Saturday, October 10, 2009

Star hunter update

The wife and I took a trip around the Four Corners area a couple of weeks ago to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. It may have occurred to you that my acquisition of a new camera and small telescope was specifically timed to coincide with this trip, which is absolutely true.

It wasn't so much the beautiful landscapes or wildlife that motivated me to spend a bunch of money and haul thirty extra pounds of crap with me all across the West. It wasn't even the fact that we were going to be in Albuquerque for the first day of the Balloon Fiesta. (You will have to suffer through more of all that when I work my way through the 2 gigabytes of pictures I brought back.) No, the thing that I really wanted to see was the night sky.

This picture of Orion, taken from the parking lot of the lodge in Mesa Verde National Park, tells the story. There are several hundred stars visible in this shot. On the clearest night at home I can see maybe a dozen in the same area. I spent most of both nights at Mesa Verde in and out of the room, alternately looking at the sky and reconfiguring my equipment* for another series of shots. Luckily for the wife, our other nights were all spent more or less in town, so she was able to get some sleep eventually.

Focusing a long lens on specks of light in total darkness is harder than it looks, and several weeks of rain preceding our vacation kept me from getting familiar with the camera settings that would be best for various types of night photos, so this was as much a learning experience as anything. And it's not really practical to take very long exposures without a tracking mount, so I was limited in what I could try. But besides a couple of wide star field pictures like the one above, I got several really good pictures of the moon.

It's what all the cool kids are doing, anyway. Oh, I also got some really good bird pictures with the new scope, but that's another post.
* Heh, heh.


  1. *schwing* very, very cool... on the clearest, darkest nights, i look for the crab nebulae in the belt of orion... heh, heh, heh... orion has crabs....

  2. Wow that is an amazing picture of the moon!

  3. I was just telling Greg that I want to learn how to take pictures of the moon and stars. Any tips? Beautiful shots!

  4. daisyfae: heh, heh. you said 'nebula'. Oh, wait.
    WhisperingWriter: Thanks. And thanks for stopping in.
    Aleta: There is a decent overview at The top three things for me are: automatic cameras will always overexpose night sky objects; you will have to focus manually; a remote/cable shutter release or timer shot will help a lot.

  5. Gorgeous pics and the MOON shots? Exquisite.

  6. Very nice shot. And thanks for the link(s)!

  7. I just have to, have to, have to echo this: Those are incredible photos.