I'm a physician living in Connecticut with my wife and two children. My interest in astronomy dates back to my childhood in New York where I made frequent visits to the famous Hayden Planetarium. I remember keenly the great feeling of excitement and inspiration I felt when gazing at the magnificent astrophotographs produced by the large observatories of those days. Astronomy and especially astrophotography remained little more than a dream until I moved from New York City to Connecticut in 1993. After taking an introductory course in astronomy at a local college I purchased a pair of binoculars and spent the next year and a half learning the night sky. I then purchased my first telescope, a 10" dobsonian with which I spent the next year observing many deep sky objects whenever the weather permitted. I have many pleasant memories of my early experiences using that telescope. I remember the great feeling of accomplishment and pride upon finding distant galaxies in the eyepiece. This was surely exciting but deep down I yearned to take images like the ones I looked at in amazement earlier in my life. My next purchase was a significant step forward. In 1996 I bought a 10" Meade LX200 and an ST8 CCD camera. This equipment gave me my start in astroimaging. My first images of distant galaxies and nebulas were of mediocre quality but gave me a feeling of excitement and achievement that encouraged me to go forward to color imaging. I continued to improve on my techniques. From that point on I would say I was hooked on taking astroimages. My equipment evolved to apochromatic refractors and then to my latest telescope which is a 12.5" Ritchey-Chretien cassegrain. I currently use an ST8E (SBIG) CCD camera for most images but also use an IMG1024 (FLI) camera for some of my images.
 
Early in my imaging days I was inspired by the great professional astrophotographer David Malin and by the early black and white images taken with the 200" at Mt Palomar. I was also greatly impressed with the aesthetic images being produced by amateurs with more modest equipment. Images taken by Bill McLaughlin, Al Kelly, Adrian Catterall, Stan Moore and others demonstrated to me that the CCD could be used to produce images rivaling film in aesthetic quality but with superior resolution and contrast. The CCD is indeed a versatile and powerful imaging instrument. My imaging style evolved in part from studying both film and CCD images taken by many of the great imagers practicing today. What I try to achieve is a balance of smoothness and richness in color, coupled with the best resolution and contrast I can acquire with my equipment. This requires careful attention to detail and very long cumulative exposures (usually 3 to 5 hours for a given object). My routine is to devote an entire night (or sometimes several nights) to imaging a single object. In this way I can acquire the large amount of data needed to put together a high quality color astroimage. My favorite part of the process is watching the image come to life on the computer screen as I put together the multitude of individual frames taken during the previous nights session.
 
Although limited in scientific value I feel aesthetic imaging has great educational and artistic value. The fascinating natural forms and colors of galaxies, nebulas, and other deepsky objects are deeply aesthetic and have inspired many to learn more about our wonderful universe. As an art form recording the natural wonders of the night sky is deeply rewarding and inspiring.
 
 
I do all of my imaging from my driveway adjacent to my home. I am lucky to be living on a dark cul de sac although there is significant light pollution where I live. On the best nights the transparency is between 4.5 and 5.0 magnitude although the seeing is usually good to excellent. I also feel lucky to have neighbors who are kind enough to cooperate by turning their lights down when I'm imaging.
 
 
Although this is a wonderful hobby, it is expensive. It is also difficult both technically and physically. It requires a significant commitment but pays back in huge rewards. I enthusiastically recommend it to anyone with an interest in the areas of astronomy, imaging, or computer science since it is a great marriage of these disciplines. Just a word of warning; after your first successful image be prepared to be hooked for life!
 
RG
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