Skip to Content

Astronomy

What’s new in 2016?

|Blog Updates|0 Comments

I usually like to wait until I’ve got a new astrophotography image to share before I make a post, but today I just felt like sharing some thoughts about where I am at with this blog. Astrobackyard.com is still in it’s early stages, but I have had quite a few vistors as of late and I am truly honored that you have decided to take a moment out of your busy day to view my astronomy images.

Cold winter night with stars

The Winter Blues

The skies have been painfully clouded over for what seems like the last 3 months, and I really haven’t got any decent imaging done since photographing the Horsehead Nebula in December.  There have been 1 or two frigid clear nights, but they have been flooded out by a bright full moon, or close to it.  On the bright side, these cloudy nights have given me the perfect opportunity to work on astrobackyard.com, and re-process some of my old astrophotography images.

Staying Social

I have been spending a fair amount of time connecting with fellow astrophotographers on social media.  There are so many amazing astronomy photos being shared on a daily basis all over the world.  I especially like the connections I have made on twitter and instagram as of late.  I have finally figured out how to comfortably use Google+, it was a long time coming.  There are some fantastic astrophotography communities over there that I would highly recommend joining.  My favourite communities would have to be Astrophotography and Night Photography.

Here are some of the night sky photos I have shared recently on Google+

Astrophotography Communities on Google Plus

Astrophotographers Everywhere

It’s funny, once you spread your “brand” across all of the available platforms, you notice a lot of the same names involved in your hobby.  I have had an unbelievable response to my new YouTube Channel, earning over 20 subscribers in just a few months.  I can’t wait to shoot and edit my next video for that channel, I already have some ideas, I just need the weather to cooperate.  My lonely Facebook page could use some love, so if you are a Facebook user, you may like to keep up to date with me by liking that page.

Office by Day, Backyard by Night

I really respect every night sky photo I see shared online, because I know first-hand how much work is put into each one.  It means staying up late during the week, overcoming technical difficulties and battling weather conditions, all for your passion for photography.  Having a clear vision for your end result is a powerful mindset that can carry you through the toughest of setbacks.  Astrophotography can also keep you away from your family and friends, as you can’t expect them to sit and wait outside with you for the perfect image. (I’ve tried)

If you work a 9-5 job like I do, you have to sacrifice a lot of sleep to keep both your hobby and career healthy. A dream of mine is to one day support my family by pursuing my photography passion.

 

Wide field image of the Pinwheel Galaxy

Recently Re-Processed – M101 – The Pinwheel Galaxy in Ursa Major

iOptron Sky Tracker

Plans for landscape astrophography in the spring

iOptron Sky Tracker MountOne aspect of my photography that I will be focusing on this year is landscape astrophotography.  I hope to capture some interesting and dynamic landscape images that include the night sky, weather it be the milky way, the constellations or the moon.  A true landscape image includes elements like foreground interest, composition and lead-in lines.  These touches are more difficult to execute when shooting at night!  I hope to purchase a small travel mount this year, such as an iOptron Sky Tracker Camera mount.  A lightweight, portable camera mount like this will open up new options including being able to shoot from multiple locations on a single night.  I hope to add this piece of equipment to my arsenal by spring.

Related Tags

Astrophotography by Trevor Jones

|Blog Updates|3 Comments

What is Astrobackyard.com?

This astrophotography blog creates an outlet for me to share images, information and tips about my favourite hobby. I received lots of help when I began this hobby in 2011, and it’s my turn to pay-it-forward to the next wave of astrophotographers. I have watched the hobby grow in the short years that I have been involved. There are more options and information out there now than ever before. The one aspect that does not change is a love for the night sky. The story behind the sites name is that the backyard is where I began my journey, and where I still spend the most time under the stars. Travelling to new locations around the continent with much darker skies is great, but happens only once or twice a year at max. My backyards is my personal window to the heavens, and it’s where I connect with the universe.

 

Lagoon Nebula by Trevor Jones

The Lagoon and Cat’s Paw Nebula by Trevor Jones

Why should I come back?

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy reading about a fellow astrophotographers experiences.  You enjoy hearing stories from someone who shares the same love for astronomy that you do.  If you use similar camera and astrophotography equipment, you might even learn a thing or two from my mistakes.  Maybe you just like to sit back and enjoy the hours of hard work I have put into each and every one of my photos.  Whichever reason you choose, I sincerely appreciate your company.

What to expect

I have recently overhauled my site to it’s current design. Astrobackyard.com is now set to become an authority in the astrophotography community.  You can expect more astronomy related news and events, more astrophotography tutorials and equipment reviews, and of course, all of my astrophotography adventures from the backyard, and beyond.  I plan to share astrophotography processing techniques that have helped me pull the absolute most detail out of my images.  Later this year I will be creating a video tutorial series on youtube that should cover the basics of my current workflow.  I am not an professional photographer, image-processor or scientist, but I am dedicated to improving my skills.  I am an active member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, as the current webmaster and newsletter editor for the Niagara Centre. Please follow me on Twitter for the absolute latest news.

@astrobackyard on Instagram

I post new and old astronomy photos in Instagram quite regularly.  Feel free to connect with me over there!

 

Astrobackyard on Instagram

 

Related Tags

LRGB Processing Technique for Orion

Astrophotography LRGB Processing Technique

A useful guide to processing the Orion Constellation using a DSLR Camera and Tripod

From the very moment this video started, I knew I was in for a real treat. The motion control time-lapse of the Milky Way moving across the sky was the perfect primer for this high production, quality tutorial.  Lonelyspeck.com is an informative and beautiful website created by Ian Norman –  A full-time traveller and photographer. In the following video he will explain how to process a photo of the Orion Constellation using the LRGB processing technique. He stacks multiple exposures to reduce noise, corrects vignetting, and greatly enhances the contrast and colour of the photo.  The exact camera settings he used, including ISO, exposure length and aperture details are shared.

 
 
 

He uses nothing more than a regular tripod and a DSLR camera equipped with a standard prime lens. The location he chose for this tutorial was Red Rock State Park in California.  The initial processing steps take place in Adobe Lightroom, a different approach than I currently use. Based on this tutorial, I may need to incorporate Adobe Lightroom into my astrophotography processing workflow.

Another major difference in this photographer’s technique is the fact that he stacked the photos directly in Adobe Photoshop as opposed to a third-party software like Deep Sky Stacker. I have heard of a lot of astrophotographers who swear by this method. One thing to note is that stacking via “photomerge” in photoshop will consume a large amount of RAM on your system, and could result in a system crash. Be sure to have your work saved, and have some time set-aside for this process to take place.

One of the biggest factors in the amazing results Ian was able to achieve, was the pristine dark skies he was able to shoot in. It is not possible to bring out the faint details seen here from the city. I can’t wait to try this tutorial myself. I am amazed at how much detail he was able to pull out from such short exposures. I hope that you find this tutorial as invaluable as I did.

 
 

Related Tags

Official Canon Astrophotography Video

|Camera|0 Comments

Astrophotography video from Canon

Canon shows you how to take great astrophotography and night sky photography 

The is the type of video I have envisioned creating for years now.  The video features award winning photographer Phil Hart, as he explains the basics of astrophotography in a simple and easy to understand way.  The video is extremely professional, and features stunning images and time-lapses throughout. Not surprising – seeing as how the video was published by Canon Australia!  If you are new to astrophotography, I hope you enjoy the video and maybe even learn a thing or two:

Related Tags

Astronomy at Ontario Campgrounds

|Nebulae|4 Comments

One of the best ways to enjoy astronomy under a dark sky is to go camping. Campgrounds are usually well away from city light pollution, meaning that you will be able to enjoy many more stars in the sky than you are used to seeing at home. In mid-summer, the sun sets very late at the campgrounds in Ontario, and most campers are settling in for cozy sleep in their sleeping bag. But if you’re anything like me, your night is just beginning

Astronomy at Ontario Campgrounds

Dark Skies at Ontario Provincial Parks

During the summer months, I like to leave my light-polluted backyard in the city and travel to some Ontario Campgrounds for some astronomy camping.  My two favorite Ontario parks are Rock Point Provincial Park and Selkirk Provincial Park.  They both offer fantastic dark skies looking south over Lake Erie.

 

Astronomy at Ontario Campgrounds

The Milky Way from Selkirk Provincial Park Campgrounds

Stargazing at Selkirk Provincial Park

I had the pleasure of spending a clear, moonless night under the stars at Selkirk Provincial Park in late July 2015.  Despite being in the middle of busy season, I was able to book a campsite with open views of the sky.  Because the park is located on the Northern shore of Lake Erie, the light pollution to the south is minimal.  

I decided to use my 3″ Explore Scientific triplet Apochromatic Refractor to image, as my 8″ Orion astrograph has been a bit of a headache for me lately, but that’s another story.

Selkirk Ontario Campgrounds

Dusk at the park. Clear skies in the forecast!

Astronomy at Ontario Campgrounds

It is important to book your campsite around the time of the new moon, to ensure that you are taking full advantage of the limited light-pollution from these areas.  You will also want to make sure that you book a campsite that has an open window to the night sky, and is not blocked by the surrounding mature trees.

A useful website for previewing each site at Ontario parks campgrounds is Ontario Parks Campsite Pictures.  This way you can have a look at each site before you book!

The sky-window from my campsite:

I was hoping to have clear views directly south from my campsite (Site 85), but I ended up having a larger window to the West than expected.  This changed my imaging target from Sagittarius, to an object high up above in Cygnus.  The wispy nebulosity in NGC 7000 – The North America Nebula captured my attention once again.  

I settled on an area that included the Pelican Nebula – an object have not yet given a fair attempt at before.

Astronomy at Ontario Campgrounds

Our tents and telescopes are set up for a night of deep-sky imaging

My modified Canon Xsi DSLR did a good job at picking up the bright pink and red nebulosity of the Pelican Nebula. I wonder how many more shutter actuations my old 450d can handle?  

That old DSLR has been through every type of outdoor condition you could think of – including being completely covered in ice in the heart of winter. If I had to guess, I would say that this camera has at least a 60,000 actuation shutter count.  Maybe much more!

IC 5070 - Pelican Nebula

IC 5070 – The Pelican Nebula – Photographed from Selkirk Provincial Park

Pelican Nebula – Image Details

Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 with WO Flat III 0.8x FR/FF
Mount: Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro Synscan
Guiding: Meade DSI Pro II and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: Orion Mini 50mm
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Modified)
ISO: 1600
Total Exposure: 1 hour, 50 Minutes (22 x 300s)
Processing Software: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop CC
Support Files: 15 darks

As per my usual routine, I shot several exposures (In this case 5 minutes each) at ISO 1600. This is the max ISO for this camera, and does produce a fair amount of noise.  Luckily, most of this noise is cancelled out in the stacking process by using dark frames.  

Dark frames are simply exposures of the same length and temperature as “light” frames, but with the lens cap on the camera. I think of it as – Any data that the camera picks up with the lens cap on, is noise. There are no photons to collect.  

With stacking software (Like DeepSkyStacker), the isolated noise data is removed from the final image. There are several tutorials online to better describe this process.  I will go over the stacking process and workflow in a future post, for anyone interested.  For now, I will share a link to the software I use; DeepSkyStacker.

It is currently the only program I use, and I am very happy with it.

Reviewing Light Frames in Adobe Bridge

Stacking my exposures to create the final version of the Pelican Nebula image

Stargazing at it’s finest

The Milky Way was clearly visible to the naked-eye, a sure sign of limited light-pollution and dark skies.  Aside from astrophotography, stunning views of the summer constellations and Messier objects are within reach to anyone with a pair of binoculars or a telescope.  An amazing surprise we had that night was beautiful pink aurora overhead to the North!  

I heard reports from back home in St. Catharines that it was quite a show around 2am. Rarely do I see the Northern Lights from Southern Ontario, so it is always a treat. A lazy yellow waning crescent moon rose out of the Eastern horizon around 2am, and with that, it was time to get some much needed sleep!

Northern Lights from Selkirk PP

The Northern Lights as seen from our campgrounds

Selkirk Provincial Park is a great place to go camping with your friends and family in the summer.  What attracted me to this park was the dark skies to the South, and the proximity to my home.  It was just over an hour drive from St. Catharines.  

This was my second time to the park this year.  Our visit in late May was a very wet experience as their were intense thunderstorms the night we stayed.  This time, however, I got the trip I wanted with warm, clear skies all night long. If you are also looking to enjoy some astronomy at Ontario campgrounds, I should remind you to check the forecast and moon phase calendar first.  

This way you can appreciate the advantages of having darker skies than you are used to in the city.

Here are some astrophotography tips that will help you understand what it takes to get a decent photo of the night sky. 7 Astrophotography Tips

Deep Sky Astrophotos taken at Ontario Campgrounds

North America Nebula

The North America Nebula – Rock Point Provincial Park.

DSLR astrophotography example

The Andromeda Galaxy – Rock Point Provincial Park.

Related Tags