Book Review - Getting Started: Budget Astrophotography
Posted: 7 August 2014
Getting Started: Budget Astrophotography
by Allan Hall
332 pages (including glossary and index)
The author provided his book for this review. The purpose of the book as described in the Introduction:
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have seen people with a genuine desire to try their hand at astrophotography hear about the thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars in equipment an astrophotographer has spent to get their images and see that gleam in their eye fade and disappear. But you don’t have to spend that to get started, or for that matter to get some pretty impressive images. This book will show you how.
Every piece of equipment and software I talk about is readily available. I try to steer clear of solutions for only one particular thing (one brand of camera for example) and give you choices. Much of what I discuss is more about getting you to understand the how and why of the techniques than a simple “buy this and click here” approach, although it can certainly be used that way.
The Table of Contents shows the extent of the material covered:
Like the previous book I reviewed (Getting Started: Visual Astronomy), the author uses a "conversational tone", making it an easy read. As seen in the Table of Contents, the book is divided into three major sections which are nearly equal in length. The first section (Understanding) is a good overview discussion that lays a foundation for what you will need to know before starting astrophotography. The second section (Doing) is the real meat of the book and has specifics of how to capture images and process them on your computer. It is here that a drawback of the low contrast black-and-white printing becomes evident. If you look at many of the book's photos of objects, especially those of nebulae, you may wonder "why bother with that object?" and so skip photographing the object yourself. However, by using the techniques described in the book, you can get photographs of your own that do "jump off the page" as the author says on page 39 (even though the book's examples don't jump off the page). If you want to practice image processing before starting your own astrophotography, there are some image processing examples available online from author's web site. One highlight I noted while reading the book was the excellent discussion of Signal-to-Noise-Ratio (SNR) in images. I will definitely be trying the SNR improvement techniques in the book to improve my astrophotography. The third section (Building) has some wonderful DIY projects that can resolve specific problems you may run into. You can do the projects as described or they may foster different projects for you to undertake. Another drawback to the B&W printing cropped up here. On page 195 is a photograph of template the author made. The text says the "blue circle is the lid", but obviously no blue color is shown in the B&W photo. Lastly, there are some suggested targets that you could use to start your astrophotography adventure. Photos and locator charts for each object are provided.
"Getting Started: Budget Astrophotography" will get you started in the exciting area of astrophotography. Whether you want to do astrophotography for fun (like me) or you want to eventually do more serious astrophotography, this book provides excellent guidance to help you. One thing to note about the book is its "Microsoft Windows" perspective. That's not surprising as most of the currently available really serious astrophotography processing software only runs on Windows. If you are a Mac user, there are solutions available but they are not mentioned in the book. Fortunately, most of the techniques described in the book can be applied regardless of the software or computer operating system you use. The book does discuss some iOS and Android OS applications that are available for the amateur astronomer. There are many excellent books on doing astrophotography available today. The ones I've seen and read are not as all-inclusive as "Getting Started: Budget Astrophotography" for the beginning astrophotographer, may leave you overwhelmed, and typically cost about twice as much. Whether you want to start imaging objects in the sky with your smartphone, point-n-shoot camera, DSLR, webcam, or dedicated imager, this book tells you what you need to know. Read it and start doing your own astrophotography!
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