By: Gerry DiNunzio 

I have been doing photography for many years and although I’m not a professional photographer I do consider myself an advanced amateur, if you could believe there is such a classification. I actually was the official photographer for the volunteer fire department that I was a member of and I must admit there were many great photographs of fires and other incidents that we responded to, of course that was another time and place.

A few years ago, I was looking for something else to try out my photography skills on.  As I have always been interested in space and the stars and since I have some extra time on my hands (retired now) I thought how about astrophotography.  Well little did I know how much is involved with this type of photography and I must admit it has been a real ride these past couple of years.

I thought I would just pick up my Canon EOS 70D and start shooting as I have always done, WRONG!!!  Since I had no idea of what to expect I started looking on the internet for advice and the proper path to take.  Well, that got even more confusing.  So many choices, what type of camera should you use, do you need a telescope, if so what kind, how about accessories a computer, filters, software, the list was endless and my mind was a tizzy as to which way to go.

I came across the web site for the Raleigh Astronomy Club and since I live in Tyner, NC I thought joining this club might get me the answers I needed to get going.  That was a good choice because the members are always willing to help, and I did get some excellent advice.

But back to my decisions as what to do and how to move forward.  I started looking online for companies that sell all the goodies to get started.  Started out with Orion Telescope.  I contacted them and explained what I wanted to do, and they made some suggestions on a telescope and mount package that would get me started.  The Orion AstoView 120mm ST refractor telescope and EQ mount.  Since Orion recommended this package, I ordered it.  After it arrived and I started using it, I quickly discovered that to get good quality pictures you need to have a mount that can “track”, just what does that mean. I educated myself on that issue and found out that you should also have a “go-to” mount, a WHAT!!!  Yep, need a computerized go-to mount and software to help with control of the mount, what next, of course a laptop computer.  Here I am getting in deeper and deeper with something that I thought would be “a walk in the park”.  Next up was the Polar and star alignment process.  What an adventure that was.  I knew where Polaris was, (in the North of course) but still had difficulty aligning the mount.  It took quite a few outings before I perfected that skill.  One, two- or three-star alignment, so many choices and me with no idea where the stars are located.  Okay, so I need a star chart, or better yet software that knows better than I do.  Well, here comes the Starry Night Pro plus 8 program that knows where I am and where the stars are, that should solve my problem of star alignment.   It sort of did, but of course there was the learning process, which took some time, but I managed to master it.

I am going to end this article for now and do another one later and finish up on my experiences.  I do not want to boar anyone to much on my venture into this endeavor.  Stay tuned there is much more to come.