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• 08/15/11
Monday, August 15th, 2011
 My last attempt at astrophotography was quite an experience. Dew and more dew along with a session ending cloud bank that brought an end to a good learning experience. When I thought I had just about everything ready to try my first guided photo, my optics fogged up and the clouds moved in.
Successes - I was able to make everything work together. No problems with the SSAG and PHD software and no problems with BackyardEOS for the imaging. It all worked. Since the moon was very bright I probably wouldn't have had much in the way of good results in any case. But I used this opportunity to familiarize myself with the software. PHD guiding still presents me with a learning curve with all the parameters to set and I will need more time during my next session figuring out the best choices for these.
Failures - I forgot to balance my rig in both RA and DEC during setup. I didn't realize this until near the end of the evening. When I was getting ready to tear down the setup I checked it and fortunately I was not far off at all on either axis so just got lucky. But next time I will have a check list with me of things to do before powering up the cameras!
Another oversight as I thought back over the evening was the drift alignment. I did it on a star near the meridian and equator for east-west but I forgot to go to the eastern horizon and do a north-south align. So another item that will go on the check list will be good drift aligning.
It was exactly one year ago this August that I read an article about using DSLRs and a barndoor tracker to take good astrophotos. I built my own and had some initial encouraging results. Again, polar alignment and good focus were the biggest challenges, not to mention that my Canon XTi kit lens had a defective AF/MF switch making it frustrating. But  my total investment in the equipment was around $10.
A year later, I am blessed to have a good solid mount, good scopes, camera and software. The biggest difference is the dollars invested and the time required. I could setup the barndoor tracker and be shooting pictures in about 5 minutes whereas now I am using at least one hour or more to get ready and usually start about 1/2 hr before sunset in order to get flats and level the mount, etc while it is still daylight. 
It takes a lot more effort but of course the results are also much better. (At least I hope they will be!) It's a great retirement hobby but I am also finding out that at 64, staying up half the night doing all this makes the next day a bit rough. I don't seem to remember it bothering me so much in my grade school and high school years when I would stay out all night with my 4 1/4 inch Edmund reflector telescope looking at Messier objects and meteor showers!

On 08/15/11 at 03:02pm Larry wrote:
Thanks for your comment and good luck with your purchase. Things get more complicated exponentially with guiding. I had heard this was true but experiencing it is the confirmation. But so far it is worth the pain.

On 08/15/11 at 11:32am West wrote:
This reminds me of my very first journal entry... I got my telescope and was all ready to rock! Went out there the first night it was clear enough... by the time I got out there, I realized that I had NO idea what I was doing LOL. Took me awhile to get everything figured out... the second time I went out was the same, but only a little faster. I think my problem is that I always wait till it's dark to go out. Maybe I should head out a bit sooner when there is still some light. Anyway... I'm happy to hear that you got it all together! I'm waiting till spring to purchase my set. I'm going to TRY to do it all at once... but who knows.

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