Friday, December 31, 2010

Brain Virus

Hey it's the end of the year and time for some reflection 6 months into this crazy pusuit.

I have some wonderful observing friends to blame thank for all of this hair-shirting.  You see,  I was going to miss an observing trip because it coincided with our annual family vacation to New Mexico.  Hmmmm,  new moon ... dark skies ... I thought I could at least vicariously participate with them by doing some astrophotography.

Only one issue.  I didn't do astrophotography.

"Yeah,  I'll get a camera and some kind of lightweight mount I can ship out to New Mexico and do some killer astrophotography".  From such naive beginnings began this storyline arc.

I remember the exact moment this pernicious virus infected my brain.  April 4, 2010 at about 10:15am.

You see I was in the waiting room at the doctors office trying not to think about my appointment when it came to me.  In the 15minutes before I was called in I imagined myself peacefully taking pictures of the heavens under wonderful skies churning out stunning mosaics.  My observing pals floored with admiration.

Distraction accomplished.  Didn't matter that it was a far cry from reality.

The blog started as a way to share images with those guys while on vacation.  By then I already knew enough about astrophotography to give it this rather odd name - Cilice.  Hair-shirt ....

Here is my very first astrophoto.  June 20, 2010

Lyra.  Vega dead center.  One pixel in there is M57.
A stack of 5x30sec images, f/5.6, ISO1600, taken with the 18-55mm kit lens that came with the then 12hr old Canon T2i.  New camera smell still pungent in the warm summer air.  No flats, no darks.  I was thrilled, if not a little concerned at how hard it was to focus.  Ahhhhh, the first hint at the pain challenges to come.  But hey ... there were stars there ... and a recognizable constellation. 

Next came the real lens ... the "big gun" I was going to take to New Mexico.  The venerable 200mm EF-L.  First light on July 3, 2010.

M13.  200ml EF-L lens.  Center crop from the full T2i frame. 
Hey, this time I even used dark frames!  But ... this processing stuff sure takes a long time.  And Photoshop?  WTF?   Sigh ... this may be harder than I was expecting.  But look Ma!  There's a lot of stars there!

A couple days later I met one of my dear friends (and partner in imaging pain) at a Bay Area "dark" site.  Here was my very first big boy picture.  Darks, flats, flat-darks,  the training run for New Mexico. 

I *still* don't know where all the blue-green in the Lagoon is coming from.
This one is 40x60sec, ISO800 at f4.  Hmmmm ... once you are done fratzing with your equipment in the field you get to pound your head against the wall for hours with processing.  Then it still doesn't look like you expect or think it should.  And color?  Enough to make converting everything to grayscale the first step in processing.  But my, what fun it is.

The blog starts up later in July with a 2 week trip to legendary New Mexico dark skies.  And this is what it looked like most of the time.

Beautiful but hardly astronomy friendly.
If you care you can pick up the story from the earliest posts in the blog.  Might give you some comfort and cheer while you are calibrating your light frames or contemplating what to throw when you realize you forgot to shoot flat frames.

I have suffered the good hair-shirt fight and it has all been worthwhile.  I've improved my skill and my images are getting better.  I've had something new to throw myself into at a time when I needed distraction.  I've enjoyed writing about the journey and have shared parts of it it with nearly 1000 people from 50 countries.  That's pretty neat.

I've met a few new friends and grown closer to the four who just had to go out observing when I was on vacation.  Thanks gents.  Securis in corde meo est.

Now for next year I have some really amazing ideas ....

1 comment:

  1. Do a google on " Securis in corde meo est" . This shall be an official motto on the Coat of Arms. Great retrospective on a difficult journey this year, worthy of a site named Cilice.