My travels thru Astrophotography
January 22, 2018
My name is George C. Lutch and I have been an amateur astrophotographer/astronomer off and on for over 30 years. I live in North Central Texas which is where my journey in astronomy began. I was introduced to astronomy when I attended a presentation about the big bang theory. It was shortly afterward that I attended my first star party. Following the star party, I purchased my first telescope and got the astrophotography bug.
When I started doing astrophotography it was not a forgiving activity. The equipment was just at the beginning of being affordable to the masses and it was somewhat labor intensive from an operator perspective. My setup consisted of a Celestron Super C8 on an alt az mount with a wedge, a 35 mm film camera, and a Wil Tirion sky atlas to chart my course of the night sky.
Skip forward to today as I basically took several years in between off from the photographic aspect of astronomy and just did the visual. Now we have digital cameras, mounts that can go to any object in the sky and keep it in the field of view reliably with guiding.I spent hour upon hour with a camera hooked up to my Super C8 guided via the finder scope with a crosshair eyepiece.
A couple of years ago I attended a training on how to take photos of the Milky Way using your DSLR and a tripod. This was over several days and in Yosemite, so camping was needed. For me this was a win/win as I love camping and wanted to learn how to take photos of the night sky.
This training class also included how to use Adobe Lightroom to bring out the best aspects of the photo. It was taught by a National Geographic photographer by the name of Jesse Summers who showed me how wonderful the whole process is. I fell in love with astrophotography all over again.
I soon started to focus in on dark sky objects. This required a whole new set of tools. I ultimately purchased “The Beast” (my Celestron 1100 Edge HD with a CGEM DX mount) which I used for several years. I started to use the Hyperstar attachment and am impressed with the ease of use and results this gave me.
When I started using my 1100 Edge HD scope I joined the Fort Worth Astronomical Society and attended the APSIG meetings. Attending these astrophotography specific meetings opened my eyes to new ways to take photos using specific software and cameras.
Currently I use Sequence Generator Pro for equipment control, PHD2 for guiding, and PixInsight for post processing. The biggest hurdle to using these software packages is the difficulty in finding training. For SGP you can find info on The AstroImaging Channel and Main Sequence Software. For PHD2 you can find info at Open PHD. For PixInsight you can find lots of videos on YouTube or you can pay a monthly subscription to www.IP4AP.com. These are not the only software packages out there but the ones I use and feel comfortable with.
Recently I upgraded my mount to the new Celestron CGX-L which allows me to carry more astrophotography equipment. I really enjoy learning the process of taking the pictures. Here are a couple of my more recent photos as well as my current setup.
Clear skies to everyone from me and “The Beast”.