Astrophotography: An Introduction to Film and Digital Imaging

Astrophotography: An Introduction to Film and Digital Imaging

by H.J.P. Arnold


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Astronomy buffs often wish they could photograph what they see through their telescopes. Camera buffs often wish they knew the techniques for capturing majestic yet elusive heavenly bodies. Astrophotography brings these two hobbies together in one complete resource.

This big, fully-illustrated book offers:

  • Practical guidance and authoritative advice
  • Equipment resources and contacts
  • Brand-new star charts and illustrations
  • Techniques for conventional and digital photography

Step-by-step instructions are given for choosing and using the right camera, shooting with a telescope, getting the best out of black and white and color film, and developing pictures at home or while traveling.

Specific instructions are given for photographing:

  • The Sun, the Moon and the planets
  • Meteors and comets
  • Stars and satellites
  • Rainbows, halos, and other phenomena in the night sky

This new edition also includes the latest information for shooting digital and dedicated astro CCDs (charge-coupled device) for capturing faint nebulae and distant galaxies. Generously illustrated with 100 color and black and white photographs, Astrophotography is an attractive and easy-to-use reference.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781552978016
Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
Publication date: 04/05/2003
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.75(h) x (d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

H.J.P. Arnold is the space and astronomy correspondent of the British Journal of Photography. He has written several books and many articles on astronomical imaging.

Table of Contents

Foreword by David Malin

Chapter 1: The sky above

Chapter 2: Another world

Chapter 3: Equipment

Chapter 4: Films

Chapter 5: Procedures

Chapter 6: The Moon

Chapter 7: The Sun

Chapter 8: The stars

Chapter 9: The planets

Chapter 10: The Earth is a planet too!

Chapter 11: Comets and the zodiacal light

Chapter 12: Meteors, satellites, aircraft and UFOs

Chapter 13: Processing

Chapter 14: Project photography

Chapter 15: The way ahead: Telescopes and new horizons CCDs and the digital world

Chapter 16: Foreign Skies




The pages of astronomy magazines often contain beautiful and awe-inspiring pictures, many of which are the work not of professional astronomers but of amateurs. With rare exceptions, those who took the pictures owe nothing to luck and everything to application and hard work. But they all had to start somewhere, and this book is intended to help the newcomer to astrophotography along the first part of the road that may lead to publication in the astronomy magazines and elsewhere. Even if it does not, there is still the enormous satisfaction and enjoyment to be derived from one of the most fascinating hobbies.

Telescopes do not figure prominently in this book. Although they are the astronomer's chief tool, they require knowledge and skill to operate competently. I believe there is a valuable apprenticeship to be served by the budding astrophotographer using basic photographic equipment before attempting to use the telescope. The apprenticeship will not be dull, for many astronomical objects can be captured with just the photographic essentials — a fixed camera and interchangeable lenses — without recourse to any astronomical equipment. However, binoculars are a valuable accessory: not only do they enhance our eyesight, and have a wide field of view, but they can also be used for other, non-astronomical purposes.

This is the third edition of a treatment which first saw print in 1988 so the approach must have been well received by a considerable number of readers. Once again I envisage two major readerships. The first are amateur astronomers, or those who at least know something about astronomy already, who are contemplating a move into astrophotography. The second are amateur photographers who possibly know little or nothing about astronomy, but who have admired astronomical images and are wondering what is involved. Writing for two readerships inevitably means that for one or the other a few parts of the book will contain little that is new. For example, Chapter 1 ("The sky above") can be skipped by the astronomers, while the photographers may wish to pass over Chapter 13 ("Processing"). Even for the photographers, though, Chapter 2 ("Another world") is a reminder that in many ways astrophotography is very different from everyday photography.

The major change in this edition is a greatly enlarged section on CCD and digital imaging techniques as well as a thorough updating of discussion on other items of more advanced equipment, such as "GO TO" telescopes. All of these are gathered together in the two-part Chapter 15 "The way ahead." It may be that some time hence, when CCDs increase in size, digital manipulation becomes far more widespread and those newly taking up the hobby come increasingly from computer-literate age groups, film will be but rarely used. But that time is not yet and at the very least it still has a valuable role to play in the hands of some of the masters as well as those who are negotiating the learning curve. The avalanche of advanced equipment that continues to be introduced in the astronomical market place constitutes a great temptation and to beginners probably the soundest advice one can give is — go easy, take your time, research and discuss before making purchases and, in the early stages at least, do not forget what can be done with the "mark one" eyeball, a pair of binoculars and maybe a simple camera.

In preparing this new edition, requests for information and assistance in the US were speedily answered by Dennis di Cicco (Sky & Telescope), Julie Sherwin (Astronomy), Mike Parkes (Starry Night Software) and Sandra McGee. In the UK, staff at Agfa, Fuji, Ilford, Kodak and Konica responded helpfully to my requests for information about new films and where appropriate sent samples for testing. On the processing front, Tetenal and Fotospeed (Jay House Ltd) did likewise. Neil Bone and Ron J. Livesey, directors of the British Astronomical Association Meteor and Aurora sections respectively, provided information quickly, and I am also grateful to Keith Perryman and Caroline Lawrence for their assistance. Distributors have a valuable role to play in making sure that expenditure on sometimes costly items of equipment by amateurs is appropriate and well directed and I am grateful for information about the latest trends to Ninian Boyle of Venturescope Limited and Tony Shapps of The Widescreen Centre. (Both also allowed me to borrow samples of equipment for photographing as well as testing on one or two occasions!)

I not infrequently marvel at the work of other exponents of astronomical photography and imaging and am delighted that three leading talents — Damian Peach in the UK and Dr Robert Gendier as well as Sally and Bill Fletcher in the US — agreed to contribute fine examples of their work to this new edition, the appeal of which can only be enhanced thereby. The same applies to three excellent images retained from the Second Edition and contributed by Akira Fujii, Lanny Ream and Willem Hollenbach. Reference to high quality astronomical imaging inevitably leads me to David Malin. David's name and reputation for creaking superlative images and deriving hitherto hidden information from them must be known to those with only the sketchiest knowledge of astronomy and its techniques. That being the case, I consider myself both fortunate and honored that he has seen fit to contribute a foreword.

Finally I extend thanks to Robin Gorman who, perhaps in a moment of weakness, kindly agreed to read the text so that not too many errors large and small survived into print. However, in the time honored way, I must of course confirm that any deficiencies that do remain are to be laid at my door and nobody else's.

H.J.P. Arnold
Havant, Hampshire.

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