The New CCD Astronomy
Submitted: Friday, 23rd September 2005 by Paul Russell
Revelation doesn’t mean perfect, no it’s not perfect, but it certainly is an eye opener. Written in easy to follow, non-jargonistic terminology (no big complicated words) with hundreds of step by step instructions and images, I found that Ron assumes very little about the ability of the reader and starts from the lowest common denominator. That someone reading this book might know next to nothing about CCD imaging and he takes it from there, building as he goes. It is not a technical manual. It doesn’t tell you in detail, how a CCD works or the mathematics or physics behind them or of the processing software, except in very easy to understand broad terms, yet still covering the fundamentals. This is a “How To Do It” book. And why am I ranting if I don’t have an SBIG etc. Because the principles and techniques he describes, for the large part, are easily transferable to DSLR and Webcam technology.
Ok some of this may not be strictly relevant to DSLR processing, as he is describing processing monochrome images while the DSLR work in colour. Throughout the book he uses CCDSoft and Maxim DL as his initial main image processing software. NP many of the techniques are transferable. Plus Maxim is coming out for DSLRs. Plus I kept hearing myself saying “I could try that in Registax” (or some other program). The book doesn’t just cover how to use CCD cameras. In its 470 odd pages it covers the different types of CCD cameras, mount selection, scope selection, focusing, guiding, exposure control, image capture, image reduction (flats, darks and bias), initial and post processing. In fact the last two chapters are almost all given over to processing using Photoshop.
Perhaps an outline of the book will illustrate my enthusiasm. It is broken in to three main parts. Each part is then broken down into chapters then each chapter broken into sections. For example:
If we are to look at say Chapter 6, it includes sections on Image Reduction, Using Dark Frames, Using Flat-Field Frames, Image Reduction in Action, Other Tips on Cutting Down Noise and Dealing with Light Pollution Gradients. Each one of these sections is then broken down to step by step component processes with examples of how to do it, often with downloadable images from the website to practice on. (This option of downloadable images is particularly useful for the Advanced Image Processing area. Not a lot of us would have Maxim DL or CCDSoft, but many of us have Photoshop or similar and most of the final processing after reduction is done in Photoshop).
Ok, so what could I do with the step by step processes Ron uses. Well I don’t have Maxim DL or CCDSoft, but I do have Photoshop. Below is an example of before and after using one of the step by step processes Ron describes.
Using his steps I was able to convert the image on the left to the image on the right in around 10 minutes. I wasn’t careful with the process. I basically used a rough enough is good enough approach to it to get it done quickly. Consequently the full size image is not as good as it could have been, however it’s not too bad either. I also didn’t worry about the bloomed stars exercise either.
So to me it’s obvious that I’m going to get a lot out of the two chapters on processing. What about the rest of the book? Without a doubt I am going to find it very useful for everything from mount/camera/scope setup to Autoguiding to image capture to image reduction and more. Maybe not using the software he describes, but much of it is readily transferable to DSLR technology and application.
I mentioned earlier on that the book is not perfect. Ok so after raving about it, what is wrong with the book?
So what is my final impression? If someone gave me the book to read and I had access to the PDF files, would I buy it? I’d be online ordering it in a flash. If I didn’t have access to the PDFs? I’d have to consider it but yes I’d probably still buy it. As I mentioned at the top, it may not suit the hardcore imager who already knows what they are doing (though I think even they would get something out of this book) but if you your starting out I would consider this book a must have. What Michael Covington did for the film astrophotographer in “Astrophotography for the Amateur” Ron Wodaski had done for the digital imager. In fact having both those books I find they compliment each other extremely well.
If you get the chance to have a read of the book from a friend, have a read. You will find it worthwhile.
The New CCD Astronomy, by Ron Wodaski - 488 pages, 8.5x11" US$49.95
ISBN: 0-9711237-0-5[1ponders]). Discuss this review at the IceInSpace Forums.