Setting Up Field Astrophotography

Telescope Setup at Twilight

Setting up the telescope for lunal viewing as the sun sets

The clear summer skies are upon us it seems, so my nephew and I setup for some viewing and photography last night. For more of a how-to-tutorial I should at some point talk equipment and setup but I’ll save that for another day. The skies were clear last night but the atmospheric conditions were not the best for planetary astrophotography, so we stuck with “night shots” and the Milky Way.

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Last Breath of Summer from a Beach in Gulf Shores

Lighthouse Sunset Over the Gulf of Mexico

Lighthouse Silhouette as the Sun Sets Over the Gulf of Mexico

Busyness has many enemies, but to me, one of the greatest causalities of busyness is the loss of creativity. When life turns into a checklist of task items the thing that loses out, at least in my life, is always the creativity of reading, writing, photography, poetry, contemplation, prayer, games, music, and so on. Many of those can be viewed as spiritual disciplines, which means one could say that busyness can pull us away from those things in our life that are to be set aside for worship.

This past weekend I finally got a few days to go down to the beach and relax, only it wasn’t quite as relaxing as I had thought it might be. Sure it was time away from the routines of life, which was great, but I really think it takes more than a few days to untwist your mind from the speed of life we live today. That’s the part that never really happened… but that’s ok too, after all, how busy could it possibly be with the view from our balcony below. What we did get to do was visit with family we haven’t seen in a few years, I finally got to visit the aviation museum in Pensacola (that post is upcoming), and we enjoyed a few glorious sunsets on some empty white sand beaches.

I left Auburn hoping to get through two books while I was down at the beach, both of which I had made it about one chapter deep. I managed to make it to the last chapter of the first book, one called Lifted By Angels by Joel Miller, and one I hope to write a review about soon. This was a great book to read uninterrupted at the beach, a place where one’s thoughts can be lifted above the routine of daily needs. There were so many quotes that caught my attention in this anthology about our interactions with angels, especially when it comes to our interaction through a prayerful life, but this stood out when talking about asking for things in prayer…

Isaac the Syrian said that when we ask for earthly things, it’s like a subject standing before his king and imploring him for a measure of manure. The request insults both the king and the subject.

I think we often get so caught up in the earthly life of “things” and the tasks of the day, we forget our life is about preparing for eternity, not necessarily worrying about tomorrow. Below is sort of a timeline from sunup to moonup on our last day, in the last bit of summer warmth before the real fall arrives soon.

Balcony View of Gulf of Mexico

Balcony View of Gulf of Mexico

Sun Setting Over the Gulf of Mexico

Sun Setting Over the Gulf of Mexico

Sunset Through the Grass at Gulf Shores

Sunset Through the Grass at Gulf Shores

Moonrise Over the Beach

Moonrise Over the Beach

Jacob: The Limitless Sky Video at the Royal Observatory

Jacob: The Limitless Sky Video  for the Greenwich Royal Observatory

Jacob: The Limitless Sky Video for the Greenwich Royal Observatory

I few months ago the guys from Lonely Leap Films came down from New York City to do a piece on my nephew, Jacob Marchio, for the Greenwich Royal Observatory highlighting his work in astrophotography. This year Jacob competed in the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest at the Greenwich Royal Observatory in Greenwich England. This video was part of his image being selected from a huge number of entries over the 2012 year (see some of his moon photography here and his astrophotography hereon Flickr). This yearly contest is a really big deal for astrophotographers worldwide, Wired.com even wrote a nice article about the context in Royal Observatory Picks Best Astronomy Photos of the Year.

Obviously being a photographer myself for almost 20 years now I am more than a little excited about one of my nearby relatives taking an interest in photography. I know he is just getting starting in his understanding of telescopes, cameras, and astronomy so I can’t wait to see what’s next. He has already started talking about building his own telescope here on the property so there may be photos of that down the road. For now, please check out the video shot by Lonely Leap Films. They did such a fantastic job (and for you tech junkies out there, they shot this whole thing with 2 Canon 5D Mark II’s, including the audio).

Jacob: the limitless sky from Royal Observatory Greenwich on Vimeo.

If you have a chance to head over to his blog, his updates include everything from astronomy to techniques used in photography to just life in the South. Even after shooting as long as I have he inspires me to want to get out there and shoot the night sky again and again.