Snob Photography

Sometimes I look through the viewfinder, and I am overwhelmed with pure aesthetics. I follow the light where it takes me.  This mood is relatively rare, and the results in retrospect are not always great. In fact, frequently the results are just trite.

But sometimes they aren’t.

I have never understood the contempt some photographers have for digital. I save almost all the photos I’ve ever taken.  Pre-digital photos sit in boxes, slowly fading, but the digital photos look just the same as when I first took them. It is quite possible they could look the same ten thousand years from now.

But honestly, much of the time I take pictures as memos.  Pictures out bus windows, just to remember what I saw.  Pictures of something on an ad, pictures of the wifi password at a hotel. These pictures are useful, rather than beautiful or interesting.

Here’s a picture of the almost dry Li River in China.  A memory:

Li River


I recently acquired a monochrome astro camera with somewhat higher resolution.  Here are a few attempts:

M42 - Orion Nebula
The tight cluster of 4 stars at dead center is known as the “Trapezium Cluster”. It’s barely resolved in this image.
M33 in Triangulum
M33. Low surface brightness, but if you look closely, there is a lot of detail.
Horsehead-Flame nebulae
Horsehead Nebula — I like this image. The Horsehead is an object I find intrinsically beautiful.
The Heart Nebula
The Heart Nebula. Upside down from the usual view.
Wide view of Orion, processed for low brightness
Fairly dim view of the Orion Nebula. Looks like a landing bird, or maybe a falling angel. The Trapezium is discernible on zooming in.
The Pleiades
The Pleiades. Light reflecting off a dust cloud, usually a beautiful blue.


The Orion Nebula
Originally a color shot, but it looked better in black and white.


The Horsehead
Alnitak is the bright star a little lower right of center.

Orion is back… Interestingly enough, at this angle the Horsehead Nebula is a decoration on the back of a much larger horse running off to the lower right.  At least it looks that way to me.

My first recognizable photo of the Horsehead was taken about a year ago.  It is amazing what better equipment and tools will do.


The cocoon nebula — IC5146

“My precious…”


Miscellaneous projects

A number of pictures taken over the past few days of rare clear sky.

Nebula in Cepheus
Nebula in Cepheus
IC63 — small nebula illuminated by a nearby star
NGC7741 — Barely resolved barred spiral in Pegasus
bubble nebula
The Bubble Nebula, again. Next to Cassiopeia “salt and pepper” cluster.
Another try on the Iris Nebula
The Pleiades. Usually the nebulosity is blue.
Dragonfly cluster, also known as the Owl cluster
Pacman Nebula
Flaming Star Nebula

Not Neptune…

My plan was simple — over a period of number of days, take a picture of the sky where my telescope thought Neptune would be, stack the images, and find a line of dots against the fixed stars.  Didn’t work.

There are 4 sub-images (“subs”, in the lingo), taken on 09/15, 09/21, 10/03, and 10/10.  25 days.

Here’s the partially processed stack, straight from the computer. Note that you select one of the subs as a reference, then try to fit the others on top.  This is a full frame, 3.5×2.5 degrees in the sky:

I find this image aesthetically pleasing, though it is disconcerting that the 4 subs were so far from alignment.  Somehow I thought the tracking software in my rig would do a better job.  But in any case… Neptune takes 165 years to make a trip around the sun — 360 degrees in 165 years, or about 2.2 degrees a year.  That’s about .006 degrees a day, or around 20″/day, on average, or an arcminute every 3 days.  So, maybe 6-7 minutes over 25 days?  A little less than half a cm on my screen, that would be.

But, averages.

Because of Earth’s motion around the sun, Neptune stops, then goes retrograde for a while, every year, and I don’t know where we are in this cycle.  So maybe it didn’t move at all.  I could probably get Stellarium to show me, but for the time being I’ll chalk it up as a failed experiment that gave me a pretty picture.

Elephant’s Trunk?

Elephant's Trunk

I believe the elephant’s trunk is dangling down from the upper middle. This is a composite of 100 2-minute exposures; processed with Pixinsight and Gimp.  Better pictures taken by more experienced amateurs with better equipment can be seen here. The full field of view here is actually known as IC 1396, and it’s part of a much larger complex.  Here’s a great view of the whole complex.

There is a bright star dead center.  You can’t tell in this image, but that is a group of at least three stars.  Here’s the center at full resolution:

center view

This is the combined image; once you know what you are looking for the center star does look a bit suspicious.

Here’s the center without the nebulosity, from a single 2-minute exposure:

Just stars

One star is clearly separated, and there is a hint of another in the lower right.  Other exposures show that split more clearly.   This is at the limit of the resolution of my telescope.


The Wizard Nebula

Wizard Nebula

NGC7380, the “Wizard Nebula”.  It’s a bit small for this telescope.  Doesn’t look much like a wizard to me — Maybe that’s him walking out of the darkness towards the right?

The Soul Nebula

Soul Nebula

IC 1848, if I remember correctly from last night when I was collecting this.  The Heart Nebula is just a little down and to the right.  Merging with the previous image, we get something like this:

heart and soul

More careful processing is needed to get a seamless transition between the images, but you get the idea…

The last two nights were clear and mostly moonless.  I have images of several other objects that may be OK.