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Astrophotography - Introduction


Of all the topics in astronomy, nothing seems to garner more interest than astrophotography. Let's face it, the Universe is replete with objects and phenomenon that defy the ordinary and offer some of the most spectacular photography ever seen.

For example, you may want to look at the Messier page for some great images - or even check out our Image Gallery.

For more advanced CCD techniques and resources, go straight to the Advanced Topics.

I am one of the purists: trained in photography and imagery, my job uses a wide variety of photographic and imaging equipment. I cringe at the thought of easy "point-and-shoot" cameras, but I am well aware that the images produced by these devices are acceptable. What's even more cringing is the thought that CCD and computer technology make the would-be photographer believe that anyone is capable of capturing wonderful, professional quality images.

Nothing is farther from the truth.

Photography is an art, regardless of whatever technology is used to drive it; but that does not mean every cannot be a photographer. There are three very important factors in the creation of a photographer:

  1. Patience
  2. Experience
  3. Patience

Yes I said patience twice - and photographers know what I am talking about. Ansel Adams is arguably one of the finest photographers that has ever lived:

This 1966 images of Scripp's Pier demonstrates his ability to use light and shadows to enhance the finest details while providing a panoramic overall view of the subject. He also uses some of the finest photography equipment available. But what is little known is that he has been quoted saying "often I find only one usable image from an entire roll of film."

This is what I mean about patience. Regardless of experience, factors outside the control of the photographer greatly influence the overall result. In my world of medical imaging, I also teach others the tips and techniques involved with my photography (I have some very impressive images of the human retina - if you want to see them, let me know). Of all the things I teach, I say this: the photographers skill only accounts for 20% of overall image quality - quality of the subject, environmental factors and equipment status account for the rest.

This section on astrophotography will introduce the world within a world that provides not only valuable data, but some very impressive images as well. Be sure to take a look at the Additional Resources for more information, and feel free to browse the gallery.

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