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Is it Astrophotography or Art?

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#1 Steve_M_M

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 10:04 AM

Or both?

 

Back in the 1980's and early 1990's, I was a one of those guys that did film astrophotography.  There was a huge learning curve, but over time I was able to capture some pretty incredible images.  My equipment was simple, an Olympus OM-1, telescope, guidescope (that you actually looked through), and various films depending on the object.  When the final product came back after developing, and everything came together, it was awesome.  Quite the sense of accomplishment.

 

I gave up astrophotography in the early 1990's so I could be more "sociable", LOL.  A month ago, I decided to jump back in with a AZWO ASI183MC, ASIAIR Pro, ASI120 mini guide camera, Optolong L-extreme filter, and a bunch more accessories.  Only a month in and I am getting images that would have been impossible 30 years ago.  And, after 5 minutes outside tuning the polar alignment and a couple quick plate solves, I do it all inside.  I don't have to know the sky at all to get an image.

 

Honestly, it seems almost too easy.  Yes, there is a learning curve, but to me it feels like a video game where I get killed and just start a new game smile.gif  But, I am enjoying my new hobby a ton.  It just doesn't feel like amateur astronomy to me.

 

So, the pont of my post is more about what I see in the various images posted here.  A simple way to see this is to look at this months imaging challenge-The Pacman Nebula.  https://www.cloudyni...-pacman-nebula/ Obviously, they all have different equipment, locations,  techinques and quality.  What I am seeing looks more like an aritsts painting.  Some are green, some blue, some red, some purple, some pink, some orange.  They are all awesome, but what is REAL.    I realize that different filters allow only certain wavelengths to pass.  But, some of the images I see just look more like paintings to me.

 

Ok, I just re-read this and realized this is my first old man rant.  I thought about deleting it, but hey, I think I am allowed one  smile.gif  Maybe this new hobby falls into my wife's saying..."If you dont like something, change it.  If you can't change it, change the way you look at it."

 

Edited to remove part about "eyes" as that is not what I am trying to say here.


Edited by Steve_M_M, 17 October 2021 - 10:58 AM.

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#2 jonnybravo0311

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 10:07 AM

What would you see if you flew there? Probably not a whole lot of anything except for the blackness of space.


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#3 pyrasanth

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 10:10 AM

The eye sees what is sees. The camera carries on collecting the photons until its well is full. It can capture a lot more information than your eye.

 

I guess astrophotography is both science & art- you can have the best of both worlds and as you said it is easy to reset and try some new approach.


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#4 Steve_M_M

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 10:12 AM

What would you see if you flew there? Probably not a whole lot of anything except for the blackness of space.

Agreed.  Any I realize a lot of variance is just filters.  Maybe Ill fly out there with L-Extreme filters over my eyes.  It all still looks like an artists rendition to me.


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#5 Gipht

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 10:18 AM

There are many of us who like to be liked, as in push the "Like This" button.  That probably is, in some cases, too much motivation to add color and flare to a photograph.


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#6 Tony Bonanno

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 10:26 AM

I'm an old man too Steve smirk.gif and I also have wondered about the "colors" that I see on the forums.  I realize that colors will change depending on what wavelengths you are trying to emphasize with filters, etc.  I'm fine with that, but some are definitely over the top IMO.  But that is my view.  The imager is the "artist" and I've decided that there is no point in judging their palette. I try to stay close to what the camera initially captures though.  For me astro imaging is about "seeing more".  For some folks, it is legitimately about "making art".. or in some cases, just accidently turns out that way smirk.gif.


Edited by Tony Bonanno, 17 October 2021 - 10:33 AM.

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#7 imtl

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 10:35 AM

If someone thinks our eyes or other senses are a good measuring tool of what is "real" then they never been to a physics lab and especially a students lab. The human senses are not a good measure. If colors are the point of this topic then even more so.


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#8 fewayne

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 10:42 AM

I don't mean to sound like an inebriated undergraduate but none of it is real, other than perhaps photometric histograms of wavelength vs. count at each pixel. Everything beyond that involves selection and judgement. Film is deceptive in that regard because it offers the user so many fewer choices, so we had the illusion of just capturing the "real thing".

 

But the designers of the films were right in there balancing chemistry vs. multilayer dye design vs. intended results, and when I selected Fujicolor vs. Ektachrome vs. Ilford HP4, I was also making visual judgements about the look, to say nothing of my work in the darkroom selecting papers and chemistry and dodging and burning.

 

Even by merely integrating over a longer interval than the human eye allows, we're writing fiction to some extent, if the eye is what's "real".

 

All that said, I think there is value in trying to hew to "reality", in other words to not directly contradict those photometric counts. I try not to add anything that isn't actually there, or at least to  feel guilty about it afterwards :-). 


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#9 Charlie B

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 10:43 AM

Or both?

 

Back in the 1980's and early 1990's, I was a one of those guys that did film astrophotography.  There was a huge learning curve, but over time I was able to capture some pretty incredible images.  My equipment was simple, an Olympus OM-1, telescope, guidescope (that you actually looked through), and various films depending on the object.  When the final product came back after developing, and everything came together, it was awesome.  Quite the sense of accomplishment.

 

I gave up astrophotography in the early 1990's so I could be more "sociable", LOL.  A month ago, I decided to jump back in with a AZWO ASI183MC, ASIAIR Pro, ASI120 mini guide camera, Optolong L-extreme filter, and a bunch more accessories.  Only a month in and I am getting images that would have been impossible 30 years ago.  And, after 5 minutes outside tuning the polar alignment and a couple quick plate solves, I do it all inside.  I don't have to know the sky at all to get an image.

 

Honestly, it seems almost too easy.  Yes, there is a learning curve, but to me it feels like a video game where I get killed and just start a new game smile.gif  But, I am enjoying my new hobby a ton.  It just doesn't feel like amateur astronomy to me.

 

So, the pont of my post is more about what I see in the various images posted here.  A simple way to see this is to look at this months imaging challenge-The Pacman Nebula.  https://www.cloudyni...-pacman-nebula/ Obviously, they all have different equipment, locations,  techinques and quality.  What I am seeing looks more like an aritsts painting.  Some are green, some blue, some red, some purple, some pink, some orange.  They are all awesome, but what is REAL.  If I fly a spaceship out to The Pacman Nebula, what do I see?  I realize that different filters allow only certain wavelengths to pass.  But, some of the images I see just look more like paintings to me.

 

Ok, I just re-read this and realized this is my first old man rant.  I thought about deleting it, but hey, I think I am allowed one  smile.gif  Maybe this new hobby falls into my wife's saying..."If you dont like something, change it.  If you can't change it, change the way you look at it."

Both!  My eyes have trouble seeing in the dark at my age.  My cameras don't have that issue.

 

Regards,

 

Charlie B


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#10 Rickycardo

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 10:59 AM

Astrophotography is taking a picture of something in space. That data can be used in many different ways. You could use the raw data to determine a scientific question or you could edit it and create a beautiful picture of it. There's nothing wrong with either choice. I'm a photographer and I enjoy sharing images of the universe with others. I want to spark both their imagination and their curiosity. Even the science community creates art with its equipment. Look at the Hubble images over the decades. There is lots of science there and also beautiful art. I think unless you're imaging in a super-narrow band wavelength of the spectrum to measure a specific instance you are making art. How it relates to someone's view of reality is irrelevant. Art is the artist's characatruazation of reality. It becomes a bit touchy when others try to decide what another's art should look like.


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#11 Steve_M_M

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 10:59 AM

I'm an old man too Steve smirk.gif and I also have wondered about the "colors" that I see on the forums.  I realize that colors will change depending on what wavelengths you are trying to emphasize with filters, etc.  I'm fine with that, but some are definitely over the top IMO.  But that is my view.  The imager is the "artist" and I've decided that there is no point in judging their palette. I try to stay close to what the camera initially captures though.  For me astro imaging is about "seeing more".  For some folks, it is legitimately about "making art".. or in some cases, just accidently turns out that way smirk.gif.

Excellent insight!


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#12 Steve_M_M

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 10:59 AM

If someone thinkzs our eyes or other senses are a good measuring tool of what is "real" then they never been to a physics lab and especially a students lab. The human senses are not a good measure. If colors are the point of this topic then even more so.

Very true.  I took that part out of my post.


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#13 Steve_M_M

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 11:02 AM

Both!  My eyes have trouble seeing in the dark at my age.  My cameras don't have that issue.

 

Regards,

 

Charlie B

And my body has trouble lifting, or even rolling out, at my age.  So, with the power I get with a cmos camera and a simple 75mm scope, the 20" dob is getting limited use.


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#14 GSBass

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 11:15 AM

It’s art… , but it’s pure form art because most of us only are manipulating recorded data…. Kinda the same way a photographer is not an artist by simply taking the photo (arguably) but once they import that photo in to photoshop to do level adjustments etc they are using the same creative skill set artist use….. ie what can I do to make this photo more beautiful, most of the time it does not involve subtracting or adding anything…. If it does then that’s composite art instead of true form. I do both but have so far kept my Astrophotography true form, except I added some diffraction spikes to some stars once out of curiousity 


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#15 ngatel

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 12:46 PM

I'm old and don't like change too much either.

 

Perhaps the answer to your questions are best answered by Francis Bacon, John Locke, George Berkeley, or David Hume ;-)

 

Some people like to drive vintage British sports cars and part of their fun is they often have to stop and fix the vehicle before they get to their destination. Other folks like modern cars they can drive without breaking down on the road.

 

As a kid, my camera only was able to take black and white pictures. Our TV was black and white. Color film and TV were revolutionary.

 

I don't care to get involved with "false" color astrophotography, as I am still trying to semi-master regular color, or what our eyes tell us color is. But if I take an image of the North America and Pelican nebulae, everything is mostly red because we cannot see Sii, Ha, or Oiii. But filters and things like SHO separate those so we can "see" them. I do like looking at some of them.

 

There is no right answer, other than do what you enjoy and learn as much as possible.

 

How do you feel about "colorizing" black and white movies?


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#16 Mike in Rancho

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 03:02 PM

What would you see if you flew there? Probably not a whole lot of anything except for the blackness of space.

Isn't that more a matter of perspective?  I could probably do that if I stuck my face on my refrigerator (all I can see is white, what is this? shocked.gif ).  But with enough distance, the color and structure resolve, and it seems like a real refrigerator.  Hmm, maybe clouds in the sky would be a better analogy.

 

OP, I get what you are saying, and I think the answer is either, or both.  Digital photography and processing allows for a large variance of photographic and artistic options.  Some go all-in on the art.  But even those trying to keep it "photographic" draw their lines in the sand in different places.  For me, I try to make that line selective manipulation with masks.  Others will be even more particular (ever met Ivo?  lol)

 

Color sampling, white balance selection, and "reality" is a serious rabbit hole, and I imagine there are a lot of university research papers on it.  Setting aside narrowband, which is almost necessarily false color and totally fine by me as long as it is not manipulated fake color, I find saturation levels to be analogous to the amount of stretch one wants to apply to detail and luminance.  Meaning up to the author to decide what and how much he or she wants to show, possibly (probably?) combined with what looks best to said author's personal taste.

 

That's my worthless two photons - which landed on R and B, of course. tongue2.gif


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#17 ChiTownXring

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 03:19 PM

I'm old and don't like change too much either.

 

Perhaps the answer to your questions are best answered by Francis Bacon, John Locke, George Berkeley, or David Hume ;-)

 

Some people like to drive vintage British sports cars and part of their fun is they often have to stop and fix the vehicle before they get to their destination. Other folks like modern cars they can drive without breaking down on the road.

 

As a kid, my camera only was able to take black and white pictures. Our TV was black and white. Color film and TV were revolutionary.

 

I don't care to get involved with "false" color astrophotography, as I am still trying to semi-master regular color, or what our eyes tell us color is. But if I take an image of the North America and Pelican nebulae, everything is mostly red because we cannot see Sii, Ha, or Oiii. But filters and things like SHO separate those so we can "see" them. I do like looking at some of them.

 

There is no right answer, other than do what you enjoy and learn as much as possible.

 

How do you feel about "colorizing" black and white movies?

The Wizard Of Oz in my opinion became a whole different, exciting and captivating movie once they colorized it..


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#18 James Paulson

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 03:53 PM

Steve welcome to the "new astrophotography." Like you, I went through a lot of the same culture shock too when I kind of jumped back into this some 10 years back after being from the generation of film and 35mm cameras for years prior. And yes, it does seem surreal to watch these mounts do all the positioning, to enjoy the ability to use plate solving, to capture images and to be able to enhance them, and like you, sometimes I find them over the edge too. You see I started reading Sky and Telescope back in the 70's, and this is simply not how space looks to us.

 

I realized like you, I wanted my images to be as close to true color and authentic as I could get it. Even down to the ability to remove stars, I mean you literally could have just chopped an ENTIRE CIVILIZATION out of that image there, right?

 

I'll just assure you, it will be alright, and it seems there are plenty of us old timers around still who can appreciate where you come from that have just hopped on the old bandwagon, hitched up our boots to Photoshop and Pixinsight, and are plodding along our merry way learning and loving what we can do with all our cool new gear. Think of it this way. Before 1980, there couldn't BE a pacman nebula. In the 70's, we had no "Cygnus wall", we had the North America nebula, NGC 7000 and we called it that because it looked like North America. There are lots of crazy things out there today we could never see coming, but the nice thing is, nobody can tell you how to do what you want to get out of it. That's where it's at.


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#19 jonnybravo0311

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 04:28 PM

Isn't that more a matter of perspective?  I could probably do that if I stuck my face on my refrigerator (all I can see is white, what is this? shocked.gif ).  But with enough distance, the color and structure resolve, and it seems like a real refrigerator.  Hmm, maybe clouds in the sky would be a better analogy.

With some of the really bright, colorful objects, sure. I'm pretty sure flying towards Orion would be spectacularly colorful. But these faint objects that we can't discern with our naked eye? I don't think we'd see a thing. Maybe some deep, dark red dust?

 

Once I finish my FTL drive, I'll let you know what it really looks like out there :p


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#20 imtl

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 04:51 PM

With some of the really bright, colorful objects, sure. I'm pretty sure flying towards Orion would be spectacularly colorful. But these faint objects that we can't discern with our naked eye? I don't think we'd see a thing. Maybe some deep, dark red dust?

 

Once I finish my FTL drive, I'll let you know what it really looks like out there tongue2.gif

Actually almost nothing or practically nothing. M42 is mostly Ha and is a huge dilute gas cloud. Our eyes do not see colors well (almost at all) when Rod cells are used as the photoreceptors with night vision. In a space travel it will definitely be that case. So, don't get your hopes up. 


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#21 GSBass

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 05:11 PM

Thought of something else I do that is kinda artish… sometimes I’ll take back to back Saturn photos, one normally exposed and the second super exposed so a hand full of moons show up, I’ll then stack to get a composite image, it requires cloning or masking and equalization of background…. But that’s about the only way…. It’s accurate but not pure


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#22 Steve_M_M

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 05:30 PM

Even down to the ability to remove stars, I mean you literally could have just chopped an ENTIRE CIVILIZATION out of that image there, right?

 

 

My laugh for the day :)


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#23 Benschop

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 08:45 PM

Unless the colors are properly calibrated against known references, it definitely has an artistic component.

I strive for a natural color look... but that too is subjective. The gaudy colors just aren't my preference

 

However, it is still Astro-Imaging.


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#24 AstroVagabond

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 09:45 PM

The artist in my view is the creator who created the universe. I'm just a technician trying to capture the beauty of the cosmos and share it with others who may be heads down looking for answers immersed in the issues of the day. While those issues are real, I encourage people to grab their partner, children and other loved ones and go outside at night and look up. A little astro therapy can put many ordinary daily issues in perspective in my view. The answer is out there. Look up! smile.gif


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#25 Mike in Rancho

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Posted 17 October 2021 - 10:06 PM

With some of the really bright, colorful objects, sure. I'm pretty sure flying towards Orion would be spectacularly colorful. But these faint objects that we can't discern with our naked eye? I don't think we'd see a thing. Maybe some deep, dark red dust?

 

Once I finish my FTL drive, I'll let you know what it really looks like out there tongue2.gif

Well, not quite what I was getting at, but ok. tongue2.gif

 

I was more thinking that these are ginormous and often diffuse structures, 3D of course, and from the perspective of distance we can present them as 2D images that look like things.  Crazy things, often.

 

And while I understand using the human visual spectrum as a reference (what else?), I wouldn't say that "reality" is only what we can see, in real time, with our rod cells.  Why no respect for the poor cone cells?  frown.gif   Most DSO's are invisible absent long exposure.  So...stretch for the rod cells, saturate for the cone cells.  Everybody wins! smile.gif 


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