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Friday, April 09, 2010


My First Astrophotos

The Southern Cross (back to front). The flares are damage to the negative.

On the Easter long weekend we cleared out the office and converted it to a bedroom for EldestOne. This involved a lot of carting of heavy objects, bookshelves, sofas, bookshelves, beds, multiple desks, more bookshelves and so on.

Of course, all this uncovered all sorts of treasure troves, books that we hadn't read for ages, or had forgotten existed, and a whole pile of ancient photos. Amongst the embarrassing and out of focus photographs of me at scout camp, or going off to high school was an undistinguished packet of negatives. My first astrophotos.
No idea what stars these are really, possibly part of Carina.

Actually, they are probably not my first astrophotos. But the first astrophotos that actually had something on the negative. Amongst my arsenal of cameras was an old box brownie (old even back in the 60's). Being an astronomy nut way back then, I tried taking pictures of the sky with the box brownie as I could hold open the shutter manually, but I couldn't keep it steady for long enough. So I ended up with a lot of blank negatives.

Then in the early 70's my friends gave me an even older camera, one with a bellows like arrangement for adjusting image size, as a joke.

But it worked, the shutter release could be snicked down and left, and the box had an attachment for a stand, so I could mount it (somewhat awkwardly given the camera mount wasn't meant for "modern" stands, gaffer tape was involved) so I didn't have to hold the camera. And you could still get film for it without paying n arm and a leg.

In the packet there are negatives of a few star trails of varying length, and a whole series of (mostly out of focus) photographs of a partial solar eclipse, taken using the projection method with my 50 mm refractor. From a couple of non-astronomical photos and the eclipses visible from Brisbane these where probably taken either in 1972 or 1973 when I was 16 or 17.

So for 37 years I've been trying out low cost astrophotography. Of course in those days the local film developers had no idea about printing astronomical shots, and I had no resources to do it myself, so they just developed the negatives and left it at that.

But here I've scanned the original negatives, inverted them with The Gimp (hey, it was the 70's and they were B&W pictures in the first place) and done only minor contrast adjustments.

My first astrophotos, not bad for a clueless kid.

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