(Re)starting Astrophotography

After a long hiatus, I'm getting back into astrophotography.

(Re)starting Astrophotography

I've been dabbling in astrophotography on-and-off for about 10 years now, as a side-effect of exploring low-light and nighttime landscape photography. I’d done a few reasonably successful star trails photos and even a few extremely long exposure shots both with, and without using a ‘star tracker’ equatorial mount.

iOptron SkyTracker

However I quickly got frustrated and gave up because one crucial part of astrophotography with a star tracker is getting polar alignment right. In the northern hemisphere you’d point it to Polaris the North Star, the equivalent in the southern hemisphere is Sigma Octantis and it’s much fainter and harder for me to recognise.

The other major factor is light pollution in the cities making it difficult to see the stars with the naked eye, and while camera sensors are much more sensitive, they also pick up the scattered light in the atmosphere which affects imaging quality, and requires a lot more work to remove it in post-production, if even possible. So even though I had my camera and star tracker while living in San Francisco, I barely even took it out as it felt like a lost cause trying to do any astrophotography in the city.

Also, little did I know that taking the photo is only half the job. Unlike regular daytime photography, astro-photos require a LOT of processing to bring out the colours and details that are captured by the camera sensor, that we can barely make out with our own eyes. I just didn’t have the time or patience to learn how to do it properly back then.

Since getting back to Portugal, and now that we have a car, Anthony and I have gone on a few drives out to the closest dark sky areas to us, and slowly getting back into it. I’ve also been watching videos and tutorials on image processing on YouTube, and I’ve been getting some surprisingly good results with the equipment we already have. This has inspired and encouraged me to want to pursue this further, in addition to travel and landscape photography.

Here are a few shots I’ve taken so far in the past month or so:

There will be more to come, and I’ve set up a new Facebook Page and Instagram account for sharing my astrophotography shots. Follow me there to see my latest updates.