Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Moonlight Exhibit

Moonlight Exhibit by Nightfly Photography
Moonlight Exhibit, a photo by Nightfly Photography on Flickr.
My first solo show. If you find yourself in Southwest Harbor Maine during December, please stop in for a look.  If not, check out the link below to see the 12 images!

Moonlight Exhibit on Facebook

Friday, October 19, 2012

Enjoying the Day

The Sun breaks through after a gray morning.

There is more astrophotography to come, indeed I have two rolls to scan of what appears to be successful images. I've been indulging in some daytime landscapes. Fortunately the Pentax 67 doubles as a fantastic landscape camera!


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sh2-27 with Iridium Flare

Sharpless 2-27 is very large nebula centered around Zeta Ophiuchi. Very difficult to photograph due to its size and brightness, it is over twenty Moon diameters wide and very faint. Film and detectors well equipped for Hydrogen-Alpha (Ha) imaging reveal it best. I consider it one of the greatest objects in the Milky Way.

Located on the Milky Way's border in Southern Ophiuchus and partially overlapping into northern Scorpius.

Pentax 67 with SMC 200MM F/4 @ F/5.6 60 minutes expose on Kodak E200 transparency film.

Eastern Maine has dark night skies.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

All Those Years Ago......... Cygnus

Twenty eight years ago today, on August 17, 1984 I exposed Ektachrome for the first time and accomplished my very first astrophotos. These are certainly not my best work, but they are still fondly remembered. I still recall the excitement of viewing the slide for the first time and proudly projecting it at family gatherings.

It was a pivotal moment. It fueled the dreams of a young astrophotographer yearning to capture the magnificent fields of the Milky Way. This photographer is no longer sixteen, but I still get a thrill of exposing the night sky. And when the film comes back, poring over the fresh images, I’m realizing the completion of the dream of that midsummer night.

Pentax Spotmatic II with 50mm f/1.4 SMC Takumar and 10 minute exposure on Kodak Ektachrome 100 slide film from my front yard in Ellsworth, Maine

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Messier 22 Region

What's old is new again. This shot from 2007 was a brief exposure which capitalizes on star colors.

Located near the top of the Teapot in Sagittarius, Messier 22 is a huge globular that is big enough to be prominent in wide-field images, suspended near the rich edge of Sagittarius Milky Way. Compare its size to the tiny M-28 to the lower right of the frame. Messier 22 is plainly visible to the unaided eye, even when low on the horizon on a clear dark night.

Pentax Spotmatic II & 300mm SMC Takumar 15 minutes @ f/4 Kodak ED200

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Black and White Dreams

For some time I have been wanting to produce a tribute to the great Edward Emerson Barnard with a set of B&W photographs captured in very much a similar manner as Barnard himself had completed over 100 years ago. Barnard was a pioneer in the field of astrophotography, indeed often attributed as the Father of Milky Way photography.

In June and July I set out to produce an initial effort to produce such a photograph. Although not the first B&W analog image I have taken on, this image is the first in a series just for this project.

This image, a mosaic of two frames, was taken on one of the shortest nights of the year and with sky conditions deteriorating as night turned to morning.

Featuring the Milky Way of Ophiuchus and Scorpius with many of the dark nebulae recorded and cataloged by the great Barnard himself, this image is markedly wider. This is due in part to being a mosaic, as the two images themselves have been taken with as Barnard did, with a portrait lens.

From the observatory notes:

My observatory notes from that night:

June 18, 2012 Shortest Night of the Year.

"Clear with threat of fog. Transparency average, becoming poor with sky becoming brighter by early morning. Transparency became very poor by end of run. I continued as stars were dimmed, but not condensed. All frames used the SMC Pentax 200mm f/4 @ f/5.6 and B+W 021 light-yellow filter."

Scorpius Frame: 10:30-11:30 SQM 21.14

Ophiuchus Frame: 11:35-12:35 SQM 21.22

Average SQM reading for my astrophotography site are on average, 21.5 mags/sq-arc-sec. So the night was much brighter than average.

Perhaps the filter helped with the low contrast sky, which was muddy in appearance. I stuck with it and I'm glad I did. I might not have if I was using color transparency film.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Scutum & Sagittarius Region

The multitudes of stars, star clusters, both dark and bright nebulae populate this rich region of southern Scutum and northern Sagittarius.

A much "bothersome" area for Charles Messier, who could not fathom what these objects were and was primarily interested in comets. I'll take the permanence of these objects any day. Sorry Charlie!

A heavily cropped section of a single frame shot with the Pentax 67 and SMC 200MM F/4 @ F/5.6 and Kodak E200 exposed for 45 minutes and developed N + 1.5 .

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Tao by Nightfly Photography
Tao, a photo by Nightfly Photography on Flickr.

"The almost legendary Chinese sage, Lao Tzu, speaking to us across a gulf of 2500 years, finds the ultimate source of wisdom in the contemplation of the infinite; in lines which foreshadow some of the speculation of modern cosmologists he tells us, in the Tao Teh Ching or "Book of Tao"

With high regard for Robert Burnham Jr.

Reference Burnham's Celestial Handbook volume 3 Pages 1631-1633

Image copyright 2012, James W. Cormier

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Great Sagittarius Star Cloud

The brightest and grandest star cloud in all the Milky Way captured with traditional B&W methods. The structure and detail of the Great Cloud is visible in binoculars or a richest-field telescope. This photograph was taken last June on a particularly clear night. This upcoming dark of the Moon will have my camera revisit these familiar areas.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Milky Way: Three Panel Panorama

The area between Sagittarius and Scorpius is littered with bright and dark nebulae, open and globular star clusters. Detailed mosaics such as these bring out the wonderous details of the region.

This image is a little tighter than my previous image as I stepped up the focal length a bit with the SMC 200mm.

Three panels, each a 45 minute exposure with a Pentax 67 and SMC 200mm f/4 lens @ f/5.6 and Kodak E200 N+1.5.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Legacy Astrophotography: Milky Way Panorama

I've always have wanted to assemble such a photograph. In April I planned a four panel sequence that took place in the wee hours of April 28th. If made at high resolution we are looking at a 24 x 96 print.

This was the first planned mosaic of several. I have a few more coming.

Four panel panorama using a Pentax 67 and 165mm f/2.8 @ f/4.8 with Kodak E200 developed N+1.5. Each exposure 35 minutes in length. Images combined in Autostitch.

Monday, May 21, 2012

My Most Productive Dark-Run Ever !

Well, what a fantastic weekend. The opportunity was taken and I am happy to report that I have secured 18 long exposures over four nights / mornings with a total exposure time of 12 hours and 40 minutes, all with hand corrected guiding no less. The John Henry of astrophotographers perhaps.

This included:

A four frame east-west panorama featuring Libra through Sagittarius using the 165mm @ f/4.8 and 40 minute exposures.

Two (2) three frame east-west panoramas featuring Scorpius through Sagittarius using the 200mm @ f/5.6 and 45 minute exposures.

A two frame panorama featuring the Prancing Horse (Pipe Nebula +) and the Messier 8 region in Sagittarius using the 200mm @ f/5.6 and 45 minute exposures and another set with the 200mm @ f/6.7 and 60 minute exposures.

Three exposures of Sharpless 2-27 in Southern Ophiuchus: 30 and 40 minutes @ f/4, and 60 minutes exposure @ f/5.6

Single exposures of the constellation's Lyra, Corona Borealis, and Hercules using the 200mm @ f/4 or f/5.6 with 30 minutes exposures.

All exposures on E200 and will be pushed +1.5 stops.

The observatory on the first night of imaging during the May dark run.

Sky conditions were above average, except for a few clouds on Friday morning during the final minutes of the last exposure.

Sky Quality Meter readings revealed sky darkness levels in the 21.56 to 21.70 mags/sq-arc-sec range on all three nights. Flirting with Bortle 2. Stars of magnitude 7.2 or fainter were seen on the last morning with only moderate effort. Brocchi's cluster appeared as a star cluster to the unaided eye and not a nebulous patch. The Pipe Nebula and other associated dark nebulae that form the "Prancing Horse" were very distinct to the unaided eye. Touring this region with 7x50 binocs was a real treat. Almost all the dark nebulae seen in photographs were visible in the binoculars. The dark streamers heading over to Rho-Oph were visible in binocs and strongly suspected to the eye alone. Simply amazing.

A little tired after the first three nights!  Thankfully the equipment worked flawlessly.

The results should be among my best work yet and the films are heading to Color Services as I write this. When I receive the films on Wednesday I will review the exposures, but I have done this long enough to know I have succeeded here, and to think I got all this done just before (nearly) the Moon turned new!

Now, to get some sorely needed sleep!

That being said, I have on the agenda for next weekend a complete tour of these same regions as captured with Acros 100. The Moon will set by midnight on both nights of the coming weekend. This is fun, like shooting fish in a barrel!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sagittarius Milky Way

Our legacy, the Milky Way. The most organic structure in our coner of the Universe. The building blocks of complexity and everything needed to create life. It happended here, and it is likely to have happend elsewhere.

I've been photographing this region recently, this image is from August 2010. The beautiful Milky Way of Sagittarius is perhaps the most beautiful region in our Milky Way. This was a 40 minute exposure @ f/4 using the 200mm Takumar and Kodak E200 processed normally in E-6.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ready for the Night

The beginning a of a three night dark run at FPO. Got tomorrow off and no other agenda for the weekend.

Spring night—one hour worth
A thousand gold coins

- Basho

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ophiuchus / Scorpius / Libra

On the same morning while waiting for the Antares region to rise and clear the treeline, I decided to capture the region just west of the area. The same setup was used (165mm @ f/4.8 45 minutes exposure) to capture southern Libra. I had planned the sequence the night before. This mosaic is processed somewhat differently from the original post, trying to maintain the advantages of the film medium with subtle detail revealed. Autostitch was used to blend the two frames.

The next outing will try to form a four frame mosaic, which will include the same region represented here, plus two additional frames further east to include the Sagittarius region. Now that would be something wouldn't you say?

Notice how this frame details the Milky Way's central bulge tapering off into space and entering the galactic halo region, home of globular clusters. Can you spot globular cluster NGC-5897 in the right side of this image? Look sharp!

As it is horribly undersampled here, the minimum I recommend is here:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ophiuchus / Scorpius Region

I'm back to exposing E200 again. Such a great film for astrophotography. Legendary at this point.

The region of Scorpius and Ophiuchus taken on an early morning on March 22. The detail is such that one will never tire of shooting this area.

Pentax 67 165mm f/2.8 @ f/4.8 45 minutes exposure on Kodak E200 Pushed +1.5 stops

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Testing Kodak's TMAX 400 for Astrophotography

Traditional film users have a thinning line of film to choose from these days, but there perhaps has never been a better time to shoot black and white emulsion.  Combined, manufacturers such as Ilford, Rollei, Fuji, and Foma have a formidable line of film for the working artist.  Even Kodak maintains a line of products for b&w shooters.   Kodak released its newest version of T-Max 400 in 2008.  A panchromatic film utilizing Kodak's proprietary tubular grain structure offering high speed and fine grain.  While most, if not all of today's b&w films lack the red response associated with Technical Pan film, many record starlight extremely well, this is especially true of T-Max 400.  T-Max offers very good sensitivity to starlight and records stellar images very well.  Kodak claims improved reciprocity compared to the original T-Max 400 of yesteryear.  That being said, T-Max 100 specifications show it to be even better in the reciprocity department and will surpass the speed of its 400 speed cousin in a matter of a several minutes.  A test of T-Max 100 will take place later this year.  Below are a few images obtained on March 10, 2012 from my dark sky home in Maine.

Two images, both taken with the Pentax 67 and 300mm f/4 lens using exposures of 15 and 30 minutes.

Faint details of the Orion Nebula appear region show up well.  The emission nebula NGC-1977 registered very well, owing to the films blue spectral sensitivity.  I'm imagining galaxies would do well with this film. 

A cropped section of the 30 minute exposure.

This image of the Milky Way in Puppis clearly shows the benefit of T-Max to record faint stellar images.  This film will do well for open star clusters and the star clouds of summer.  When enlarged, the grain was remarkably tame.  Halation was not a problem.  The bright stars did produce overly sized spot images, but this was an aberration present in the lens used.
The Milky Way star fields of Puppis as revealed by TMAX 400.  300MM @ F/5.6 30 minutes exposure.

Black and white astrophotography can still be done in the 21st century.  I found the experience rewarding and I am looking forward to years of future work with films like T-Max 400.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Puppis Milky Way

Puppis Milky Way by Nightfly Photography
Puppis Milky Way, a photo by Nightfly Photography on Flickr.

The rich starfields of Puppis are often neglected by northern hemisphere observers / photographers due to its southerly declination. This view here was captured just above my treeline at my home in eastern Maine.

I employed the use of my Pentax 67 medium format camera with a 300mm f/4 lens stopped down to f/5.6 and 30 minutes exposure on Kodak TMAX 400 black and white film. The camera was piggybacked onto an 8" SCT for guiding.

The negative was processed professionally in Kodak XTOL developer. It was then scanned by myself on an Epson V600 scanner. The image file was then imported into Photoshop for basic level adjustment and slight cropping.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Film Test: Fujicolor Superia XTRA 400

Some time ago Fujifilm released its Superia XTRA 400 film in 120 format.  I had just seen a result using this film in 35mm format a few years ago on the Yahoo Film Astrophotographers Forum with promising results.  I had purchased 2 pro-packs at the beginning of the year from the only supplier I could find,  At only $19.99 per pack of five rolls, it was economical for an imported film that is common in Europe and Japan.

Well as you may well know, over time film makers change back and forth film formulae that end up giving good Ha performance to poor Ha performance.   The results here is somewhat mixed, I had expectations that it might be similar to Fuji's Fujicolor 100, also known as Superia 100, perhaps the best negative film for astrophotgraphy in recent history.

Three Exposures taken in February show comparitive exposures of 10, 20, and 40 minutes using a Pentax 67 and 105mm lens stopped down to f/4.8

The poor response to faint Ha emissions is evident in this longest exposure of the set.  Stellar recording power was admirable if not for the garish rendition of the night sky.  There is much recorded on the film and the results could be converted to black & white as this film does have good luminance reciprocity.

The single 40 minute exposure of Orion

A more promising result came with a frame taken on an early morning near the end of February.  It was nice to visit with an old friend normally reserved for late spring.  Note the good blue and yellow response as well as the good recording power revealing the dark streamers heading east. It is likely that this film could produce very pleasing results in the very bright regions of Sagittarius and Ophiuchus. 

Rho Ophiuchi Region:  Pentax 67 300mm f/4 @ f/5.6 - 45 minutes exposure, part of which was taken in deep astronomical twilight.  Results are partially cropped here.

Compared to recently minted films such as Fujicolor Reala 100, Kodak Portra 400, and Portra 160, the new Fujicolor XTRA 400 film is favorable.  But if your looking for a film that will blow your socks off, we will have to either wait or look for your favorite films at online auctions, or perhaps if you were prepared for this; your film freezer.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Messier 46 and 47 in Puppis

Messier 46 and 47, a beautiful pair of clusters in Puppis, one relatively young, the other ancient. A fine view in Binoculars on a late winter or early spring evening.

Pentax Spotmatic II 300mm f/4 SMC Takumar @ f/4 30 minute exposure on Kodak Gold 100 film. Scanned on an Epson V600 scanner, imported into PixInsight for BDE and levels. Touched up in Photoshop.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Jupiter and Venus

Jupiter and Venus were close enough on the evening of March 12th, 2012 to fit inside the field of my 300mm lens. I employed a somewhat unknown method to produce the diffraction seen here. I stopped the lens down from full aperture and made the exposure. Equatorial tracking was employed.

Pentax Spotmatic II with the 300mm F/4 SMC Takumar @ F/8 5 minutes exposure on Kodak Gold 100.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Messier 42 / 43 on Kodak Gold 100

Pentax Spotmatic II and SMC Takumar 300mm f/4 30 minutes exposure on Kodak Gold 100 negative film. Scanned on an Epson V600 and processed in PixInsight and Photoshop.

Sure there is some CA around the stars, but this in 1973 equipment! To be fair, there were some high clouds present on the evening this was shot, hence the brightest stars have halos.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Winter: Orion Sets in the West

Parting is such sweet sorrow, unless you mean it is the end of winter. Goodbye Orion, we'll see you again soon enough, perhaps on a cool late night in autumn.

Pentax Spotmatic II 50mm f/1.4 SMC Takumar @ f/2 -120 second exposure on Kodak ED200, equatorial tracked exposure.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Morning Milky Way

In April 2009 when the summer Milky Way was present in the early morning sky, I took several images using my Pentax Spotmatic with 50mm f/1.4 Takumar lens. This frame shows what can be captured with the lens wide open to capture the sky frozen against the landscape. This 2 minute exposure shows that film can still do the job.

The Elite Chrome 200 film was pushed +1 stop EI ISO 340.

Oh yea, this was shot from my front yard. Living away from civilization has its benefits.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Castor's Foot: Messier 35 Area

The constellation Gemini features a treasure trove of deep sky objects. Most popular is the rich open cluster Messier 35. M-35 can be seen with the unided eye on a cold winter's night, binoculars and small telescopes give a most pleasing view. Scattered throughout the field are numerous nebulae, some of which can be seen here, including NGC-2174, The Monkey Head Nebulae which straddles the Gemini / Orion border.

Pentax 67 300mm f/4 SMC Takumar @ f/5.6 45 minute exposure on Kodak E200 film pushed +2 stops Cropped slightly from original transparency. Scanned on Epson V600, processed in Photoshop.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Superia X-TRA 400

The "new" Superia X-TRA 400 120 format color negative film is available in Japan and the UK. It is also imported to the USA through a handful of dealers. I purchaes a couple pro-packs to run through its viability as an astrophotography film. The data sheet looks good as its spectral sensitivity in both the desired red (Hydrogen-alpha) and blue. The spectral and reciprocity charts looks identical to the well regarded Superia 100.

A planned sequence of exposures begins tonight using the well known targets of Orion, Monoceros, and Gemini. If the film records as well as its 100 speed cousin, exposures of 30-60 minutes at f/4 should provide a good negative to scan with a wealth of detail and faint nebulosity. At less than $4.00 a roll it may also prove to be the cheapest astro-film out there.

A new roll is seen here from the backside of the Pentax 67.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rho-Oph: Dreaming of Summer

While we are in the midst of winter one cannot help but drift ahead of time to a warmer clime. It is true that Scorpius is emerging from its date with Sol and soon will be filling the early morning southern sky. Dreams of Rho-Oph will soon be fullfilled.

Taken last June during a rare window of opportunity of good weather, but during the work week, so little sleep was afforded. It was worth it of course.

The film, Fuji Acros 100 is a stellar performer for capturing the faint blue reflection nebulae in this region, especially IC4592! On top of that the contrasting dark nebulae (Thank you Mr. Barnard ! ) leap from the frame. The lack of thick star clouds in the upper right is because this is where the central hub of our galaxy tapers off.

I hope to be haunted again this summer by the spirit of E.E. Barnard, shooting this region again as he had done over a hundred years ago, with film and a portrait lens.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Night Trax Aurora Photography

Dennis Anderson is an Alaskan photographer specializing in aurora photography.  I stumbled upon his site and was taken back by his incredible image "Angel Fire" which took top prize in Nordley's 2005 Photo of The Year.  See for yourself!

Angel Fire  Copyright Dennis C. Anderson

Dennis spent years perfecting his craft but took it a step further, producing custom made cameras with lenses suited for the pursuit of perfection and to cope with the frigid Alaska night!  These cameras use medium and large format film, one of which was used with Kodak E100G to capture the award winning photograph.  Kudos to Dennis and his amazing work. 

6x9 Medium Format                  4x5 Large Format

Dennis offers prints in various sizes for sale at his Night Trax web site.
Special thanks to Dennis for use of his images here, all copyright Dennis C. Anderson.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Legacy Astrophotography: The Taurus Dark Cloud

Classic black and white astrophotography using modern orthopanchromatic b&w emulsion.

The image was obtained by using an equatorial mount for tracking during the 60 minute exposure utilizing a Pentax 67 and 105mm f/2.4 lens stopped down to f/4.

Under a dark sky these dark regions in Taurus and Auriga can be glimpsed by the keen observer. Long exposure photographs show an entanglement of dark nebulae rivaling anywhere else in the northern Milky Way. Edward Emerson Bernard was among the first to photograph this region and was delighted by what he recorded.

Barnard photographed this region (Plate 5) on January 9, 1907 revealing more than what can be seen here.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Film Test: E100G & Taurus

Kodak E100G is Kodak's last professional transparency film available. Having used the best transparency film for astrophotography, E200 for years now, I decided it was time to try Kodak's last remaining Ektachrome.

Here is a two frame mosaic, each a 20 minute exposure at f/3.4 using my Pentax Spotmatic II and 50mm f/1.4 SMC Takumar.

E100G lacks the red and blue response E200 holds in spades, but is more sensitive to greens. That is typically a bad formula for an astro film, as skyglow and manmade light pollution would record predominantly.

Reciprocity looks good and with a one stop push this film would be a great alternative to E200 if shooting the brightest regions of our Milky Way, such as those in Sagittarius and Ophiuchus. Star colors are well rendered.

As seen here, the film did record the California nebula and a very pale blue Pleiades. More interesting however is that it handily shows the Taurus Dark Cloud and what appears to be the Zodiacal Band running through Taurus.