At the risk of sounding overly cliché, astrophotography is a hobby that is effortless to start and virtually impossible to master. Smartphones are so powerful now that almost anyone can point it towards the Moon and snap a decent picture. At its most basic, that is astrophotography. However, venturing into the gulf between a Moon selfie and breathtaking images of galaxies and nebulae is where the real adventure lies… as well as the frustrations and triumphs that come along with any challenge worth undertaking.
I am very much an amateur astronomer. My interest in astronomy started when I was maybe 10 years old. My uncle had a “big” 6 inch refractor telescope and one night he took my brother and I to the back yard to look at the Moon. In a childhood filled with video games and TV, looking at the Moon through his telescope cut through the glare of glowing screens to truly capture my imagination.
In the following years visiting him, I would always ask if we could look through the telescope. I was shocked when he would reply that “there was nothing worth seeing tonight.” I don’t tell this part of the story to denigrate him in any way, but to explain how that sentiment only bolstered my fascination with the night sky. To me, everything was worth looking at, and I couldn’t wait to get a big telescope of my own to venture into the gulf.
Hopping into the time machine and bringing us to present day, I purchased my very own 8” Dobsonian telescope around 2012 and it has been one of my most prized possessions ever since. It is the only tool I have to truly transport my heart and mind into an expanse bigger than my problems and into an infinitely explorable universe.
Every time I pull it out of the garage and focus on a random star, I can’t help but smirk at the notion “there’s nothing to see.” I imagine someone on a planet possibly orbiting that star looking back toward me and thinking the same thing.
The next leg of my journey was to figure out how to take pictures of some of this “nothing.” I already had an 8” telescope and a decent camera. After a few minutes of Google research, I just needed an adapter to mount the camera to the scope and I was off to the races.
With this relatively basic setup, I was able to capture the best photograph of my life (other than photographing my son). On a cold winter night in Montrose, I was able to capture the alignment of our Moon and Jupiter in one breathtaking frame. In my greatest attempt at astrophotography, I was able to capture the Moon in enough detail to transport myself to the base of mountainous cliffs on the horizon and see separation in the atmospheric layers of our solar system’s largest planet.
Astrophotography is one of the most rewarding hobbies I have ever attempted. If I never take another cosmic photograph as good as this, I will still go to my grave feeling accomplished in the hobby.
So take whatever camera lens you have, point it up towards “nothing”, so you can explore everything.
Like and subscribe to the official HMNS Youtube channel to see all that Johnny’s camera lens captures in the name of curiosity.