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Book Review - Getting Started: Long Exposure Astrophotography

Posted: 14 August 2014

photo Getting Started: Long Exposure Astrophotography
by Allan Hall
335 pages (including Glossary and Index)
Published June 2013

The author provided his book for this review. The purpose of the book as described in the Introduction:

I read several books, searched the internet and poured over online forums. Nowhere was there a really good starter’s guide on serious astrophotography. Sure, there were some good books but they mainly focused on a brief overview of the ideas coupled with tutorials on a specific piece of software that I had never heard of and couldn’t find anyone who actually used it. What I wanted, what I really needed, was something that covered pretty much all the theory and most of the practical application all in one place.

This book is an attempt to rectify all the problems I found when I started down the path.

The Table of Contents clearly outlines the type of information you will find in this book:

Section 1. The basics
   1.0 Introduction
   1.1 About the book
   1.2 Your budget & realistic expectations
   1.3 The mount
   1.4 The telescope
   1.5 Basic setup
   1.6 Guide scope & guiding
   1.7 The camera
   1.8 Other important equipment
   1.9 Acquiring images

Section 2. Up and running
   2.1 Camera control software
   2.2 Mount control/Planetarium software
   2.3 Tablet software
   2.4 My setup procedure
   2.5 Exposure considerations
   2.6 Post processing overview
   2.7 Finding targets, session planning
   2.8 Astrophotography with camera lenses
   2.9 Brand specific considerations

Section 3. Making your head hurt
   3.1 Shooting mono to get color
   3.2 Stacking images
   3.3 Stretching images
   3.4 Image acquisition tricks and tips
   3.5 High Dynamic Range acquisition & processing
   3.6 Tuning PHD for best guiding results
   3.7 Creating a custom light box for flats
   3.8 Remote observatories
   3.9 Being different: Spectroscopy
   3.10 Closing notes
   3.11 Where to go from here

Section 4. Top 25 targets to start with

The first and third sections of the book are the largest and are approximately equal in length. The second section is a little shorter, with the last section being the smallest. The first section provides a good overview of equipment and techniques needed to do astrophotography. The second and third sections cover capturing and processing images. There is understandably a Windows orientation in the software discussions although some of the available Macintosh (and Linux) astrophotography applications are mentioned. If you use the software discussed you will find the techniques and tips very helpful. Otherwise, most of the techniques in the book should guide you if using alternative software. There is some discussion of tablet astronomy applications (mostly iOS). The second section has an excellent discussion of camera Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) and how that impacts the capturing and processing of images. I found it particularly useful as it discusses the Nikon D7000 DSLR (which I have). If you have a different camera, the explanations will still be very valuable to you. Section 3 goes into more detail on image processing and does get somewhat technical at times, but not so much that it should not be beyond most readers. The last section has some suggested Deep Sky Objects (DSOs) for the new astrophotographer to get started with. Most of these are easy, with a few more difficult ones thrown in to challenge the new astrophotographer.

There is some duplication of the material in this book with that in the other books by the author (Getting Started: Visual Astronomy, Getting Started: Budget Astrophotography, and Messier Astrophotography Reference; click the links for my reviews), but it is minimal and perfectly acceptable as each book can stand on its own.

The author has some image processing examples available for download on his web site. As these files are large he has thoughtfully provided a form in the back of the book to order a DVD for $10. You can use these files to learn how to process images using the same images described in the book.


I have frequently noted that I just "play at doing astrophotography". I am sure I am not alone in that. After reading this book I have decided to get a little more serious about it. How far down this new path I'll ultimately go remains to be seen (or rather "imaged"), but the knowledge I've learned from reading "Getting Started: Long Exposure Astrophotography" has given me confidence to begin a new phase with my astrophotography. The only downside to this book is that the black-and-white printing used is not very high quality. There is also no color used. High quality and/or color printing would have been nice, but at a large increase in cost. However, the content is excellent and well worth the minimal cost of the book when compared to other astrophotography books that are available. If you want to upgrade your astrophotography efforts, then this book will guide you in accomplishing that.

For more information about this and other books by the author see his web site.

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