Sunday, April 05, 2020

imaging run details

Set up about half way down the yard, at the extreme east edge. Venus was above the budding trees. The Moon behind me. Tree branches casting shadows ahead of me, long fingers reaching toward the house.

Had the Vivitar Series 1 zoom 70-210 lens on the Canon 40D body, thanks to the Fotodiox M42 adapter with Dandelion chip. Set the zoom to approximately 120 or 130 (thinking this would give me effectively 200mm). Previously I had set to f/8. I used

Backyard EOS. Filter removed. Atop custom barn door tracker with alt-az base and Mamiya tripod. Pre-processed in DPP: corrected white balance, shifted white balance, brightness, contrast, highlights, levels, slight curve.

Did some test shots, focusing, while waiting for Polaris to appear.

8:46 PM. Oh. I forgot. The recorder. Right!

Moved to the back corner of the yard to get a better angle of the Pleiades. Hauled one of the chairs back.

Stars were pretty round. The barn door tracker was working. It was going into the trees. Neat shot. Tried another test shot. Oops. Still in Frame & Focus mode. Tried to abort. I was ready to switch to official high-quality shots.

Memorised the settings, 30 by 200. Switched to Imaging. Applied them into a plan. 30 seconds, f/8, ISO 200, 2 shots. OK... What. Why could I not proceed? Noticed it was taking RAW+L JPG. Whatever. Why was the start button not available?

8:49. Saved the plan file.

The start button wasn't working. It was dimmed. Why? Peas and rice, why was it not working?! I could not start the imaging run! Whiskey tango foxtrot. I flipped modes in Backyard EOS. Schlanger, still not working! Not now! Time was precious. I did not want to shut off the camera. Closed the app. Restarted BYE. Shut down all unneeded apps. Misread the screen! Lost another minute. Version 3.1.18. Waiting... Clicked Connect. S-L-O-W. Hogged out the machine, full hourglass, long time for the screen to update. OK. The button was back...

Reloaded my saved plan.

I wondered if dark subtraction was on... Didn't look like it (normally a message shows in BYE).

8:55. Checked the shots. What?! Now the tracking was off! Oh boy. What now? It was fine a few minutes ago...

Tried again. Diffraction from the branches. OK. I was done.

I wound back the tracker. Whoa. The camera flopped! Scared me.

Rhonda came out. She asked of the Pleiades was down and right of Venus. Yep. She noted the upper balcony lights. Yeah... that.

Nice sky. Told her I was "a little late" for M45 was down in the trees now. And that I was now experiencing tracker problems. Rhonda shared that a friend was talking about astronomy and wondered if she was quoting me. She started scanning the sky and found a dip part way up the lawn, close to where I had started out.

Set up the other tripod, the medium-sized Manfrotto, and Bushnell binoculars for Rhonda.

I was starting to feel cold.

Rhonda relayed some news, asinine and dangerous remarks south of the border. I'm more worried about things there than in this province... Sheesh.

Reminded rho that everything sets in the west; she reminded me that Earth is turning away. True.

I wanted to touch up the focus. Tracked down my deep red flashlight. Looked for tick marks on the old lens. None.

Rhonda liked the "pretty red lights." I had put out the LED string, under the tripod.

I wondered who was on the GO train, who was coming home on a Sunday night.

The images were still drifting. Checked the motor was working, gear was turning. There was no binding. Didn't make sense. Tightened the three controls. I started to wonder if this ball head was not very good.

Freakin' street racers.

Rhonda said the view from the front was good. What? Venus and M45 were in a clear space, no trees. I walked north. How about that. It was impressive. Wow. OK, let's do it, I decided. Asked Rhonda to help me move. She carried the table—minding the tether—while I hoisted the tripod rig. Had never considered the front... It was a good spot.

Spotted Polaris through the branches along the drive.

I finally figured out what was happening, the ball head was loosening from the top plate! Tightened it up.

Transparency was looking really good.

Did a quick polar alignment.

The wind had died down.

The ball head slipped again! Gah.

9:16. Starting taking a proper shot, at last. 30 seconds, ISO 200. Stars were round—good. Tracker proper was working fine.

We looked at the first image. "Oh. It's nice. It's beautiful. Love it." Rhonda thought.

To ISO 400.

I turned on the in-camera subtraction.

Next test looked good. Lots of stars. I liked the "stringer" starting with HD 23631 and heading south. Bumped the ISO to 800.

Next looked better still. We both thought it really nice. A good histogram. OK. Let's get more. Then I can stack. Programmed 10 shots.

9:24. Go!

What a great spot, particularly with the driveway robotic light disabled. Glad Rhonda encouraged me. She was just walking around. I thanked her.

I was happy with the big glass, the Vivitar Series 1. Glad I have kept it, the gift from Uncle Jack, from the 1990s. It's been everywhere with me, the heavy zoom lens [ed: over 33 ounces or 943 grams, according to Ken Rockwell.]. This was the first test on my barn door tracker! Ball head unscrewing issue aside, it was working great! Wish he could see these shots.

I was really surprised at how everything was working...

Rhonda said, "This would have been a good CAO night." Oh yeah...

The wind had picked up a bit...

I checked the balance on the BDT. A little bit further and the lens would take over...

9:36. Final shot. Wow. Thanked Rhonda.

I took the camera and tracker in while Rhonda spotted for me.


Lessons learned:

The ball head loosened on the upper plate. Need to get a spanner out to torque it up. [ed: 15mm.]

When tearing down, the camera fell or shifted balance again. Almost hit my face. Will need to check the unfiltered lens for a face print.

The new mic muff worked really well acoustically but was starting to fall off at the end of the evening. Will need to secure it.

The driveway spot was great. In part to having the security light disabled. Will need to turn it back on...

Camera "start up time" was really long as I connected to the computer. It seems to itemise all the photos for the Canon EOS Utility: the more photos you have, the longer it takes. So it would be a good idea to have a clear, empty card.

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