The art of astrophotography
Ever since the invention of the camera, people have tried to photograph the night sky. Compared to other photographic disciplines, however, astrophotography presents the unique challenge of working with extremely low light levels at very long focal lengths. It has traditionally been dominated by professional astronomers who needed to collect data for their research, with only the most fanatical amateurs prepared to put in the enormous amounts of time and money required to produce even half-way decent images.
But in recent years, the field has been transformed by the explosion of cheap, high-quality digital sensors, and capable editing software. Dedicated amateurs are routinely publishing photographs that are easily as beautiful as the best work of the Hubble Space Telescope, while even total beginners can press their cameraphones to the eyepiece of a telescope to snap their very own photograph of Saturn.
In this talk, we discuss the basic process of producing a decent image, from capturing the raw data, to the use of stacking algorithms to boost signal, to the post-processing techniques required to convert all the faint details lurking in the data into a breathtaking image.
About the speaker:
Allen Versfeld is the Director of the Astrophotography Section of the Astronomical Society of South Africa. He has been a dedicated amateur astronomer since childhood, and works as a QA and Integration specialist in the defense industry. Allen is also the publisher of, and lead writer for Urban Astronomer, a popular astronomy website. He has recently begun experimenting with video astrophotography, capturing time-lapse footage to speed up astronomical phenomena. He lives on the Crocodile River Nature Reserve, despite the surprisingly high levels of light pollution.