Welcome to my Astrophotography Blog!

This is a journal of my adventures in astrophotography -- taking images of distant celestial objects. Please look around and feel free to add your comments, questions, and critique to any of the entries by clicking the "comments" button on the bottom of each entry -- or just say "howdy!

And don't forget to click on the images for a larger view!

So choose either the Red pill or the Blue pill and follow me down the wormhole....


Comanche Springs Star Party

Comanche Springs Star Party
Doin' my thang at the Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus (where I often become a "red ghost")

Dallas Sky

Rancho Venado Sky

Atoka Sky

Camanche Springs Sky

Monday, June 28, 2010

Foot Fetish!

Well, I FINALLY was able to collect some data with one of my scopes (been doing mostly DSLR stuff lately because of crappy weather).

Anyway... I got a good night at the ranch last week while the observatory was going up. This is a wide field image that includes two large emission nebulae -- the Cat's Paw and the Bear's Claw (guess which is which).

These nebulae reside in Scorpius' tail. As such, they do not get very high and only viewable here in the summer. As with all Ha emission nebulae, they are very very red. They are basically like red neon.

Summer is filled with so many great targets like these, now if only the weather will continue to cooperate!

FSQ 106ED f/5
STL-11000M -10C
HaLRGB 120x45x15x15x15
CCDStack, CS4

Saturday, June 26, 2010

There's a NEW observatory in town, pardner...

Bucksnort Observatory near Adamsville, Texas!

Scott, Don, and Jeff from Backyard Observatories made the trek from Ohio to battle the Texas heat and break ground on my new observatory. They began last Saturday and completed early Tuesday morning. They did an incredible job -- I'm VERY pleased! This is Backyard Observatories 132nd build, and it was obvious since they never looked at any plans or notes -- they just measured, cut, and nailed. Heck, they didn't even have to talk to each other!

I've named it Bucksnort Observatory because it is built on a deer trail, and when I am imaging, the deer snort at me all night. After a couple of years hauling my gear back and forth to the ranch, I decided to bite the bullet and build something permanent. Since I do imaging, I really wanted to be able to also remote control the observatory from my home in Dallas when I can't leave town. I also decided to build slightly larger and add a second pier for a visual scope and/or a second imager. Didn't really cost much more and adds flexibility. I also went with Don's powered Omega Piers and the MI Oasys automation package.

The next few months will have me programming for remote operations, installing my Paramount ME, and adding my buddy's new Planewave 12.5 and Apogee U16, along with my FSQ and STL-11000M. I hope to be ready to roll by the Fall.

Pictures of the build are found here

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Zion National Park has been one of my favorite places ever since visiting there back in 1990. I have always wanted to return, as well as explore the many other parks in and around the "Four Corners" area on motorcycles. So when my buddy Trey suggested we go to Vegas, rent bikes, and ride to Zion, it was a big "hell yeah!"

I have become a big fan of Wally Pacholka's night photography of the National Parks, so I instantly planned to take my camera kit and tripod with me and try my hand at some night shots. While I was on a Harley Road King, Kim rented a trike (she always wanted to try one). This was perfect, since the trike could easily carry my camera gear!

Me, Kim, Trey, and his wife Laura had a great time riding through the switchbacks and tunnels late at night. We stopped and enjoyed the stars for a while, while I took a few shots.

After returning to the motel, I decided not to retire just yet. Even though we had a big day ahead of us (hiking and the long hot ride back to Vegas), I had not taken the shots I was hoping for. So, I took the trike and headed off into the night while the others slept.

This kind of photography is dependent upon a balance of lighting. If there is no light (no moon or nearby "light pollution"), the terrain will remain dark and featureless in silhouette against the canopy of stars. But if there is too much light (high full moon, big city lights) the terrain will overexpose by the time the stars are looking good, or perhaps blow out the sky altogether.

The moon was due to rise late and I was hoping to use it as a rim light, but there are so many mountains it took too long to see the effects. So I ended up shooting mainly around the Visitor's Center and using the lights there to illuminate he mountains. This worked pretty darn well!

Anyway, this was a LOT of fun. It was really serene without any other tourists (at about 3:00am) and the desert was gorgeous.

These are a few of the photos I took. They were all taken with my Nikon D700 at ISO 3200, 20mm lens at f/4, single 35 sec exposures, just using a tripod.

I'm really looking forward to doing more of these type of images.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Cosmic Camel

One of my favorite areas of the sky! I wanted to compose a shot that featured both the Rho area (multi-colored nebula on the right) and the Blue Horse (blue nebula on the left), with the dark nebulosity streaming down. Upon showing this image to my buddy Phil, he commented it looked like a camel -- it does! Just follow the blue horse (camel) head down then back up to the Rho "hump". Pretty funny.

This is one of my "project images" I have been working on for a few weeks. It took a while because I kept screwing up! I started this project as a multi-focal length mosaic (using multiple exposures with different size lenses to gather more detail in specific areas, then composite).

I gathered the detail on the Rho and Blue Horse areas while at the Texas Star Party, but my wide field image composition was no good. So, I traveled to 3RF to finish collecting the data. I managed to get good skies and finished, but my calibration frames were messed up. Soooo... after jumping through many hoops, I finally got my image done!

This area of the sky is in Scorpius, near our galactic center. It is a summer classic : )

Image stats:
Nikon D700 at ISO 1600
Rho detail -- 180mm f/4 22x3min
Blue Horse detail -- 180mm f/4 12x3min
Wide Field -- 85mm f/4 40x3min

CCDStack, CS4
Mosaic registered in Registar