Monday, January 18, 2016

Best of Year 4: My Highlights from 2015

I can't believe another year has passed! I'm usually someone who gets tired of hobbies after 6 months and moves on, but it seems the challenge of astrophotography combines all my interests into something with real staying power. I've made incremental steps this year, witnessed some amazing nighttime displays, and continued to practice.

It's been 4 years since I started playing around with night sky photos. I've turned each year into a gallery with my best, favorite, or most memorable photos [Year 1, Year 2, Year 3]. I think I'm reaching the upper limit of what I can do with my current gear. I think the next step is going to be some new glass or a reflecting telescope to gather more light. I'll give that a shot on the motor driven mount and see how frustrated I get before upgrading to a computerized mount. All in due time!

But for now, here are my accomplishments from the past 12 months:

4 planets in one shot
I caught a traffic jam of planets in the morning before work. It was the most planets I caught in the same photo at once. Always nice to see Mercury peaking up over the horizon. Although the conjunction wasn't exceptionally close, it was cool to ponder the shape of the solar system from this scene. 

I called this photo 'celestial chimney sweeps' it was a fun twist on an otherwise ordinary conjunction between the moon and Venus. There's something about having foreground objects that make me love photos so much more. That's something I keep telling myself I'll work on, finding better composition. 

comet lovejoy
Comet Lovejoy from last year, only the 3rd comet I've photographed with a visible tail. I'm not sure why this same deep sky treatment didn't work on other comets, but either way I'm glad I got both color and a tail from a stacked image.

last boots on the moon
The last boots to leave footprints on the moon. I love this photo and this artifact that marks an end to human activity on the moon. It's so sad and cool at the same time. I'm glad I got to spend some time at the museums in Washington DC while I was in town for a conference. It was lonely walking around by myself, but I got to take my time and read almost everything. 

april 2015 lunar eclipse
The April 2015 lunar eclipse was only partially visible from Indiana. I guess I shouldn't complain, I had clear enough skies to see two lunar eclipses in the same year. This was a fun morning because I chased the moon down the street to watch it after it went behind the houses in my backyard.

perseid meteor 2015
A really nice Perseid meteor and plenty of star trails. This was one of the first night sky events I caught after my mother in law let me borrow her lenses again. I caught a total of 8 meteors that night. 

super blood moon
The September 2015 "super blood moon" a total lunar eclipse and supermoon at the same time. I was lucky to catch it between patches of haze. I didn't get the total sequence, but I was able to at least see it before the clouds rolled in. Lucky break on this one, but not the best atmospheric conditions for clean photos.

purple red sunset
An epic sunset, nothing too technical about it, just a nice combination of colors and a highlight of Indiana's gorgeous sky

dslr andromeda
My personal best Andromeda and one of my only thorough-treatment deep sky photos of the year. I find that the more I know, and the more steps I add to my process, the less I go out. I guess that's just how it goes. Nevertheless, this is an example of what my DSLR gear is capable of with my best effort.

crescent moon over roof
This shot of the crescent moon setting over my neighbor's roof with earthshine. I actually made a video sequence out of back to back shots to show the moon setting behind the roofline.

comet catalina dslr gif
This GIF showing the movement and color of Comet Catalina. This was a fun night and I dabbled with a variety of media for this session. I did a timelapse of me setting up my gear, I did this GIF along with single frame photos, and I tried to do a thorough deep sky treatment but couldn't get much more than a fuzzy blob in the end.

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