It started one evening in the Fall of 2018. My brother and I were staying at our family cabin in Big Bear, CA enjoying the dark night sky. Almost on a whim, he decided to grab my dad’s spotting scope and point it at Mars. Thus started my introduction to astrophotography Mars was any easy target and usually it takes just a few seconds to find it and another few minutes to bring the wandering planet into focus. This evening was a little bit different in that we opted to find Jupiter as well.

Polaris Red Rock, taken with a Canon EOS Elan 7 with Fuji Velvia, 50 ISO film
Polaris Red Rock, taken with a Canon EOS Elan 7 with Fuji Velvia, 50 ISO film

In the past, when I tried to find Jupiter, I was usually disappointed because the inexpensive telescopes or more typically camera lenses I was using only allowed me to find the gas giant and view a star-like orb in the sky through a shaky view finder. On this cold Big Bear night not only could we see Jupiter, but we could easily see 5 moons in its orbit. I have always been interested in Astronomy (anything science or nature based really), however, I never entertained the idea for more than a view minutes. None the less, a seed was planted in my deep in mind, so I started to research the technique.

The next Christmas, my mother who was also moved by our experience purchased a telescope for the cabin in Big Bear. The spring time evening caused the planets to be below the horizon, however to moon shown in all of its glory. Finally, with a decent platform I could see the moon in all of its glory. I could clearly see the mountains and craters of the moon in vivid detail and grew to appreciate our satellite with a new respect and admiration. This entry level came with a mechanism to attach my cell phone to the view finder and on a brisk evening in April I took my first photograph of the moon. The results were disappointing, however, I now wanted to improve my technique, equipment and photographic results.

An underwhelming first moon shot, taken with a cell phone connected to the telescope, this poorly composed and out of focus photograph inspired me to do better.

For decades, I have been interested in landscape photography. For landscape photography in general you need a decent camera, good glass and patience. I always tried to drive, hike, camp further out that most people were willing to go, setup my camera and wait the the earth to rotate into the golden hour. Once the the sun went down, dinner and a campfire capped off the day. I would spend my time looking at the stars but never entertained a thought of trying to capture them.

There were several reasons for this lack of ambition to capture the night sky:

  1. I was tired. Hiking and Camping can do that to you…
  2. My Film Camera was loaded with Fuji ISO 50 film, which is not really suited to the cause. In the age of digital, I can take one photo at ISO 100 and the very next photograph at ISO 1600 or more
  3. In days prior to digital photography, every photo cost more money. However, the opposite is true, which for those of us at a mature age, is amazing.
  4. Quite Frankly, I did not try so I never learned how to capture the images I was interested in taking.

On a personal level, my amateur photography output waned a bit when I married and started a family, a choice I would gladly make again. Part of a reason for this is my young son complained about the weight of the camera backpacks and tripod.

During this time, the photographic world dramatically changed. The digital camera and photograph took over and not just a little. No longer limited by the chemistry and physic film. Cameras no longer are no longer defined as a box with a hole in it, now they are dedicated purpose built computers which allowed a new level of control over the final image. ISO is no longer a setting for film and can be adjusted on the fly from image to image. So, my primary camera was upgraded from a Canon EOS Elan 7 film camera to an entry level Canon Rebol XS. Film was removed from my camera bad, replaced with SD cards, computers and USB Cables.

I am looking forward to learning where this new field of learning will take me. My initial thoughts are to focus on wide angle landscapes which showcase the Milky Way Galaxy or perhaps some constellations. I am hopeful that this will extend my love of camping with photograph.