Monday 8th January 2007
An Introduction To Astrophotography

It’s the start of a new year and the first EAAS meeting of 2007 took place on Monday 8th January in Thompson Primary School, Ballyrobert. A great set of speakers to start the year off and they didn’t disappoint.

First off, EAAS member Andy Johnston opened the meeting on the topic of ‘Choosing a Telescope’. He started by detailing a brief history of telescopes, who invented what and when and brought it all up to date ending on the big manufacturers of today Meade, and Celestron.

Andy Johnston

Andy claimed to be only an amateur but appeared to have had plenty of practical experience of the different types of telescope. He also produced a handout which everyone received. He talked about Refractors, the Newtonian Reflector and finally Catadioptrics. Under Catadioptrics he mentioned the two main types, Maksutov–Cassegrain and the Schmidt–Cassegrain designs. By giving advantages and disadvantages of all types of telescopes he helped all new and experienced members alike understand the benefits of selecting the right type of telescope for their particular interests. Andy’s topic was well presented and received.

After an introduction from EAAS chairman, Mark Stronge, the main guest speaker for the night, Martin Campbell from Dungannon, took centre stage. His topic for discussion was ‘An Introduction to Astrophotography’.

Mark and MartinMartin Campbell

Martin is well known in the local astronomy community for his wide field images of the night sky. Martin was Assistant Director at Armagh Planetarium and later taught GCE Astronomy in Dungannon. Martin started by giving a brief history of the use of cameras in astronomy. He also told us that his passion for wide field photography started after he imaged comet Hale-Bopp. He now specialises in wide field photography of the Milky Way. After struggling to get the images he was after from Dungannon because of light pollution, he decided to look further afield.

As a regular visitor to France for the family summer holidays, Martin decided to combine his passion of astronomy along with his trips away. So, when looking for dark skies and a family holiday, he decided on the French Alps and the Pyrenees. After a lot of success in these regions he now goes annually. This takes a lot of planning as he books his time away to coincide with the new moon and dark skies. Also, with the amount of equipment he uses (2 Vixen mounts and 4 SLR cameras and lenses etc.) it would be enough to put anyone off travelling. This just proves his dedication to the pursuit of the perfect image. However, he explains that just getting there is only half the battle, he then has to put up with some logistical problems and setup issues. He has no control over the weather and local aircraft. Regarding setup issues, he explained the problems with focus. On closer inspection of some of his "first light" images, he talked about a shopping list of errors to do with the camera and lenses etc., some of which he had been able to correct, some not. Martin explained that he mostly uses Nikon 35mm SLR cameras loaded with slide film. More recently, however, he has also moved on to digital SLRs, namely a Canon 20Da, which he mentioned was a great investment.


The audience was enthralled with his passion for the subject and by displaying some of his fantastic images Martin ensured that everyone had a great night. Martin finished his talk by taking questions from the audience after which he got a rapturous round of applause.

I personally was looking forward to Martin Campbell giving a talk at the EAAS as I have really enjoyed his images over the last few years, and all I can say is, "I wasn’t disappointed!" His enthusiasm and passion for his amazing hobby shines through. Hopefully we will see Martin again soon at the EAAS as he hinted he would love to come back up and talk to us on digital processing techniques.

Click here and here to see some of Martin’s images.

Philip Matchett



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