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Back in the film days….

This is just a little aside before I continue the Celestial Campground series.

Here is a little photograph of the same galaxy using two different types of technology. One was taken back in May of 2001 with film, the other in April of this year with a CCD. I posted them large so you will be able to see the details of the photos. Yes I said photograph. This was taken in the day when most of us took some film and an SLR camera with a stash of lenses out to a dark site. Back then we had a large selection of films to choose from. Most of the amateurs I ran across did not have a CCD camera, if they did it was used to guide the telescope while a film camera recorded the heavens above. Those days are coming to a rapid end.

Now it is the other way around. Few of the amateurs use film and now opt for DSLRs and CCDs for grab a pic of the heavens. Some of the best moments in my time as an astrophotographer was learning patience at the guiding eyepiece of my telescope. Also I built up a tolerance for neck pain and eye strain. Yes you read it correctly! We spend hours hunched over an eyepiece that contained fine crosshairs and a red LED to illuminate them. Most of the time the guide star was pretty faint and one must contain that star at the intersection of those crosshairs. One wrong tap of a button and your precisely guided photo is ruined. I had that happen more times than I care to remember, but still the rewards were great after a night of guiding at the scope. From time to time when the scope was performing great, I would look up and take in the stars on that wonderful velvet black backdrop before returning to my game of chase the star.

Now I have made the transition to digital and use a CCD camera with the scope. Today I can reach stars much fainter than the faintest stars I recorded with film. Also back in the film days you had to either develop it yourself or take it to the local camera shop now the image appears on a screen.  I hit the local Ritz Camera about once a month with a roll or two of pics. Now I just hit the enter key to say the pics to my hard drive.  No drive to the mall and waiting an hour for there processing to be done. No worry about the film getting messed up in the developer or finding out that an entire night passed and the film did not go through the camera. With CCD, you just delete and retake the exposure. The down side of CCD–your night vision is wrecked from the computer screen, but that is the price we pay for great images these days.

Do I miss the film days? Yes I do, and from time to time I catch myself daydreaming of the nights that I spent huddled over an eyepiece under a velvet black sky……

The top picture is a 10 minute exposure with the CCD, the bottom is film and a 55 minute manually guided exposure.


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