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© Claude Hermann 2004-2014

"Dabbling's in Suburban Astrophotography"

 

 

Greetings from deep in the heart of Texas, and welcome to my humble collection of celestial images!

 

 

I'm an amateur astronomer living in the suburbs of the 4th largest city in the nation, Houston, Texas. While it's great to be a Texan and to call Houston home, it does present quite a challenge for one of my favorite hobbies, astrophotography. As you can see from the light pollution map to the right, my location could be considered less than ideal for my chosen nocturnal pastime. My approximate location is marked by the small cross just above the "white" area marking the city of Houston proper. With the recent influx of new car dealerships on the northern fringes of Houston where I live, my guess is that since this image was created, the white area has expanded and engulfed my location, as least for views to the south and east.

Credit: P. Cinzano, F. Falchi (University of Padova), C. D. Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center, Boulder). Copyright Royal Astronomical Society.

 

Before cooled CCD cameras and the recent advent of digital SLR's, pursuing this aspect of the hobby using conventional film astrophotography would have been an exercise in frustration from such a location as mine. But CCD's and digital SLR's have given us the tools necessary to overcome much of the effects of light pollution and create some amazing images of deep sky objects from suburban locations. Of course, the trade-off is that you must record much longer total exposures than are needed from a dark sky location, often 2 to 4 times as long or longer. But for those of us like myself, who can't get out of town as often as we would like to image from a dark location and can't afford a good cooled CCD camera, digital SLR astrophotography has breathed new life into a hobby once thought impossible from suburban locations. The introduction of light pollution reduction filters (LPR's) has also made a big impact on the results you can expect to achieve. This web site was created to share my accomplishments as well as my frustrations with suburban astrophotography with my fellow hobbyists, as well as to provide a forum to post my results and invite comments and suggestions on ways I might improve my techniques. I know there are many more accomplished imagers in the hobby than I, and I am always inspired and amazed by their work when I see it. Hopefully these pages will help show others in a similar situation as mine that you can achieve pleasing results from near a large city, and help them decide to give it a try themselves.

 

In the grand scheme of things I am a relative newcomer to deep sky astrophotography. Before purchasing my first digital SLR in May of 2004, a Canon 300D, I had never seriously attempted taking deep sky photographs through my telescope. My astrophotography experience was limited to wide field shots and scattered attempts at imaging the moon or Jupiter with a conventional SLR attached to my telescope, usually with less than enthusiastic results. During the favorable conjunction with Mars in 2003, I was fascinated with the planetary images being obtained with web cams, and decided to give it a try. My own web cam was gathering dust in the closet, and I figured I had nothing to lose. I was able to get some fairly decent shots with this equipment, and this experience more than anything else re-kindled my interest in astronomy after many years of sitting on the sidelines. But, as many of you probably have experienced, once you get the bug you are continually trying to push the limit and try new frontiers. When I saw some of the images that were being taken with the new digital SLR's, even from suburban locations, I knew I just had to give it a try. Well, one thing led to another, and here I am. Now I am learning how to put a web site together so I can share my experiences. I am learning something new every day!

 

I hope you enjoy your visit to my humble site. About half of the images on this web site were taken from my backyard suburban location, but I have been fortunate enough to steal away to a dark sky location every couple of months or so to image relatively free from the effects of light pollution, and these images are included here also and are duly noted. While you are here, feel free to browse all you like and e-mail me with comments and /or suggestions as you feel led.

Clear skies!