A Tribute to my Fellow Astronomers

Learning the Ropes to Capture the Stars

Most of astrophotography is learnt from trial and error, spending hours on processing and reprocessing, and trying to make equipment work. However, there are also many times when one needs to make a "jump", such as to figure out how to use a new piece of equipment, or how to navigate a new processing software. While these can often be learned alone, the community of astrophotographers are often more than willing to share their craft. 

The people mentioned here are by no means comprehensive, due to the collaborative nature of astrophotography. But I hope to include as many as I can, and give credit where credit is due. The images here are shown in chronological order, and as such the people mentioned will also follow this order, and NOT in increasing or decreasing orders of importance

Before going into the individuals, it must also be noted that astrophotography is so convenient these days, especially since many kind enthusiasts have been willing to share a wealth of information online for free. From youtube tutorials on the basics of setting up equipment to full processing workflows on PixInsight, these people have not only helped me but countless others, and it is through this collaborative spirit around the world that allows hobbyists to learn very quickly. In fact, most of my work today is based on narrowband processing, which was learnt mainly through these amazing online sources who I unfortunately couldn't possibly remember. So without further ado, here are those who have personally helped me:

1. George Wong

George is a local astrophotographer who was also one of the first people to create excellent images of the Milky Way in Singapore. One of the key things I learnt from him was that even if you shot only 10 second sub-exposures, it is still possible to create excellent images by stacking huge numbers of images. Even if a 10 second exposure didn't seem to have much detail, many people often underestimated the power of extreme image stacking. It was from this that I attempted images with integration times exceeding an hour, even if each of my exposures were less than a minute. 

Here was how my images changed, even just shooting with an unmodified DSLR from the most light polluted country in the world.

Before

(With an unmodified DSLR, a cheap newtonian and tracking mount)

After

(still with identical equipment, and also from Singapore)

Other images shot using the new technique, also with an unmodified DSLR (around Singapore as well):

Omega Centauri

(also, credits to Thomas Yip for introducing us to this dark area in Kranji)

Orion Nebula

(also, credits to Dave Ng for introducing us to this dark area in Venus Drive)

2. Remus Chua (www.CelestialPortraits.com)

Remus is a prolific Singapore-based astrophotographer who has acclaimed works published around the world. Remus organises regular trips to a dark-sky site in Mersing, which I was a regular at. He also taught me drift alignment and autoguiding, as well as introduced me to the processing software PixInsight, which I still use to this day. As he is an avid hunter of dark skies, we have also went onto imaging trips to Australia (which was my first overseas astro trips where equipment had to be flown). One side note worth mentioning was that Remus was also a great cook, which turned out to be important when the B&B we were at was far from the nearest town. Lastly, he has also loaned me some equipment (SII and OIII narrowband filters) which gave me my first taste at narrowband. 

Here was how my images changed, showing the impact of longer subs, dark skies and new processing software. 

Before

After

(also, credits to Michael Matthews for selling me his astro-modified DSLR, and Rai Low for gifting me a copy of PixInsight)

Other images shot using the new technique with a modified DSLR and various dark sky sites:

The Eagle Nebula

(Shot in Mersing)

Chamaeleon Dark Cloud I

(Shot from a Dark Sky B&B in Australia I discovered by chance on Google Maps, but is now gone)

3. Mooey Ong

Unlike George and Remus, Mooey has one foot firmly in astrophotography, as well as the other in visual astronomy. As an owner of many high end equipment, Mooey was very open to letting others use his telescopes for extended periods of time. It was through Mooey's that I began becoming productive from my home window, as he loaned me his Astro-Physics 130GTX which provided much better light gathering power than the 85mm I owned previously. It also inspired me to eventually buy a 5" refractor of my own. This was also around the time I got my 3nm OIII and SII filters, which allowed me to do productive narrowband imaging (with colour images) and figure out my way around the complex processing techniques. 

Here was how my images further improved, even comparing an image from a dark sky vs one from my home window:

Before

(Shot in Mersing)

After

(Shot from my home window)

Other images shot using Mooey's AP130GTX, also from my home window:

4. Others

Obviously, this list isn't going to be comprehensive, and there are many others who have also helped in their own little ways. Notable mentions include Thomas Yip, Dave Ng, Gavin Khoo, Michael Matthews, Gerardyn Brittos, Rai Low, Chit Ko Ko, Goh Yihan, Clifford Poh, Guo Hui, and Chris Cheng who have loaned or given me equipment, both big or small. Then there is also the wealth of information online, as well as youtube tutorials (especially for PixInsight, which has a considerable learning curve) by many of whom I have not met. 

© 2017 Ivan Bok. All rights reserved.