Most of these photos with the
exception of the sun and moon photo I had to use a technique called stacking.
Stacking required me to download a special program called deep sky stacker.
There are other programs out there and I would urge anyone who is thinking
about downloading one to use extreme caution. Free programs usually come with
free viruses and mal ware. This also takes a lot of processing power. During
this project my pc crashed and overheated many times. So be careful of viruses
and malware, have a good computer, and hope for clear skies. Stacking can get
technical but since I was just starting out I tried not to have ridiculous
expectations and just went for it with the most basic approach and knowledge.
With a Canon 60D, not too fancy,
and a 100-400mm Canon lens I rented, I would find my object and begin shooting.
I can’t stress enough how difficult it was to find what I was looking for with
the exception of the bigger objects. I got so frustrated not being able to find
what I wanted that I ended up just looking through the lens and panning the sky
until I saw something that looked interesting. With that technique I was able
to find most of my objects. Before I shot a bunch of pictures I would load one
picture into a really great website that maps out what you are looking at to
confirm I actually had something.
Depending on what the magnitude was
would determine how many photos I would take. For Andromeda I intended to shoot
400 photos as recommended by a more experienced astrophotographer but after
shooting 400 and cramming them into my computer I found it couldn’t hold more
than 100. If I could have stacked 400 you would clearly see the dust lanes of
In addition to the lightframes, I
had to shoot bias and dark frames. After
you shoot your regular photos, light frames, you put on the cap to the camera
lens and with the same settings shoot 25-50 photos. Then I changed my shutter
settings so the pictures would be taken faster and I took another 25-50 photos
with the cap on. In the processing of the photos this helps the program weed
out the hot pixels or noise that is created by the camera and atmosphere. No
need to worry if you have to move your tripod, the programs accounts for
adjustments and angle changes, which is why you cannot manually stack 400
photos, you will just end up with mess after only a good handful or two of
Once the photos are taken and
loaded into the program for stacking you have to wait. How many photos your
computer can handle will determine how long it takes to process. With 400
photos it should take about 4-5 hours and if you unlucky like me on the 3t know why until you try a few more times. Eventually I had to flip my laptop over and
run a fan on high pointed at the base of it. When the photo is done being
processed you are left with an exciting image. Whatever photo pops out can be
made better with editing and there are many videos out there to help you learn
a few tricks. This process is more trouble that its worth to some people but
after I saw the Orion I was hooked.
For the sun photos I had a special
filter I put on so I could point my camera directly at the sun. Over the course
of a month or so I took pictures of the sunspots moving and changing on the
surface. Happy shooting!