, science and theory of prime focus, deep sky, aesthetically-oriented astrophotography. It also reflects our desire to frame discussion around processes and targets rather than around particular, and always changing, technologies. While other equipment-specific fora will continue to exist for specialized discussion, the "Experienced Deep Sky Imaging Forum" is intended for questions, discussion, posting of images and polite debate by experienced imagers concerning any deep sky imaging topic, technique or technology. While beginning imagers are certainly welcome to participate in discussion - basic and beginners’ questions should be asked in (and will be moved to) the "Beginning Deep Sky Imaging Forum".
The name of the "DSLR & Digital Camera Astro Imaging & Processing Forum" will change to the "DSLR, Mirrorless & General-Purpose Camera Imaging Forum". The intent is that this forum will continue to serve as a discussion place for astronomy-related photography using general-purpose cameras. Although many aspects of prime focus astrophotography are the same regardless of camera, there are still many specialized topics of discussion. These include but are not limited to general purpose camera modifications; minimalist & light-weight AP rigs built around general-purpose cameras & lenses; nightscapes; afocal imaging as well as advanced or innovative use of mobile phone and tablet cameras. In the interests of synergy and breadth of discussion, we encourage members who wish to discuss general aspects of prime focus DSO imaging to visit the Beginning or Experienced Deep Sky Imaging Fora.
The name of the "Solar System Imaging & Processing Forum" will change to the "Major & Minor Planetary Imaging Forum". The purpose of the forum will remain, essentially, the same. We hope, however, that the name change will clarify the topic. For example, imaging discussion and photos relating to our sun should be posted in the "Solar Observing & Imaging Forum" while imaging discussion and pictures of our moon should be posted in the soon-to-be-renamed "Lunar Observing & Imaging Forum". All other solar system targets are fair game. The "Major & Minor Planetary Imaging Forum" will welcome discussion from all imagers regardless of experience, equipment or technique.
The Film, Sketching & EAA fora will maintain their existing names and directions. There are also several other fora on the site which welcome imaging discussion of a more specialized or scientific nature (eg the Double Stars forum and the Observational Astrophysics forum) which will remain as they are. Although, we are also considering changes to the title and description of the “Observational Astrophysics Forum” to clarify its role as the site’s premier scientific and quantitative discussion place.
All of us behind Cloudy Nights know that change is not always popular. During our discussions, we also realized that we would never make everyone happy. Nevertheless, we feel that these changes will improve Cloudy Nights and make it a more orderly and friendly place to discuss imaging, both now and in the future.
Thank you for your attention and patience while we implement these changes.