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Old 09-05-2005, 08:26 AM
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New Zealand Astrophotography weekend

Hi All,
With thanks to a couple of roving Queenslanders who brought fine weather with them, we had a very successful innagraul Australasian Astrophotography weekend.
Friday was a stunning day for the drive upto Taupo. The autumn colours of this country are truely spectucular.

Friday afternoon began with one attendee (who shall remain nameless) chasing deer off the observing field into another paddock!. From about 3pm anwards attendees started arriving. Tents were setup and Scopes mounted. It was great to see an observing field dominated by equatorial mounts rather than Dobs. But true to fashion it's hard to keep the Dob owners away with Dave Moorehouse turning up with his 8" bino-Dob. He was planning to do eyepeice projection... onto the eye!

Friday eveing began casually with old friends catching up and new ones being made. A couple of drinks and a bit of tucker and it was dark!!
The first part of the evening was pretty much dedicated to drift aligning and tweaking setups in preparation for astronomical dark and imaging! True to New Zealand form the long white cloud turned up at about 8pm just as most were ready to go. Jupiter stayed clear and many focussed on that as a few of us retired inside to catch the 2nd half of the Rugby.

A few late arrivals (Coops) heralded the clearing of the sky and from ~11pm onwards it was a stunningly clear night. Dew heaters & battereis were tested as the temperatures dropped. Some battled dew while others (myself included) battled dwindling battery power. Many nice images were taken and plenty was learnt by checking out other peoples methods.
Fog interrupted proceedings at about 4am, by which time most welcomed the excuse to catch a few zzzz's. Eta Aquarids meteor shower was unfortunately fogged out.

Saturday dawned foggy, but at least that kept the frost away. The temperature got to ~3C overnight. Much warmer than was expected.
In true astro observing fashion the place was pretty quite first thing. A few headed off into town for breakfast and a couple of our international visitors headed out to see the tourists sites of Taupo.
Saturday afternoon was dedicated to a few talks on astro-imaging and we had excellent presentations from....
Chris Picking - Piggyback Astrophotography.
John Burt - Guidance on Guiding
Rob Beck - Hardware interface for guiding
John Drummond - Focus on Focussing
Mark Cannel - Image processing by way of Convolution & DeConvolution.
I am sure those that were there can echo my sentiments as to the quality of the presentations. Lots was learnt!

A basic BBQ dinner was arranged for Saturday evening and all available energy was devoured in preparation for another long nights observing/photograpghing.
Thanks to the previous nights efforts, setup tonight was minimal and it was just a matter of turning it on and getting started.
Again Jupiter was the target for many early on as we ran a competition for the best Jupiter image taken between 7 & 8pm. Jupiter continued to be a popular target as cloud started to form in the south. A few deep sky images were taken before high cloud set in around 9pm. The cloud hanged around and we only got views via "sucker holes", which are not condusive to photography.
The remining of the night was spent observing doubles from the bottom of a wine glass and general good natured chatter. This aspect of the weekend is always popular as cloud means lot's of laughs and healthy discussion on what is the best Globular in the sky.
Groups formed discussing everything from image processing to the latest Rugby results. A good night albiet with limited photography opportunities.

Sunday dawned cloudy, but still no rain as forecast!
A short session that enabled attendees to show-off thier weekends efforts was followed by the prizegiving.
Three spot prizes were up for grabs from ImagesPlus, K3CCDTools, & a book donated by RASNZ & Ursula McFarlane of Tauranga.

A full copy of ImagesPlus was won by John Burt of Gisborne
Many thanks to Mike Unsold for this contribution to the event http://www.mlunsold.com

A license for K3CCDTools2 was won by Andy Dodson.
Many thanks to Peter for this contribution to the event.
http://www.pk3.org/Astro

A copy of the book "The New Amature Astronomer" was won by Terry Butt of Te Horo

Discussion followed the prizegiving on the future of the event. Most found the weekend to be worthwhile and supported the idea of it being an annual fixture, but perhaps a little earlier in the year. John Drummond had been approaced by RASNZ (Royal Astronomical Society of NZ) about starting an Astrophotography section of the society. This was a well supported idea and it was decided that this should happen. John was elected as director of the section.

Many thanks to Bruce & Pat Bailey for use of their farm and premises for the event. It was an excellent dark sky site, with great views south.

More Aussies next year!.... But not too many!

Cheers
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Old 09-05-2005, 08:28 AM
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And a copule of my best efforts from the weekend.
M65 & M66. Part of the Leo Trio. 13x3mins @ f/6.3 Celestron C9.25 and Canon 300D.
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Old 09-05-2005, 08:29 AM
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M83. 5x3min @ f/10. Same scope & Camera
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Old 09-05-2005, 08:30 AM
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Tarantula 9x2min @ f/10
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Old 09-05-2005, 08:43 AM
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iceman (Mike)
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Great writeup and awesome images Robby!

Have you got any photos of the people, the fields, the scopes etc?

Also can you post the winning Jupiter image?

Glad you got better weather than we did on Saturday night!

Congrats on holding a successful event.
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Old 09-05-2005, 10:30 AM
rumples riot
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Lovely writeup and images of what sounded like a good weekend. If I have time next year I would like to go.

One quick question re M83, I took 40 minutes worth on Saturday night and cannot seem to get anywhere near the brightness that you did in 15 minutes. I know that you were in a dark sky site but wondered what ISO you were using (I used 1000) and do you have any processing techniques or tips to increase the brightness of the image without turning it into a grainy mess?

If you can help that would be great.
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Old 09-05-2005, 10:50 AM
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Hi Paul,
You would be most welcome next year! 1Ponders & westsky joined us this year, and I hope they enjoyed it. They will no doubt pitch in with a comment or two.

M83 was shot at ISO1600. I did minimal processing, but because of the dark sky I could really stretch the curve without suffering the black point too much. Also it was cold, which hepled keep the noise down. Pretty much all I did was curves & levels and slight contrast adjustment. I did it all very quickly as I wanted to get them done for the show-off session on Sunday morning! It is a bit too noisy for my liking which is why I would have liked more shots to stack.

Cheers
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Old 09-05-2005, 11:53 AM
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OK, as Ice asked I have attached a couple of mug shots.
Let me add that this event, organised by Robby, and John Drummond, was a roaring success. All had a ball, and the exchange of ideas and knowledge was fantastic. The addition of Ponders, and Westsky ( and son) from Ozzie was an additional bonus, and it was good to meet these guys in person.

Robby at his StarMating best, working on my Tak/StarMate connection.
Gary
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Old 09-05-2005, 11:54 AM
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Dave, and his son Geroge, erecting their tent. Don't worry, they didn't bring the Port- a -loo with them.
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Old 09-05-2005, 11:56 AM
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And lastly, Dave "strictly visual" Moorehouse, and his baby binos (8", his normal ones are 16").
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Old 09-05-2005, 12:40 PM
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Great write up Robby......no wonder David(westsky) wasn't answering his mobile....grrrrrrrr

Some great images too...well done.

What NO sheep shots....dissapointed.

Last edited by Striker; 09-05-2005 at 12:42 PM.
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Old 09-05-2005, 03:31 PM
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Nice work Robby ! and I was thinking the long white cloud will get you for shaw.


Louie
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Old 09-05-2005, 03:45 PM
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great report Robby

and fantastic images, each one is a keeper.
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Old 09-05-2005, 06:26 PM
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Robby, great weekend and once again a big thank you to you and John D for putting the weekend together and to you Robby for all your asistance you gave Paul (1 ponders) and myself.
For those of you that have never visited NZ before ( like Me) do yourself a favour and cross the pond to see this beautiful place.My son and I had a great time saw things that we had only read about and are really looking forward to going back again sometime soon.
I didn't do much in the way of astro shots but had a great time talking and sharing ideas with the other blokes there, I learnt some new stuff that I plan on putting to good use at my next dark weekend. I made some more friends and just enjoyed the entire time there.
My son worked the camera hard taking shots of just about everything we saw and for a young bloke of 15 he's showing lots of promise, if I could only talk him into staying awake at night I would leave the astro shots up to him if his daytime shots are anything to go by, he seems to have a natural knack for photography.
more later

David.
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Old 09-05-2005, 06:43 PM
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One discovery from the NZ weekend is we now know where clouds come from,we have it on good authority that the Kiwi's make them, it seems there are little Hobbit
type creatures that work at pumping them out of the ground

David
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Old 10-05-2005, 07:24 AM
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Yes thanks to Robby and John for organizing the weekend. I'm putting together a FULL report of the three days we spent in NZ, that I should have finished in a couple of days
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Old 10-05-2005, 07:28 AM
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Nice guys! Great shots.

Paul, I can add your report to the website under "event reports" if you'd like.
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Old 10-05-2005, 12:13 PM
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That'd be great Mike. David and Rob if you have any photos you want included, reduce them, zip 'em up and email them to me and I'll try to fit them into the story
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Old 10-05-2005, 12:22 PM
dhumpie
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Looks like you guys had a great time in NZ. Wish I was there

Darren

p/s: actually I might be planning a trip up there sometime this year with the wife. Dunno if she will like to be under the stars thought
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Old 10-05-2005, 02:08 PM
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great write-up guys. thanks for sharing.
sounds like it was really good
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