Fishing for Stars....how I got hooked on Astrophotography

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Fishing for the Stars....how I got hooked on Astrophotography

WhiteSky Photographics started back in 2014 when I was already a hobby Photographer living in the north-east of Scotland. I had an interest in landscape/seascape photography at the time and had always had a love for the stars and space. After seeing a few pictures of the milkyway and deep-space photos on various websites I decided I should give it go with the camera gear I owned at the time (Canon 5Dmk2 and canon 16-35mm lens) . So after reading up on the correct settings and watching a few videos then came the long frustrating wait until it was clear enough with the Scottish weather.

I decided to head to a dark place (or what i believed) called Cairn O'Mount on the Aberdeenshire road between Banchory and Fettercairn. This I thought would be a good place to start, because it was close to the road and relatively easy to drive to and this also meant if I got cold then the car would not be far away....cleaver thinking you see! Planning is one of the most important points in Astrophotography especially on location and something I now stress to any budding Astro beginner.

I had no idea how difficult it would be to take photos in the dark, especially focusing the lens on the Stars. I also didn't know whether the settings on my camera I had read-up on were correct. plus it was frustrating dealing with car headlights driving right past on the road nearby which in turn lit up the Cairn (not in a good way). Now looking back, this is another reason to head out away from all types of light pollution including traffic.
At the time I believed Astrophotography reminded me of fishing: standing in the cold, not knowing what was out there if anything, and requiring lots of patience. You had to use the camera gear like bait: sitting there on a hill with the shutter set open, and then waiting 30-40 seconds for it to click shut! then taking a look at what you had captured on the preview screen on the back and deciding what settings to change...then cast back out again!


My first shot at the Andomeda Galaxy (2.5 million light years away)


But finally after 5-6 hours standing in the cold whilst running back and forth to the car for some hot coffee and the warmth of the car heater, I was sure I must have captured some shots of the Cairn O'Mount beneath the heaven and stars. So I slowly headed home in the car on the empty frosty roads.


My first try at the 'Orion Nebula'

I arrived back at the house at about 2am in the morning but was so exited to see the results I decided I would load the pictures taken from the camera onto the computer, thus to see what they looked like!

I was so disapointed to begin with! they looked nothing like I had seen on websites....what had gone wrong?


original picture straight out of camera

Now came the next big wake up call!, Post-editing.

This is the long drawn out period of sifting through hundreds of black photos looking at every dot and mark onscreen until you find a few that had the correct settings needed and then editing them in software to bring out the natural colours in the night sky. This is when I realised I needed a crash course on editing my Astro photos which required looking at many more videos and reading up techniques. Finally after another 4 hours (the sun began it's morning hello through the window curtains) I had finished with my first Astrophotography Milkyway nightscape pictures!


Final edit of Cairn O'Mount 'Pathway to Heaven'

Now looking back at my first night freezing and morning of hard work editing I had managed to capture the night sky in a way that not that many people see when tucked up in their cosy beds ... I became hooked knowing that the light travelling from the distant stars in my photographs had taken many hundreds/thousands and millions of years to reach my cameras sensor and I was standing there in the open waiting for the light to strike....just like fishing....fishing for starlight!

The fence (or could be a net fishing for stars)