Best Astrophotographers (11 Space Photographer Case Studies)

Here we present 11 case studies from some of the best astrophotographers in the world:

  1. Michael Ver Sprill
  2. Ken Crawford
  3. Connor Matherne
  4. Talman Madsen
  5. Ivan Slade
  6. Laura Krause
  7. Abdul Dremali
  8. Leonardo Orazi
  9. Marcus Cote
  10. Josh Sweet
  11. Daniel Stein
  12. BONUS: Tolga Astro

1. Michael Ver Sprill

Michael Ver Sprill (“Milky Way Mike”) outlines how he took this photo of the Milky Way over the Palouse Falls in Washington State, USA:

Palouse Falls, Washington (Credit: Michael Ver Sprill)
Palouse Falls, Washington (Credit: Michael Ver Sprill)

How did you plan the shot?

I was planning a trip to Alaska and had a layover in Washington state for a few days. I decided to google a few locations I could camp at while there.

Palouse Falls popped up and after some more research, I realized a milky way shot was possible from that location.

I checked Stellarium (an app you can use on your phone or computer) to determine the time and direction the Milky Way galaxy would be rising for the month of August in that area.

I lucked out with a clear night and a lot of air glow so I started shooting around 10 pm until about 1 am.

Star trails over Mono Lake, California (Credit: Michael Ver Sprill)
Star trails over Mono Lake, California (Credit: Michael Ver Sprill)

What equipment did you use?

For this shot, I used a Nikon D800 with a 14-24mm 2.8 Nikkor lens.

I mounted my camera to an iOptron star tracker on top of an Oben tripod.

The lighting on the water was done by another photographer using a spotlight.

Botany Bay Plantation, South Carolina (Credit: Michael Ver Sprill)
Botany Bay Plantation, South Carolina (Credit: Michael Ver Sprill)

How did you compose the shot?

Over the years I’ve been trying to perfect different ways to create cleaner night images with less noise. To help me achieve a cleaner image I took two exposures and blended them back together in post.

The first image was of the foreground with my iOptron Tracker turned off. Since the gorge was so dark I took a 6-minute exposure at ISO 1000 with an aperture of F4 while a fellow photographer light painted during that time period.

I then took another shot of the sky with the sky tracker turned on. I changed the settings for the sky to ISO 3200 with an exposure time of 200 seconds at F4.

Both shots were taken at 14mm’s wide and the reason I kept my lens at F4 was to increase depth of field from corner to corner and to reduce coma aberrations.

Since I was camping within walking distance I set up my camera around sunset to help focus before nightfall.

Silex Spring, Yellow Stone National Park, Wyoming (Credit: Michael Ver Sprill)
Silex Spring, Yellow Stone National Park, Wyoming (Credit: Michael Ver Sprill)

What post-processing did you do?

When I got back from my trip, I brought my photos into Lightroom.

I did some basic exposure adjustments and white balance corrections before bringing the images over to Photoshop.

For those unfamiliar with a star tracker, it counteracts the Earth’s rotation to allow you to track the stars preventing them from becoming blurry star trails.

The only problem is it will blur the foreground since it is rotating very slowly. So I had to mask out the sky from my foreground exposure and replace it with the Milky Way sky that was being tracked.

Since I didn’t move my camera much while using the iOptron, it was fairly easy to replace the sky. This allows me to have a clean sharp foreground with a clean sharp sky.

I then did some dodging and burning to the foreground and the Milky Way core.

Once that is done I like to bring it back to Lightroom for some more tweaking. I’m pretty much self-taught via YouTube and trial & error with my own experimenting.

Can you recommend any learning resources?

Photography is already expensive, so I always recommend getting free information from YouTube.

Now there are so many night photographers that are willing to share their ideas with video tutorials and blog posts.

So save you money and just google anything you need to learn about night photography!

If you want to get into cleaner night images I also have numerous of videos for free on YouTube.

You can check out one of my videos here:

About you – Michael Ver Sprill

I am located in Central New Jersey, one of the worst places in America to photograph the night sky. I’m surrounded by NYC and Philly so I have spent many long hours on the road and sleeping in the back of my car to hunt clear night skies.

Right now I am a part-time photographer, who would love to go full time, however I can’t give up my health benefits at the moment since I have a heart condition.

Photography is great supplemental income, but unfortunately it doesn’t pay all of the bills yet so I have to keep on grinding at my other job as well.

My goal would be to eventually travel for a living taking landscape images both day and night for stock agencies and to sell via my website. I would also like to continue growing my YouTube channel to help others become more passionate about exploring this beautiful world and to become better photographers.

I’m really excited that the community of night photographers is continuing to expand and the quality of work just gets more amazing every year. It’s great that we are starting to reconnect with the stars again like our ancestors before us!

For those that know me and my work, thank you for supporting my youtube channel!

For those that I am new to, please check out my photography here:

Michael Ver Sprill
Michael Ver Sprill

(This interview was first published on June 9, 2018)


2. Ken Crawford

Ken Crawford is a leading astrophotographer who has had no less than 40 NASA Astronomy Pictures Of The Day!

In this interview, he takes us through how he took one of his favorite shots – this picture of the Horsehead Nebula B33:

Horsehead Nebula B33 (Credit: Ken Crawford)
Horsehead Nebula B33 (Credit: Ken Crawford)

How did you plan your photograph of the Horsehead Nebula?

The Horsehead Nebula B33 is a classic region of the sky every astrophotographer ends up imaging. I feel the high-resolution details were groundbreaking for its time, especially in the lower left is the part of the nebula designated as NGC2023.

My observatory (Rancho Del Sol Observatory) was built in 2001 and is my backyard in Camino, CA with pretty dark skies and sometimes very good seeing (low air turbulence).

My observatory is set up to act a bit like a robot as all of my deep-sky images require several nights of exposures through several different filters.

M33 Nebula (Credit: Ken Crawford)
M33 Nebula (Credit: Ken Crawford)

What equipment do you use?

I use a long focal length high-end telescope. It is a 20” RCOS on a robotic Paramount ME mount with a cooled CCD Camera (16803) with a 10 position 50mm filter wheel.

I have filters for Red – Green – Blue – Ha – OIII – SII – Red Continuum – and Luminance AstroDon filters.

See here for a full rundown of the equipment at the observatory.

Messier 81 (M81) spiral galaxy (Credit: Ken Crawford)
Messier 81 (M81) spiral galaxy (Credit: Ken Crawford)

How did you compose the shot?

Exposures are in sub-exposures that are then stacked in software to produce the final data.

The Red – Green – Blue exposures are subs of 20 minutes each. The Horsehead required 90 minutes of exposure for each of these filters.

The narrowband filters are 30-minute subs that produced data from the light of Hydrogen (Ha) of 480 minutes, Double Ionized Oxygen (OIII) of 900 minutes, and Sulfur-II (SII) of 360 minutes combined with 270 minutes of exposure through a clear filter.

The software I use to acquire the data is:

FocusMax automatically focuses on a star and CCDAutopilot realigns the images for each night of exposures.

Messier 82 (M82) starburst galaxy (Credit: Ken Crawford)
Messier 82 (M82) starburst galaxy (Credit: Ken Crawford)

What do you do in post-production?

Post-production in deep-sky images takes several steps.

First, you have to calibrate each subframe by removing noise and artifacts from the data. Then each subframe is lined up exactly to stack and combine images of each filter into master frames. They are then color-balanced and blended together for the final image.

There are a few steps that are kind of like pre-sets but for one step of an image. This can take me up to 40 hours depending on the amount of data and how picky the astrophotographer is.

I use CCDStack to calibrate and make the master frames – I use PixInsight and Photoshop to produce the final image.

When I started in 2001 there were some very good imagers that came from the film days and I started learning bits and pieces from them. There was one book that Ron Wodaski wrote that gave me my real springboard.

From there I learned from several of the top imagers and I self-taught the rest. Attending imaging conferences was an excellent resource also.

Veil Nebula (NGC6960) (Credit: Ken Crawford)
Veil Nebula (NGC6960) (Credit: Ken Crawford)

Can you recommend any astrophotography learning resources that have worked for you?

As one of the founders of The Advanced Imaging Conference, I can highly recommend attending that of course! Plus any other imaging conference you can get to.

There are several online image processing tutorials and books by Adam Block, Warren Keller, and others that are a great help.

I find online tutorial videos to be the best way for me as I can follow step by step and rewind if needed. I have a few tutorials on my website also – though they are a few years old now but still have some value.

There are several types of astrophotography methods. I was always interested in high-resolution deep sky imaging but wide field and planetary lunar imaging is popular.

Each type uses different types of equipment which can be expensive. I am at the high end and have about the same invested as a motorhome or a couple of ski boats :). It is a wonderful hobby that is technical and artistic (TechArt).

NGC 4565 spiral galaxy (Credit: Ken Crawford)
NGC 4565 spiral galaxy (Credit: Ken Crawford)

About you – Ken Crawford

My observatory is in the foothills of northern CA in a little town called Camino.

I have pretty much accomplished the astrophotography goals I set out to do so I am not very productive at the moment and am enjoying other hobbies!

The other type of photography I like to do is I have been an RC (drone) pilot for many years and I enjoy building fixed-wing and racing drones as well as drone video work.

I’m proud of the 40 NASA Astronomy Pictures Of The Day (APOD) I’ve had, and my biggest moment was receiving the Hubble Award in 2015.

The accomplishment I am most proud of though is being a founder of the Advanced Imaging Conference (AIC) which became the premier imaging conference in the world.

I have a website imagingdeepsky.com with contact info there as well as a bio if you really want to be bored :).

I also have pictures and galleries on Smugmug, which you can find here.

Ken Crawford
Ken Crawford

(This interview was first published on April 15, 2018)


3. Connor Matherne

Astrophotographer, astronomer, and geologist Connor Matherne takes us through how he took one of his favorite photos of the Milky Way taken near Wixson Mountain, Colorado:

Wixson Mountain milky way
(Credit: Connor Matherne)

He also profiles some of his other amazing work, including some mind-blowing animations. Enjoy!

How did you plan the shot?

This shot was taken out in southern Colorado near Wixson Mountain on July 31st, 2017.

To date, this is still one of the most important images in my whole collection.

It was taken with three other friends that I was doing geologic fieldwork with in Colorado at the time. We were mentally and physically exhausted from all the work we had been doing over the previous month and we finally got a day off.

I immediately asked them if they wanted to come with me to go see the Milky Way, to which they responded that none of them had ever seen it before.

I immediately pulled Dark Site Finder and looked for a dark location that seemed close enough to our field location while also being a great dark site with a nice view to the south of the Milky Way during this time of the year.

I eventually noticed there was a nice road about an hour from camp that would put us in a nice Bortle 3 location which would make for perfect viewing of the Milky Way.

via Gfycat

An animated image of the Andromeda Galaxy (Credit: Connor Matherne and Deep Sky West Observatory)

What equipment do you use?

Being in the field meant I had a general lack of equipment compared to what I normally have access to.

Instead, my nicer cameras and lenses were over 1000 miles away back in Louisiana. That didn’t stop us though, I knew it would be a special night regardless of the images that came out of it.

So all of us piled into my friend’s old Jeep Patriot while I tried to navigate us up this mountain at midnight while simultaneously telling ghost stories to keep us entertained for the ride.

With me, I had my Canon T3, a Manfrotto tripod, an iOptron SkyTracker Pro, and a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens.

Far from my usual gear, but the last thing I wanted to do was drop my nice camera down a cliff.

All in all, the equipment was mostly purchased second-hand from eBay or locally on Craigslist and cost me a total of under $500.

Messier 33
Here is one of my images from the observatory I work for. This is Messier 33, taken with a 14.5” scope. If you zoom in, you can actually see the stars that makeup Messier 33. Very rare and difficult to capture the individual stars in different galaxies. (Credit: Connor Matherne and Deep Sky West Observatory)

How did you compose the shot?

Upon arriving to the spot I picked out, I immediately got out of the car and saw the Milky Way painted across the sky.

Normally I need to point out to friends where it is in the sky because it isn’t obvious due to light pollution, this was the exception though for sure. They could easily see objects such as Messier 8 and the Dark Horse with no issue or even really needing help from me.

The above image was the one from that night, me on the far right.

The image consists of 15×60” exposures taken at f/3.5 and ISO 800. One final 60” exposure was taken with the tracking turned off to include all of us within the final image.

Geminid Meteor Shower
Watching the Geminid Meteor Shower in 2016 (Credit: Connor Matherne)

What do you do in post-production?

I originally had edited the image back at camp the same night using PixInsight as my go-to astrophotography processing software but it led to “eh” results.

I chalked this up to the equipment and lack of exposure time and called it a fun night regardless.

It wasn’t until I was finished with the field work and back in my office that I decided to give the image another edit again in November and produced the final image seen above.

A fresh set of eyes really brought the image to life.

differences between false and true color
A comparison I made showing the differences between false (left) and true color (right). (Credit: Connor Matherne and Deep Sky West Observatory)

Can you recommend any learning resources that have worked for you?

My experience with PixInsight was self-taught over the course of years.

I have edited hundreds and hundreds of images from my own images to other images that people would send me the data for to play around with.

This was one of the things that improved me the most. Seeing others produce with the same data always gave me something to strive to achieve when editing, and eventually, something to do better than.

ZWO ASI120MC
Close up of the moon taken with a ZWO ASI120MC and 8” Meade SCT (Credit: Connor Matherne)

About you – Connor Matherne

Connor Matherne

Currently I am located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in geology, and now currently conduct research there within their Planetary Science Laboratory.

My area of focus right now lies within Northeast Syrtis Major, a volcanic complex on Mars and a potential Mars 2020 landing site.

I am also in the process of developing a project to research a potential impact crater located outside Baton Rouge, but research there has not begun just yet.

I love my job though as it allows for to combine my two largest passions, geology, and astronomy.

Jupiter gif
Jupiter’s rotation over 8 minutes (may be closer to 10 minutes – it is 8 minutes of footage to make the image though, but I didn’t account for time between images) (Credit: Connor Matherne)

Astrophotography is just an amazing hobby for me, I have no plans to ever do it for a living. I do however have a couple of side jobs where I take senior pictures for students at LSU and also work for a remote observatory known as Deep Sky West by running their social media.

Working for Deep Sky West allows me to stay involved with astronomy as much as I can while my research consumes all of my other time.

My current goal with astronomy is to share my love for it with anyone I can.

You can find me constantly at outreach events with the local astronomy club to give people the opportunity to look through a telescope. Never once did I have someone look through my telescope for the first time and not immediately exclaim how amazing what they were looking at was.

I urge you all reading this to either go look through a telescope if you never have, or if you own a telescope, do everything you can to share it with others around you.

If you would like to find me elsewhere online, here is where I tend to hang around:

Eastern Veil Nebula
A 4k wallpaper I made out of my favorite images from myself and we’ve taken at the observatory over the years. From left to right: Eastern Veil Nebula, Pelican nebula, Messier 78, Fireworks Galaxy, the Moon, Andromeda, NGC 1333, Markarian’s Chain, the Horsehead Nebula, and the Milky Way (Credit: Connor Matherne)
ISO 1600
This image of the core of the Milky Way was taken with a Canon 6D and Rokinon 135mm f/2 lens and consists of 15×120” shots at ISO 1600 and f/2.8. (Credit: Connor Matherne)
Completed image showing all the major objects in the solar system
Completed image showing all the major objects in the solar system. From left to right: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Moon, International Space Station, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune (no Pluto!). (Credit: Connor Matherne)

(This interview was first published on May 12, 2018)


4. Talman Madsen

Photographer Talman Madsen talks us through how he took this picture and how he goes about shooting the Milky Way from New Zealand:

(Credit: Talman Madsen)
(Credit: Talman Madsen)

How did you plan the shot?

This photograph is a single exposure taken atop Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand’s Central North Island.

A friend and I hiked 4 hours up the mountain to get to this vantage point then waited through the night for the perfect moment when the stars aligned and the clouds had dissipated!

It’s one of my favorites and is a constant reminder of why I love doing what I do.

I planned this shot using the app PhotoPills. I used the app to plan for a night where the moon was absent to maximize the contrast in the sky, therefore, making the stars ‘pop’.

What equipment do you use?

I shot this image on a Sony A7RII with a Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8 lens on a carbon fiber Sirui Tripod.

This is my go-to setup for astrophotography, the Sony Camera system has the best dynamic range I’ve ever used allowing me to really push my files in post-processing.

They are also extremely lightweight making them perfect for taking to hard to reach places like this!

How did you compose the shot?

Firstly I set up the tent in a place that was going to align perfectly with the Milky Way.

Then I went to sleep and woke up at 3 am when the stars were all aligned with my ‘Million Star Hotel’.

Using my wide-angle lens I got down low to the ground as it was windy and I wanted to reduce camera shake.

I then placed my head torch in my tent facing upwards to illuminate the silhouette and provide a sense of scale to the scene.

I shot this image using the following settings: F2.8, 20 seconds, ISO 6400.

These are my go-to settings and allow me to capture enough light to showcase the scene without blowing out any highlights, or creating star trails in the image.

What do you do in post-production?

I lightly post-processed this image using Lightroom.

The main adjustments were bringing up the shadows, and the whites while adding in some selective contrast to really make the image pop.

I am completely self-taught and developed these techniques through trial and error over many years.

Can you recommend any learning resources that have worked for you?

In terms of further learning, the Lonely Speck website has a huge amount of resources that will help people wanting to learn more about astrophotography in a huge way!

About you – Talman Madsen

I’m based in New Zealand and work as a full-time landscape and commercial plus tourism photographer.

In 2017 I released my first book- “Talman Madsen, New Zealand“. This 168-page book is my life’s work and contains images from the far reaches of New Zealand – including lots of astrophotography! It’s a must-have for anyone wanting to discover the best places in New Zealand!

You can find more of my work here:

Talman Madsen
Talman Madsen

(This interview was first published on May 12, 2018)


5. Ivan Slade

Ivan Slade is an Australian-based photographer who took this stunning image of the Milky Way:

(Credit: Ivan Slade)
(Credit: Ivan Slade)

This picture is taken at the site of the Australia Telescope Compact Array in Narrabri, New South Wales, Australia.

Below he takes us through his process for how he planned and took the shot, what equipment he uses, and his advice on learning how to take pictures like this. Enjoy!

How did you plan the shot?

This photo was a long time in the planning.

It was a shot we had thought about and a location we had wanted to go to for quite some time. Being a 7-hour drive away meant the conditions had to be right as we were planning to do this as an overnight shoot.

We left at about 6 pm and arrived at the location at about 1 am. We shot until about 4 am then got our heads down at a local motel for a couple of hours then drove straight back home again. 1100KM in under 24 hours!

As this was a long drive away we needed to plan the shot as much as possible. The first stage of planning is normally Google Maps to assess location, access, and orientation, etc. In this instance, we had a contact at the location that helped with some information.

The next obvious thing is the weather! Keeping a close eye on the 48-hour forecasts is key to checking cloud cover, wind direction and speed, humidity, and moon phase/rise/set.

I use the WeatherZone website a lot as I find it pretty accurate, I also use the BOM site, Skippy Sky, and Cloud Free Night.

For the actual Milky Way orientation and times, I use Stellarium, which is a free app for desktop (and also a paid app for mobile) that allows you to lock in a location, date and time to view the location of the Milky Way and other sky objects. I have heard PhotoPills is also a good app.

I also use the Photographer’s Ephemeris a fair amount for calculating sunrise and sunset positioning.

(Credit: Ivan Slade)
(Credit: Ivan Slade)

What equipment did you use?

Until recently I was shooting exclusively Canon, I had used the brilliant Canon 6d for quite some time which was pretty amazing for astro work given it was full-frame and pretty affordable.

On this particular shoot I also took a Sony A7S mirrorless to compare and was very impressed with the results.

I have now purchased a Sony A7RII which uses an adapter on with all my Canon glass and I have to say it is amazing, especially for astro the dynamic range is insanely good. I can only imagine the A7RIII must be as good or I would hope even better.

For most astro shots I am shooting very wide, either with a Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 and more recently a Samyang XP 14mm f2.4 which I have found to be an excellent fast lens.

Having that little extra aperture can really help in some instances and also allows you to shoot slightly stopped down and get the same aperture as other lenses.

I use an Induro carbon fiber tripod which has good height, is lightweight but rock solid, obviously important for astro work.

I also use a Manfrotto geared tripod head which I find really useful for landscape and astro work as it allows fine control over the axis of the camera.

This image was shortlisted for Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016 (Credit: Ivan Slade)
This image was shortlisted for Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016 (Credit: Ivan Slade)

How did you compose the shot?

The aim of this shot was to use the Milky Way as a sky feature in relation to the telescopes so getting the line up right took some trial and error.

In terms of settings, this was shot using Bulb mode and a remote trigger to minimize camera shake. 20 seconds, f3.2 at ISO 6400.

I normally shoot for slightly less than the maximum exposure time of the lens/sensor combination to make sure there is no trailing in the stars.

You can work this out using the 500 rule (divide 500 by the focal length of the lens) but I find it better to use a calculator that also factors in other aspects like the sensor size – this is a good tool to help with this.

The next thing to consider is your aperture and ISO settings.

The aperture is often limited by the ISO and shutter speed. Normally you are going to need a fast lens so you can shoot wide open, and it’s important to know your lens well so you can factor in the corner sharpness and vignetting to use the best aperture. I often find that not shooting the lens fully wide open will give a better result (dependent on the lens).

For the ISO setting, you need to understand your camera sensor and whether it is ISO invariant or not. The Canon 6d, for example, is not ISO invariant and has a “sweet’ spot around ISO 6400.

The Sony A7RII (at least in my tests) is pretty ISO invariant – meaning the noise is pretty much the same regardless of the ISO (within sensible limits). This means you can use the ISO to influence how bright you want the scene.

I also use the ‘expose to the right’ method for astro to try and get the histogram mostly over to the right to avoid clipping the shadows.

Focusing for astro is always a challenge. Again it is good to know your lens and where the infinity focus point is. On a lot of lenses it is not where infinity is marked but a little off that. It is worth spending the time to know exactly where this spot is as it can save a lot of messing around in the dark.

Live view is also a good tool, try to spot a very bright star then use the zoom feature on live view to zoom right in and use the focus ring to get the star as bright as possible.

Other things to consider are any object within the scene and how close they are and how to potentially get those in focus as well. Often it will take an additional frame focused on the foreground which can be blended into the final shot in post.

Another image from Narrabri (Credit: Ivan Slade)
Another image from Narrabri (Credit: Ivan Slade)

What did you do in post-production?

Post-production is key for Milky Way shots. Whilst it is amazing what comes straight out of the camera having a good workflow in post can really make the images work.

I use Camera Raw and PhotoShop for post. I have an established workflow but this evolves and changes over time as I come across new approaches or discover new techniques.

I pretty much do it manually each time and do not really have presets. I pretty much learned through online tutorials and then had lots of practice to develop a style that worked with my camera and style of shooting.

In terms of time spent on post work, each image is different depending on whether you need to blend multiple exposures and how complex the foregrounds are.

When stitching multiple shots to create panoramic shots I use PTGui as it allows you to save settings as templates that can be applied to multiple exposures to get the exact same mapping.

I also use Nik Collection tools for general photography which I find really useful.

For exposure blending, the tools from Jimmy MacIntyre (Raya Pro) are amazing as I find luminosity masks massively useful.

Recommended learning resources?

Understanding and shooting in RAW is a must. Spending time learning this will transform all of your photography not just astro.

There are many, many tutorials online about post-processing, I would spend time watching and learning to decide which way works best (or makes the most sense) to you. As always there is no real right or wrong way to do it.

I still think this video is an excellent way to really get your Milky Way photos to pop, it does require practice though to develop your own personal style:

Some people like to go full-on in the processing, I like to keep it a little more understated most of the time.

Ultimately just getting out there and practicing is the key. There are quite often workshops and get-togethers advertised online or on Facebook and Instagram where you can go along and get some help and practice.

About you – Ivan Slade

I live on the Northern Beaches of Sydney in Australia. Originally from the UK, I moved out here 10 years ago.

I am just an amateur, photography is a fun hobby that takes me to beautiful places and seeing amazing things. You get to meet a load of really interesting people as well.

I am mostly into landscape and astrophotography but like experimenting with all kinds including abstract, macro, and events.

You can find my website here and you can also check me out on Instagram.

Ivan Slade
Ivan Slade

(This interview was first published on April 10, 2018)


6. Laura Krause

Here, LA’s Laura Kause outlines how she goes about shooting the stars whilst having fun in the desert!

(Credit: Laura Krause)
(Credit: Laura Krause)

How do you plan your shots?

I just started using Photopills which has been a great tool to plan ahead when I get to a location!

Honestly, I just research through google images, Instagram, etc for interesting locations and check Clear Dark Sky for the astronomical forecast.

What equipment do you use?

I actually don’t shoot with anything all that fancy.

I have a Nikon D3300 which has an APS-C crop sensor and I was using a kit lens up until a few months ago!

My tripod was something I picked up from the local camera store for $40 and I only just purchased a $20 ball head adapter for it.

I did just acquire a Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 lens which has been treating me VERY nicely this summer, and I have a Nikon 18-200mm f3.5 for my more everyday shots.

(Credit: Laura Krause)
(Credit: Laura Krause)

How did you compose your shots?

Because I’m not on a high-end piece of equipment I typically have to shoot at a higher ISO.

My usual settings are 25s / f3.5 / ISO 3200, but now with my new Tokina I’m able to push all three of those numbers down a little more.

When it comes to composing I really just play around as much as I can and hopefully have a friend or two willing to have some fun with light in my shots.

I do have a remote shutter for those times that I want to take selfies or light paint myself.

One of the more fun things is when I get 5 friends interested in collaborating on a shot… that’s when we get ultra creative and end up with a monster peering over a mountain, or Pacman running across the desert!

What do you do in post-production?

Because my camera has some limitations I rely pretty heavily on Lightroom, Photoshop, or Snapseed depending on the photo or where I am at the time. If I’m in California, meaning within a few hours of my laptop, I’ll just edit the shots properly once I get home.

I’m only just starting to get into stacking and panoramas in Photoshop but up until now I’ve been primarily Lightroom based. I occasionally use a preset as a starting point but 95% of the time I edit from scratch and a photo may take me anywhere from 15-30 minutes.

I’ve recently been trying to learn how to edit a RAW image entirely on my phone for when I’m on overseas backpacking trips traveling light.

I think I’ve finally found a good workflow using Cascable to control my camera and pull the RAW images, and Snapseed to edit them. I’ve learned all of this mostly through trial and error, but I also went to college for VFX / Animation for feature films so I have enough experience to pick up computer software quite easily now.

(Credit: Laura Krause)
(Credit: Laura Krause)

Can you recommend any learning resources that have worked for you?

Really I think the best thing you can do is get a relatively decent camera and take it to the darkest skies possible. Try and find a unique location within 3 hours of your home so you can frequent it at least a handful of weekends per summer.

I’m pretty fortunate to be living in Los Angeles with the dark desert skies at my fingertips. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I walked into Samy’s Camera one Saturday, bought something that seemed acceptable, threw a pillow in my hatchback, and drove 3 hours out to Trona Pinnacles. I took a dozen blurry, mediocre photos but it was a proof of concept that I could do better with a little more practice…and almost exactly 2 years later here I am!

About you – Laura Krause

I live and work in Los Angeles but am originally from Chicago. Professionally I’m a 3D modeler and designer for Hollywood movie franchises you likely enjoy, but otherwise I’m just a hobbyist.

I’ve been really enjoying getting to meet other photographers, either while on location or through social media. Astrophotographers are a really lovely and helpful group, I have yet to meet one that didn’t spark enjoyable conversation. For now, I’m just focusing on improving my shots and I can see huge improvements in my work every few months I look back.

I suppose down the road I’d love to be involved in some degree of travel or non-profit photography work… something that helps pay the bills while I go on a handful of trips each year. I meet such kind, interesting people on my trips, many of them artisans or those involved in helping their communities, and I’d like to find a way to pay it forward to them. But for now, I keep my day job to pay off my endless student loan debt and get out to some dark skies as often as I’m able :).

You can see more of Laura’s photography on her website, and you can also follow her on Instagram.

Laura Krause
Laura Krause

(This interview was first published on June 16, 2018)


7. Abdul Dremali

Here we ask Abdul Dremali to examine how he took the below image from Monument Valley, which is on the Arizona-Utah state border in the US.

This stunning picture includes Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, the Milky Way, and far-off nebula:

(Credit: Abdul Dremali)
(Credit: Abdul Dremali)

How did you plan the shot?

Monument Valley has been a bucket-list item for me for a long time. In fact, the American Southwest as a whole is so intriguing to me as a foreigner. I moved here from Egypt as a young boy and have been fortunate enough to travel to many states, but this entire region was left undiscovered until this road trip.

A close friend of mine (Hi Anthony!) and I decided to fly from Boston to Denver, rent a car and drive to Los Angeles. The planning phase took several weeks and we had to make a tough call, drive north through the mountains and the ever-photogenic Zion National Park… or go south through the Rio Grande National Forest and the desert regions of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. We chose the latter, something not many people would do.

We planned the trip for May 10th, this meant that we were in close proximity to the New Moon, which is essential for a truly dark sky. People don’t realize just how much light pollution the moon gives off and if we were planning on exploring some of the darkest skies in the country, we wanted to make it count. April through October is what astrophotographers call ‘Milky Way Season’, the galactic core is prominent in the sky and this season in particular we’re lucky to have several planets showing off as well.

On day 3 of our trip we arrived at Monument Valley, my favorite location on the itinerary. We spent the day doing our normal landscape photography and got some lifetime keepers, but the night sky is what excited me the most. We woke up around 1:30 AM and quickly realized we forgot to scout locations. Being on Navajo land means lots of places are sacred and closed off to tourists, we were sure to be respectful of their privacy and drove along the main highway to find a monument to photograph.

I use the app called Sky Guide to find the milky way and any planets or other interesting features, then begin my process.

In this photo, you can prominently see Mars to the left, Saturn in the center, and Jupiter on the right. The galactic center is vibrant and you can make out various nebulae such as the Lagoon Nebula and the Trifid Nebula.

What equipment do you use?

I shoot with a Sony A7Riii and a Zeiss Batis 18mm.

The lens was provided to me by a generous sponsor, the Al Sadeem Observatory in Abu Dhabi.

My tripod is a 3 Legged Thing Leo, which is a carbon fiber travel tripod I recently purchased.

Sometimes I use a cheap intervalometer to help me with my continuous shots but I did this photo manually because I forgot it at the B&B. I take about 20 of each photo to stack them later on.

How did you compose the shot?

My settings are usually f/2.8, ISO 6400, and 20 seconds. Since I stack I can actually bump the ISO higher and lower my shutter speed but I just like the results I get from this better.

The composition was actually pretty simple because I only had one angle on the monument. I had to stop outside a fence so I wouldn’t be trespassing and the Milky Way was so easily recognizable that composing it was a no-brainer. I took 14 shots and left pretty quickly, it was windy and kind of cold.

What do you do in post-production?

I import my photos into Lightroom, turn off all noise reduction and do some very basic edits on these photos before loading them into my stacking software.

I use an application called Starry Landscape Stacker which helps me take all of the photos, layer them on top of each other, mask out the foreground and apply a median filter for noise reduction.

Stacking this many photos means there is virtually no noise and I can extract a lot of detail from the sky. For example, the nebulae in the heart of the galactic center are pretty easily visible and this is with an ultra wide-angle lens.

Once the stacking is done, I load them back into Lightroom and fix any hot pixels from exposing for so long, apply my normal edits and I’m all done.

Can you recommend any learning resources that have worked for you?

Hands down the best place to learn Astrophotography is Lonely Speck. I have no affiliation with them but Ian, the guy in the videos is such a great resource. I’ve never spoken to the guy but I almost want to write him a “thank you” email for the help he’s provided me.

The key is to go out and try for yourself though. No amount of tutorials or videos is ever going to actually make you better.

About you – Abdul Dremali

I live in Boston, which is far from any truly dark skies. I’m a Marketing Director and Consultant by day but am very passionate about photography as a hobby.

I got into photography because of my love of the night sky but have since expanded into regular landscape photography in general. I would like to go semi-pro as a landscape photographer but I’m too passionate about my day job to give it up. I sell a decent amount of prints and have done sponsored work and would love to continue both, if anyone wants to sponsor another astro trip, let me know!!

My Instagram is @advil but I’m most active on Twitter.

I sell prints to support my work here. I actually don’t buy cameras or gear unless it’s directly from selling prints or a sponsor, so I’d love your support!

If you’d like to contact me, I have a form on my website.

Abdul Dremali
Abdul Dremali

(This interview was first published on July 22, 2018)


8. Leonardo Orazi

Italy’s Leonardo Orazi outlines he goes about planning and composing his stunning images of the stars and deep space objects.

M78 (Credit: Leonardo Orazi)
M78 (Credit: Leonardo Orazi)

How do you plan your shots?

For planning my shots I use a website called Deep Sky Assistant (DSA).

This online tool allows you to enter the deep space object that you want to photograph, as well as the camera and telescope that you are using and then it gives you the coordinates and other details to enable you to locate what you are looking for.

In addition, I use the Perseus planetarium software for time calculation.

What astrophotography equipment do you use?

My equipment is very old! I have two astrophotography telescope setups – one for long focal and one for short:

  1. The first is a GSO RC 10″ with an AO system for long focal.
  2. The second is a Takahashi FSQ106 for a short focal.

All with a dedicated monochrome CCD camera.

I use my trusted Astro-Physics Mach 1 GTO equatorial mount on a wooden tripod.

I love QSI cameras. Sadly the founder and CEO Neal Barry passed away in September 2017, but I think they offer the best affordable CCD cameras for amateurs.

Sometimes I also use a modified Canon EOS 6D with a 24 mm lens.

(Credit: Leonardo Orazi)
(Credit: Leonardo Orazi)

How do you compose your shots?

I use a long exposure for long focal, 600 to 900s on LRGB filter, my shots usually span from one year to up to two or even five years. In the Alps the weather is very changeable – I need to be patient!

I also use my own suite of astrophotography automation called Voyager.

It is a powerful tool to automate all the processes and be sure all the shots have a really good standard of focus positioning. Please try it out.

What do you do in post-production?

I’m using CCDStack for calibration and stacking. It’s great software with few distracting functions.

For finishing processing, I use Photoshop CC. It’s the best for image processing and I have my own actions to use.

NGC4631 - The Whale Galaxy (credit: Leonardo Orazi)
NGC4631 – The Whale Galaxy (credit: Leonardo Orazi)

Are there any learning resources you can recommend?

What worked well for me are the Adam Block video lessons. He is a great astrophotographer sharing his knowledge.

And the experience after so many years, with so many shots taken, have helped me develop a clinical eye and consolidated processes to follow.

There are a lot of resources on the internet – just be sure that it is coming from a really skilled astrophotographer. Some people releases tutorials after doing astrophotography for just a few months and some programs can give the perception to have it all under control but they don’t necessarily do.

Pressing the button and following processes is different from understanding the physics or math behind it. Just my opinion!

About you – Leonardo Orazi

I’m an electrical and software engineer by profession. I work on automation and security systems.

I live in Turin, Italy and I do my astrophotography from Pragelato, a little town over the Alps near the French border.

I am passionate about astrophotography and still have many ambitions within it. In particular, I love deep sky images and their color.

If you want to hear from me and see more of my photos you can find me at starkeeper.it and my Voyager software suite for astrophotography can be found there too.

I also have a Flickr account and an Instagram profile.

Leonardo Orazi
Leonardo Orazi

(This interview was first published on June 9, 2018)


9. Marcus Cote

Marcus Cote is a 20-year-old freelance photographer from the Space Coast of Florida.

He shot this amazing ‘Milky Way selfie’ photo and has been kind enough to talk through how to shoot a Milky Way self portrait like this and to share some other photography tips. Enjoy!

Milky Way Self portrait
Milky Way selfie (Credit: Marcus Cote)

How did you plan the shot?

My main source of planning came from prior knowledge about photographing the Milky Way galactic core and its position in the night sky.

There are several factors that must be considered when trying to photograph the Milky Way. One of these major factors is the location of the visible core.

For much of fall and winter in the northern hemisphere, the Milky Way rises too late to be visible in the night sky.

By the time the Milky Way breaches the horizon, the sun is getting ready to rise or is already shining in the sky. This, of course, burns out any possibility of seeing the stars.

However, as winter comes to an end, the Milky Way rises earlier and earlier. Around February, the Milky Way begins rising just before sunrise, allowing for a small window of opportunity for viewing and photography.

This photograph was taken at about 5:30 a.m. within that slim window. Even at over an hour before sunrise, the colors of first light could be seen creeping from the horizon.

Another factor involved in photographing the Milky Way is the location of the moon and any available sources of light pollution.

The optimal time to see and photograph the Milky Way is during a new moon or moon phase that is not in the sky at night/early morning.

Along with the moon, city lights can affect viewing and photographing of the Milky Way. I use a website called Dark Site Finder to help find dark places near my area.

The particular Milky Way image was actually taken within the lights of my city. As I was facing east over the Atlantic Ocean, the light pollution did not totally ruin my view. Much clearer results can be achieved in dark places.

The last factor is cloud cover. The clearer the sky, the better the result of viewing and photographing. Lining up all of these factors can sometimes be quite tricky.

What equipment do you use?

I use Nikon DSLR cameras. This particular image was taken with a Nikon D7100 and Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 lens.

The camera and lens was placed on top of a Zomei carbon fiber ball-head tripod.

The ultra-wide combo and fairly wide aperture lens makes for an excellent rig to photograph the stars and night sky.

I also use a Nikon D750 camera with wide and telephoto lenses for some images.

Finally, I have a Nikon D3200, 18-55mm lens, and sound trigger to shoot rocket launches. I place them a few hundred feet away from the rockets as their powerful engines lift them into the sky.

Camera setup for photographing a rocket launch (Credit: Marcus Cote)
Camera setup for photographing a rocket launch (Credit: Marcus Cote)

How did you compose the Milky Way selfie shot?

I took a few test exposures facing east towards the location of the rising Milky Way.

I manually focused the lens to infinity using the available focus scale.

To the naked eye, the Milky Way appeared as a very faint patch of haze above the horizon but the camera sensor is able to pick up much more detail with a long exposure and high ISO sensitivity.

Once I was happy with a composition, I placed the camera on an internal 10-second self timer. This gave me time to run into the center of the frame and then stand very still for the duration of the 25-second exposure (shot at 10mm, ISO 2500, f/3.5).

Rocket launch (Credit: Marcus Cote)
Rocket launch (Credit: Marcus Cote)

What do you do in post-production?

For post processing I used Adobe Lightroom Classic CC. I use the classic version because I have always been familiar and comfortable with this layout.

The bulk of the edit involved basic adjustments such as brightness, contrast, blacks/whites, etc.

One major part of editing Milky Way images is finding a proper white balance. While I have done quite a few of these shots, the white balance never seems to come out the same. This can be due to sources of light pollution, time of day, and other factors.

Finally, the last part of my work flow is sharpening and noise reduction. Shooting long exposures at ISO 2500 creates quite a bit of noise that needs to be dealt with. I have learned all of my editing techniques through experimentation and the internet.

There is not a set formula for anything in the art of photography. Do what you feel or what you think looks the best.

The International Space Station passing in front of the moon (Credit: Marcus Cote)
The International Space Station passing in front of the moon (Credit: Marcus Cote)
Rocket launch long exposure photo (Credit: Marcus Cote)
Rocket launch long exposure photo (Credit: Marcus Cote)

Can you recommend any learning resources that have worked for you?

I always recommend to others to simply experiment and take photos around other people.

One of the best ways to learn knew tips, tricks, and ideas is to observe the processes of other photographers and ask questions.

Another way is to simply pick up a camera and play with settings/ideas until you discover what works best for you.

If these methods aren’t available, internet forums, sites, and videos are free and always at hand. These resources are applicable for Milky Way photos and any other types of photos.

About you – Marcus Cote

My surroundings are my main source of inspiration for almost all of my photography.

I take photos of rocket launches for a local news organization called Space Coast Times. This media accreditation allows me to set up sound-triggered cameras next to the launch pad as well as view the launches from nearby locations.

Beside rockets, I enjoy taking photos of space, surfing, sunsets, nature, and anything else that exists within the incredible place that I am lucky to call home.

For 2017 and 2018, I have been taking and uploading an original photo every single day as part of a 365-day photo challenge. Each photo must be taken on the day it is posted. I am constantly chasing creative and unique perspectives from the land, air, and water.

I also sell prints and display more of my work on my website. Mention this article for a discount on a print of almost any of my photos! See my website here.

You can also follow me on Instagram.

Marcus Cote
Marcus Cote

(This interview was first published on March 24, 2018)


10. Josh Sweet

New Zealand’s Josh Sweet takes us through how he took this ‘astro panorama’ of the Milky Way:

Astro Panorama (Credit: Josh Sweet)
Astro Panorama (Credit: Josh Sweet)

How did you plan the shot?

This shot wasn’t really planned. I knew I wanted to try and do a panorama but I didn’t know where to go or what to put in the foreground.

One night I went outside and checked the sky to see if it would be worth going out for photos, I saw the clearest Milky Way I have ever seen.

I knew I had to at least try to shoot so I went up the road a few kilometers until I could see all of the Milky Way arch.

I used the website In-The-Sky.org to see what direction the core would be in. The photos were taken at about 10:30 pm.

What equipment do you use?

This image was shot on the Sony A7ii with the Sony 28mm f/2. I used a wireless remote shutter.

I also love to use the Samyang/Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 and the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8.

How did you compose the shot?

This is a stacked panorama of 99 different exposures, each exposure being 5 seconds long at f/2 and ISO 6400.

I used a higher ISO because I was stacking to remove noise and it allowed me to use a shorter shutter speed and let me get out of the cold quicker.

What do you do in post-production?

I used Lightroom to do lens corrections and a slight white balance adjustment before I stacked them.

Stacking was done in Sequator to reduce noise with 5 images per stack. I then imported them all to an application called Hugin which takes all of your images and stitches them together to create a panorama.

After the panorama was created I imported it into Lightroom where I made basic adjustments; white balance, tone curve, hue/saturation, etc. Then I went into Photoshop to fix some small errors from the stitching.

All of the post-processing took 7-8 hours. Most of my post I learned myself just messing around in Lightroom and some Youtube tutorials.

Can you recommend any learning resources that have worked for you?

I can highly recommend the website Lonely Speck, especially their tutorial on stacked astro panoramas, which is actually where I got the idea for this photo from.

About you – Daniel Stein

I live in New Zealand and am just a hobbyist right now but I would love to make photography my job!

My favorite types of photography have to be astrophotography and car/motorsport photography.

You can find me on Instagram @joshsweet24 if you want to see more of my work.

Josh Sweet
Josh Sweet

(This interview was first published on July 28, 2018)


11. Daniel Stein

New Jersey photographer Daniel Stein answers a few questions about how he goes about taking his stunning astro images.

In particular, we focus on this amazing picture below of the Milky Way reflecting in a glimmering pool of water atop Cascade Mountain in the Adirondacks, New York:

(Credit: Daniel Stein)
(Credit: Daniel Stein)

How did you plan the shot?

I planned to shoot the Perseids meteor shower a few days prior to its peak over the weekend of August 11th, 2018. I decided to head up to the Catskills, NY as I knew the skies were decently dark without a terribly long round trip drive.

Thursday evening of August 10th came, and the weather reports started to show their worst. I had to rethink my strategy quickly. The following morning, I called to cancel my Catskills campground reservation and book a new one in the Adirondacks while on break at work.

According to multiple sources, it was supposed to be mostly clear further upstate. I used Google Weather, WeatherBug, Weather.com, and my favorite YR NRK Meteorologisk Institutt.

From there, I quickly researched locations and decided to hike Cascade Mountain that night. According to Alltrails and individual hiking blogs, it would be a good trail for my first of the 46er high peaks hikes. The Dark Site Finder map also indicated less light pollution than the Catskills.

I planned to head towards the Adirondacks right after work as the drive would take me twice as long as getting to the Catskills.

Not knowing what to expect, I grabbed my gear and set off at around 2 pm. I got to my campsite at 9 pm and began the hike at 10 pm. I summited around 11:30 pm and looked for compositions.

Hit It Rocky (Credit: Daniel Stein)
Hit It Rocky (Credit: Daniel Stein)

What equipment did you use?

I use a Canon 5D Mark IV and Nikon D850. For this shot in particular, I used the Canon with my 24-70 f/2.8L II. The lens is versatile, yet sharp even wide open making it great for astro work.

I brought two of my Manfrotto carbon fiber tripods up there with me as well. The tripods are light, yet extremely strong and capable of a heavier rig such as one with my iOptron Skyguider Pro.

My favorite setup is with my D850, Sigma 20mm f/1.4 ART, and the iOptron Skyguider atop the full-size Manfrotto tripod.

This setup allows for extremely detailed tracked shots of the Milky Way without having to use panorama techniques.

What settings did you go for?

This shot in particular was a challenge to compose as I wanted to verify the reflection in the puddle would be visible.

I used a tactical flashlight on low power to frame the shot in live view. Once composed, I digitally zoomed on Mars as it was bright making it easier to focus. With focus achieved, I took a 3-second exposure at ISO 25600 to gauge my composition.

After a couple of tweaks, I was satisfied, and calculated my actual exposure using the NPF rule. This allowed me to get a 20-second exposure with little to no star trails at f/2.8, but the calculated ISO speed of 6400 was too high for my liking. I decided to use the 5D’s built-in intervalometer to shoot an 11-shot sequence for stacking in post. These shots were taken with long exposure noise reduction off.

At the end of the sequence, I decided to take one 8-minute shot at f/2.8 and ISO 800 to capture the magic of the mountains. Had I not done this, they would appear as a silhouette which is not what I wanted.

I turned the built-in long exposure noise reduction on for this shot as it would do a good job canceling hot pixels.

Blue Dream (Credit: Daniel Stein)
Blue Dream (Credit: Daniel Stein)

What did you do in post-production?

In post, I first organized the shoot by its own folder with the date. Each camera inside the folder would have its own subfolder respectively. After an import into Lightroom, I exported the 11 shots into 16-bit TIFFs for stacking.

I used StarryLandscapeStacker for this and put the output TIFF file into Photoshop for further adjustments.

I then had to mask and create another stack sequence for the reflection in the puddle because the stars align in the opposite direction from the sky. I put this mask in the same Photoshop file.

I then opened the 8-minute foreground shot in Photoshop and masked the layers together and applied my arrangement of tweaks.

I typically steer away from presets, all of my work is done manually.

I am all self-taught, but I did take many photography classes throughout school. While these courses may not have directly improved my techniques, they have taught me how I myself can become a better photographer with every photo. Most of these classes were in the darkroom or analog-based.

(Credit: Daniel Stein)
(Credit: Daniel Stein)

How did you learn astrophotography?

The internet is the best place to learn about astrophotography, but it is not the best way to engage in the hobby.

You are best off by researching tutorials at your own pace, then going out yourself and putting them to work, catering what techniques specifically apply to your own workflow.

When you come back from a shoot, it may be helpful to post your work on a forum and receive feedback. Take every piece of feedback you get seriously; good or bad. Use it and learn from it.

About you – Daniel Stein

I do photography strictly as a hobby and I intend for it to remain as such. I am a commercial plumbing contractor in northern New Jersey, USA working in our family business here which has been around since the 60’s.

I got into astrophotography in 2012 but really started shooting more in 2014. I have since done many different shoots covering a plethora of genres. I have shot a lot of concerts, did a few years of photojournalism, portraits, and more. Astrophotography is still my number one.

You can find me on Instagram @danieljstein and my website, djsphotovideo.com.

Daniel Stein
Daniel Stein

(This interview was first published on September 2, 2018.)


Bonus: TolgaAstro

TolgaAstro is a company selling astrophotography equipment run by an astrophotographer himself -Tolga.

We spoke to him about his business and his own astrophotography.

What is TolgaAstro?

TolgaAstro is a non-traditional astrophotography equipment retailer. We are astrophotographers ourselves and we test everything we sell.

Before taking on a product, we will ask the manufacturer for a sample. We then use it ourselves to:

  1. be able to answer questions, and most importantly
  2. make sure it’s a product we can stand behind

Additionally, we do ground-up installations on location at remote observatories or in customers’ backyards.

How did it come about?

The idea came from a friend I was helping. He said he wished his vendor where he bought the equipment from did what I did for him. I knew exactly what he was talking about going through the same problems myself.

Now we offer support when astrophotographers need it most – at night. We answer questions nearly 24/7.

The company took off once the idea got around. We have been beating every sales expectation we had ever since we started.

Currently, we are running the business as a boutique shop making sure we are giving full attention to all of our customers. In the future, we would like to grow the operation to serve even more.

My favorite astrophotography image

Currently, my favorite image of mine is the 8-panel mosaic I did of the Andromeda Galaxy:

How did you take the shot?

It took a lot of planning and many hours of processing to put together.

I used the mosaic tool in SkyX to plan each panel and how much to overlap each panel. Just like terrestrial photography, each tile has to have a part of the tile next to it so they can be aligned later.

Not having a rotator made it more challenging as the camera angle did not perfectly match the position angle of the galaxy. I used a 15% overlap between tiles.

The second challenge is gradients. Each tile has light gradients from either light pollution or natural gradients in the sky such as moonlight etc. Simply lining up the tiles doesn’t work or the tiles become very obvious.

The resulting image is 9700X7500 pixels, 73 megapixels.

What equipment did you use?

I used a 14″ Planewave telescope with an APS-H size monochrome CCD camera.

The color data was taken with a small refractor and all were combined together using Pixinsight.

What’s the minimum equipment beginners need to get started on deep-sky astrophotography?

We recommend starting very small. Either a camera lens or an 80 mm refractor telescope is perfect for starting out.

Many beginners will make the mistake of having too large a telescope from the start, but many deep-sky objects are too large for long focal length telescopes.

For instance, the Andromeda galaxy is almost 3 degrees across the sky. For reference, a full moon as seen from earth is only half of a degree in the sky (and so Andromeda appears six times as wide as a full moon).

What are the ideal set-ups for people with different budgets?

The most important piece of equipment in astrophotography is the mount. This is the tripod and the tracking motor that carries the telescope and camera.

We recommend buying the best mount you can afford. You can take a nice image with a great mount and a decent lens but if you had a crappy mount and bad tracking, even the best lens is not going to take a decent image.

One should not underestimate the importance of the mount and stay away from “astrophotography packages” big retailers sell online.

The second and the best way to start is to use the existing equipment you already own.

You can use any DSLR/mirrorless camera with a wide-angle lens with manual settings, set it on top of your car on a bean bag and take wonderful pictures of the Milky Way.

How can people learn and how did you learn? Any tips for others?

I do not recommend forums. They are full of both good and bad information and it’s hard to know which is correct.

The best way to learn is to join your local astronomy club or find a mentor online whose work you admire and ask questions. Most people in this hobby are more than willing to share their experiences.

I learned the hard way by trial and error. One might say we learn from our mistakes as well as from our successes. However, it’s a lot cheaper in the end to do it right the first time.

About You – Tolga Astro

You can find our website and social media accounts here:

(This interview was first published on September 17, 2018)


Who are the best astrophotographers?

Thank you to all the amazing photographers featured here for giving their time to share how they go about their art!

Let us know in the comments below if there is anyone you think we should add to this piece.

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