Monday, December 26, 2011

Schoodic Point Nov 5, 2011

Calm WatersOrion CliffsEdificeCairnDeep Twilight TrailsTwilight at Dusk

Schoodic Point Nov 5, 2011, a set on Flickr.

A series of images shot betwen 6 and 11 PM November 5, 2011.

These were to try out Kodak E100G for moonlit landscape work. Ektachrome E100G is the last professional transparency film available from Kodak and to shoot film in todays age is to continue the legacy of film.

Look at the images and remember that this will perhaps not be possible sometime soon. Digital better? I'll let you form your own opinion.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Sun at Winter Solstice

Some may wonder where the summer Milky Way has gone, or perhaps were in the sky the Sun is located around local noontime on the day of the Winter Solstice.

The Sun, plotted here in relative size and position to the starry sky. One imagines what a total solar eclipse would look like with the stunning Milky Way background.

Conversely, this is roughly where the Summer Solstice Full Moon is placed amongst the stars.

Background image was shot in 2008 from my dark sky in Sullivan, Maine

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Legacy Astrophotography: The Milky Way

The Milky Way from Scutum to Cepheus. I had longed dreamed of puting together such a mosaic. It was one long night in September, and on a work night no less! The first exposure started at 9:17 PM and the last exposure ended at 1:28 AM, the next morning.

A mosaic of 4 panels, each a 60 minute exposure using a Pentax 67 with 105mm f/2.4 lens at f/4.8, Fujicolor Superia 100. Due to unmanageable color gradiants I decided to convert to b&w to make it publishable. It qualifies for the coveted Legacy category.

The original could make a poster as tall as an interior wall, say 2' x 8'.

Legacy Astrophotography: Northern Milky Way

It is the end of the road for the Great Rift. The rift ends at the "Northern Coal Sack" just south (right, in this photo)of Deneb. LeGentil 3 (left of center) is often mistaken for the NCS, but as you can see it is not as dark and opaque.

A mosaic of two frames, each a 60 minute exposure using a Pentax 67 with 105mm f/2.4 lens stopped down to f/4.8 and utilizing Fujicolor Superia 100 (CN) photographic film.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Legacy Astrophotography: Summer's Mid-Rift

I was fortunate to get a night where I could compose two long exposure photographs of our Milky Way's Great Rift, utilizing an equatorial platform.

You will note that Comet Garradd is located just west of Brocchi's Cluster.

A mosaic of two frames, each employed the use of a Pentax 67 camera and 165 f/2.8 portrait lens stopped to f/4.8 and a 60 minute exposure on Fujicolor Superia 100 (CN) photographic film. The two frames were scanned on an Epson V600 and assembled in Adobe Photoshop.


The Legacy Project is a planned sequence of photographs of the night sky. Over the last several years astrophotographers have switched to digital as the medium of choice. While there are many reasons to do this, film is still a great way to capture wide-field images of the Milky Way and the sky in general.

The project's mission is to continue film's "Legacy" as a medium for long exposure images of the night sky.

The sequence of photos started in October 2009 and will end at a point yet to be determined.

Great care has been given to compose, expose, and process each image. Only the best combination of film, lenses and exposure times are used.

Each image is shot under the dark skies of my home in Maine.

My goal is to produce the finest images obtainable with film emulsions.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Kodak Gold 100 Test: Messier 8 Region

In August I exposed some Kodak Gold 100 to see how it would record nebulae.

This image was acquired via a Pentax Spotmatic with a vintage 300mm f/4 SMC Takumar wide open with 30 minutes exposure.

While the film did record the red and blue components of the Trifid nebulae, it does not seem to do as well as Fujicolor 100 which I tested earlier this summer.

Kodak Gold 100 still paints a nice picture, whether it be daylight or nightime. Too bad this film is difficult to obtain and perhaps is being discontinued.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Arrow and Fox in the Deep Dark Rift

Via Flickr:
Located within the "bend" in the Great Rift lies Vulpecula, the fox and Sagitta, the arrow.

This image features many of the prominent dark intricacies that compose the Great Rift as is meanders through the backbone of night.

At center, Collinder 399, Brocchi's cluster, often called the Coathangar, floats in the darkness of the rift on a summer's evening.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Shoreline Reflections

Via Flickr:
Moonlight dances in a shallow pool as waves caress the shoreline at Schoodic Point, Winter Harbor, Maine.

Spotmatic II 35mm@f/8 15 minutes on Acros 100.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kodak Portra 160 Test

Via Flickr:
Please, no rave reviews. This is a dull film to shoot the skies with, but since films are no longer tested for astrophotography, I thought I would post for the curious. Sorta looks like what you would get with an unmodded DSLR. No offense meant to digital SLR users.

Pentax 67 165mm f/2.8 @ f/2.8 30 minute exposure on the new Kodak Portra 160.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Scorpius Trails

Scorpius Trails by Nightfly Photography
Scorpius Trails, a photo by Nightfly Photography on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Looking SSE as the mighty scorpion rises above the tree line at my dark sky home in Maine.

Pentax 67 75mm f/4.5 @ f/5.6 80 minutes exposure on Fuji Acros developed in Xtol.

Sometimes, a night of observing and just shooting a few star trail images is what makes a perfect evening. With all this astrophotography stuff, I've been avoiding the pleasure of the telescope. Nice to stop and smell the roses once in awhile.

It was early June, the Pentax was loaded with Acros 100 and I simply found a good area to setup along my driveway looking SSE toward rising Scorpius. This exposure went for 80 minutes at f/5.6 under a dark sky. The Milky Way provided a bright "background" as southern Ophiuchus eventually came into the picture.

I recommend shooting star trails to those that do not have guiding capabilities who want to make interesting and beautiful images without much fuss. Take the camera out and find interesting landscapes or natural monuments wherever they may be. Shoot under dark skies or even under moonlight. Just get out and shoot!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Legacy Astrophotography: IC1396 in Cepheus

The Legacy Project continues: A rework of an old image taken in September 2008. E200 was employed to capture the faint details of Cepheus. With the nebula overhead, there was little between it and the camera as far as atmosphere is concerned.

A 40 minute exposure using the 300mm Takumar @ f/5.6

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Prancing Horse

This region in southern Ophiuchus is perhaps the most celebrated area of dark nebulae in the sky. Revealed as E.E. Barnard would have done it, with black and white film.  High cirrus clouds bloated bright stars.

This is the first time trying Fuji Acros for this particular region of the Milky Way.  Conditions were not the best, but I am generally pleased.  The film lacks a response to Ha emissions, but that does not hinder its performance in starfields such as these that have no emission nebulae.

Pentax 67 200mm f/4 SMC Takumar @ f/4 40 minutes exposure on Fuji Acros 100 film.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Our Milky Way Galaxy's Central Bulge

I just spent several days of the last dark run photographing this area with different films and lenses. I concentrated on the Scorpius / Ophiuchus regions as the summer may prevent further attempts due to weather conditions. Those will be back and posted here within a few weeks. Until then, here is a reprocessed image from April 2008 I've been playing with.

How Edward Emerson Barnard would have loved to have seen this region in color.

Southwest Sagittarius, Southern Ophiuchus, and northwestern Scorpius. Perhaps the most exciting area within the visible Milky Way. Full of bright and dark nebulae amongst the starclouds of our galaxy's central bulge.

Early morning, April 11, 2008. Pentax 67 with 105mm f/2.4 @ f/4 and 30 minutes exposure on Kodak E200 film push processed +2 stops. Film scanned on an Epson V600 and processed in Adobe PS and PixInsight.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Flanders Pond Observatory

Flanders Pond ObservatoryFlanders Pond ObservatoryFlanders Pond ObservatorySpotmatic PiggybackedSpotmatic with 300mm Takumar PiggybackedPentax 67 Piggyback Mounted
Meade 2080 Schmidt-CassegrainThe Light Gathering Equipment!Equatorially Driven Cameras

Welcome to a tour of my humble facility.  Located under the dark skies of eastern Maine, it is a paradise for astrophotography.  I continue to use my vintage equipment to capture the beauty of the Milky Way and other interesting objects in the sky. These methods include correcting tracking errors manually using an illuminated reticle eyepiece, just like E.E. Barnard did over a hundred years ago!

Built in 2003 with leftover materials from our house contruction. It resides in my front yard where anytime use is a major conveinience.  It would be impossible for me to persue traditional imaging as a hobby otherwise.

Click on the images above for more details.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Film Test: Fujicolor Superia 200

Here comes another film test. Fujicolor Superia 200. Together with Kodak's Gold 100 and 200, Fujifilm's Superia line prove to be useful for astrophotography.

Two photographs of the Milky Way taken sequentially. The first (left) is a 5 minute exposure at f/2, the second (right) is a 15 minute exposure at f/2.8 using a 50mm lens. Both frames are shown here as one continuous scan to show actual changes resulting from exposure. Sky glow was reached in 15 minutes @ f/2.8

This film has potential. It falls within the range of many modern ISO 100 and 200 films which have good reciprocity characteristics and color stability in long exposures.

Conditions were good, but Scorpius had not reached the meridian at the time of exposure. I had to work the next morning and needed to get the test done with!

SQM: 21.56, Temp: 44 degrees F.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Kodak Gold 100 Test: Star Trails

Kodak Gold 100 Test: Star Trail 1 by Nightfly Photography
Startrail image started in twilight, looking west-nw.  The center of the frame show the stars of northern Orion.  Tripod mounted Pentax Spotmatic II with 50mm f/1.4 SMC Takumar stopped down to f/4.8 60 minutes exposure on Kodak Gold 100 film.

In April I decided to test Kodak Gold 100 for astrophotography. With no opportunity for guided wide-field imaging, I decided to do a few star trails.  I was pleased with the outcome.  Gold 100 recorded some pretty faint star trails.  Color balance during the exposure was very good as well.  The film was processed at a local drug store and did a poor job on the prints.  These are scans of the original negatives, processed in C-41.

Kodak Gold 100 is not available at the corner drug store, but can be found as an imported film at major photography outlets.  It is not expensive.  I paid less than three dollars for a 24 exposure roll.

Kodak Gold 100 Test: Star Trail 2 by Nightfly Photography
Startrails under dark skies.  Looking East.  Tripod mounted Pentax Spotmatic II with 35mm f/3.5 SMC Takumar @ f/5.6 60 minutes exposure on Kodak Gold 100 film.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Denizens of Orion on Kodak Gold 200

A follow up image to my original test of Kodak Gold 200 last year. This two panel mosaic includes the heart of Orion, the majestic Messier 42, The Great Orion Nebula. The color response of Kodak Gold 200 over the required 30 minute exposure is about as good as any other print film when exposing brighter astronomical objects.

Via Flickr:
This image was taken in early January 2011 near the beginning of a roll of Kodak Gold 200. Such as film photography is, the roll was recently completed and processed.

Two frames (vertically oriented) were exposed and combined in Autostitch. Flat fielding was done with PixInsight using DBE (Dynamic Background Extraction). Curves and levels were adjusted in Photoshop.

Pentax Spotmatic II 300mm f/4 SMC Takumar @ f/4 30 minutes exposure.

High clouds bloated the bright stars.

Highest resolution here:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kodak Announces The End of Elite Chrome 200 and E200 Professional

Recently Kodak announced the end of Elite Chrome 200 also known as ED200.  It's professional sibling E200, is going out along with it.  Kodak estimates that current stock levels will last until March 2011.

Because of Kodak's ISO 200 chromes ability to record faint nebulae in long exposures, it became the film of choice for many astrophotographers.  These two films were the last great chrome films that were useful for astrophotography. It seems that Kodak is dumping chrome films as sales have plummeted and most photographers are making the switch to digital cameras.  The economy has perhaps hastened Kodak to improve its bottom line as well.  This is good news for other film companies like Fuji, who stand to gain sales as remaining chrome film shooters move to Fujichrome films as a substitute.

Kodak will likely continue to streamline its film lines with the eventuality of having one or two available emulsions for color negative, color chrome, and black & white.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Test Report: Kodak's New Portra 400 Color Negative Film

Last Autumn the photographic world was buzzing with Kodak announcing a new 400 speed color negative film.  This new Portra film replaces Kodak's venerable Portra 400NC and 400VC line.  The first thought on my mind was whether or not this film would be good for astrophotography?  The technical specs showed good sensitivity to the desireable Hydrogen alpha emission line at 656nm, a prerequisite for deep sky astrophotography.

I exposed a 120 roll of the new Portra in December and January.  The usual test target this time of year- Orion.  Three exposures using the Pentax 67 and the 165mm f/2.8 lens riding piggyback.  SQM reading for the night of this test were 21.41 mags/sq-arc-sec.  The air temperature was 20 degrees F.  An average night for my location.  The film was processed by Color Services in February.  Negatives were scanned by myself on an Epson V600 scanner.

15 minutes f/2.8                 30 minutes f/4                    15 minutes f/4

The film reached sky fog level very quickly.  The 30 minute exposure at f/4 showed more density in the original negative versus the reciprocal exposure of 15 minutes @ f/2.8, vignetting notwithstanding.  H-alpha response was fair, blue was good, but all colors seemed muted. 

Orion - Pentax 67 165mm 30 minutes f/4
Note the Witch Head nebula right of Rigel.  Not bad for 30 minutes at f/4

Cropped section showing detail at 1200 PPI scan.  Click for 100% view.  The blown highlights are not on the original negative.  It is an artifact of my processing.

While the film recorded many faint features in the area, such as the Witch Head nebula near Rigel, colors were rather muted compared to a really great negative film, Superia 100.  Perhaps a few tricks in post processing could bring out better detail and colors.  This is a preliminary test and I suspect better results could be obtained with longer exposures.  Granted, the objects in this field, with the exception of the Orion Nebula are pretty faint.  Perhaps a brighter target may make this film shine.  Indeed I get the feeling that this film would do well on the brighter Summer Milky Way. 

Another exciting possibility for this film is the avaialbility of large format sizes.  Portra 400 is available in 4x5 and 8x10!  Someone ought to try it.  Large format camera lenses have slower f-ratios and need fast film if used for astrophotography.

Under the Light of the Moon
Pentax 67 45mm f/4 @ f/8 10 minutes exposure under the Gibbous Moon
Another test for those of us that shoot under moonlight was more encouraging.  Colors were very good, and very accurate.  Shadow detail was very impressive.  I did not do any reciprocity tests.  Stephen Schaub over at The Figital Revolution has tested this film extensively and it is well worth a look to see his results.

Other photographers using this film have reported amazing ISO range. Yes ISO range.  You can expose this film from ISO 100 to 1600 with very good results without pushing.  Only time will tell how good the new Porta 400 will work in a variety of settings, but I am very impressed with it.  Grain was the best I have seen in a 400 speed film, colors were neither saturated or muted when exposed properly.  It is perhaps not the best film for astrophotography, but it is perhaps one of the best all-purpose films around.  I'll be shooting more Portra and I will come back and review it again once I can expose this film under the light of Sagittarius and other summertime goodies.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Four Rolls Going Out

Four rolls going to the lab tomorrow. Two new films for testing suitablity for astrophotography, a roll of Acros with Full Moon landscapes on it, and some expired Provia 400F. The Provia is from a batch I recently acquired and needs to be tested to see if usable.

This is how film photographers get their images. No chimping, just look sharp, think, and shoot! Oh yea, ... and wait.

Star Trail Photography

Long exposure star trail imaging is still an advantage of film. Although methods for DSLR cameras exist, no software stitching is required with film. Expose as little or as long as you like and don't worry about chromatic noise or amplifier glow.

The image here was taken with Kodak Ektachrome 200 Professional film at an aperture of f/8 for a little over 30 minutes. The first quarter Moon illuminates the landscape.

Other films that would work equally well that are available today are Fuji Provia 100F, Kodak E100, and for Black and white work, Fuji Acros 100.