Astrophotography is the art of taking photographic images of the night sky. It is a captivating hobby that compels both fans of astronomy and traditional photography. This specialised hobby requires particular equipment and accessories, some knowledge of the night sky, and some tricks of the trade when it comes to capturing these unique images. For those looking to enter the world of astrophotography, getting to know some of the basics can be helpful and start budding astrophotographers off on the right foot.
Assembling camera equipment
In order to equip themselves adequately for astrophotography, individuals must first determine which type of camera they need based on the type of astrophotography they wish to pursue. In addition to an appropriate camera, astrophotographers may also need certain camera accessories.
Choosing the right camera and equipment for this discipline depends on the type of images an astrophotographer wants to capture. There are three main categories of astrophotography: planetary, scenic, and deep sky. Each requires its own particular type of camera and accessories.
Planetary astrophotography captures images of planets isolated in space. In order to capture the best planetary images, photographers should actually use a high-quality webcam. Working with the webcam, a telescope, and a laptop computer, astrophotographers can manage to capture clear images of these distant bodies.
Scenic astrophotography involves capturing "landscape" images of the night sky, such as a blanket of stars. These wide-angle images often include objects on Earth, such as mountains and trees in their framing to create scope. A DSLR camera or a DSC camera serves this type of astrophotography well. It is a good idea to have manual exposure control on the camera as well.
Deep sky astrophotography
Deep sky images capture distant bodies, such as galaxies and nebulae. This form of astrophotography requires a telescope, just like planetary astrophotography, but requires a more powerful camera than a webcam. The best camera for deep sky astrophotography is an astronomical CCD camera built specifically for astrophotography. A DSLR can work as well provided it is low-noise.
Finding the right telescope
As with the camera, the right telescope for astrophotography depends on the type of images that photographers want to capture, but also depends upon the needs of the photographer. For beginner astrophotographers, a lighter weight more cost-effective telescope should suffice and is portable enough for easy transport to and from shooting locations.
It is only with deep sky astrophotography that photographers need to look for more advanced and complex telescopes. To shoot deep sky, photographers need a polar-aligned equatorial mount on a telescope. This allows the device to track stars as the Earth rotates and during the long exposure of deep sky photographs.
Working with a T-mount
Astrophotographers also need a T-mount to connect their cameras with their telescopes. A T-mount involves a T-mount ring that connects to the camera lens and an adapter that attaches to the focuser on the telescope.
Astrophotographers should select a T-mount ring that works with their particular cameras. It mounts either onto the lens mount of the camera or onto the front of the lens where a filter would rest on a camera with a fixed lens. Astrophotographers also need to ensure that the adapter connecting to the telescope is the right size. A 2-inch focuser, for example, requires a 2-inch adapter as anything smaller can cause the image to vignette.
Astrophotographers also often need software that facilitates capturing and editing images. Deep sky photographers may want to invest in image automation software, such as MaxDSLR or Images Plus, which automates the process of capturing several short exposures over a long period of time. These options along with other offerings, such as AstroArt and Regim, also give photographers the ability to calibrate their images so that they accurately depict the astrological bodies that they represent.
Finally, Adobe Photoshop can be very helpful for adjusting the colour balance to bring out the best features in the sky in post production and also for stacking the multiple exposures captured in deep sky astrophotography into one image.
How to buy astrophotography equipment on eBay
Those interested in astrophotography have a wide range of options within reach on eBay. You can begin your experience on the site with the search bar, which you can find on any page. If you use it to run a keyword search for an item, you get a list of all of the products related to the phrase, which you can then review at your leisure. Astrophotography is a fascinating hobby and with the right equipment, anyone can explore this brave new world of photography.