A Complete Astrophotography Workshop, for Free

There are a lot of good tutorial resources out there, some of them free, but for the most part if you want a high quality video tutorial, you'll need to pay. Well, this is a rare exception.

Lonely Speck is a couple, Ian Norman and Diana Southern, who are experts in astrophotography. Their YouTube channel is one of my favorites on the platform and they create some of the best starscapes and Milky Way images out there.

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When I first saw Cotopaxi Volcano in photos, I knew I wanted to shoot it at night. @northtosouthtravel and I got lucky on our first night here, with clear skies in the early hours after sunset. But we were wildly underprepared for night photography on this trip. We had no real tripods and no cold weather gear to venture outside in this frigid high elevation setting. Already exhausted from being at 3650 m (12,000 ft) elevation, we instead decided to shoot photos from the comfort of our Airbnb's bedroom. This is the view that we saw from the window. Cotopaxi is the second tallest volcano in Ecuador. It was elusive most of the days we spent in the park, only peeking out from underneath a blanket of clouds on short occasions, before slipping away like a phantom. For this particular trip, I made the difficult decision to travel to Ecuador with only the Canon 700D/T5i and a basic 18-135mm kit lens. With the Galapagos islands being such a huge focus of our trip, I wanted the convenience and portability of an all-in-one zoom, and it proved excellent for how much wildlife photography we did on the islands. But I have to admit, I do regret not having my Sony a7S and a better lens for this particular shot. I did my best with the basic kit: stacking about 30 frames of light and dark exposures (15s at f/3.5 and ISO 12800) and doing my best to not push the files too far beyond their capability. We had no moon during our shooting and there was no immediate light pollution around the hacienda so the foreground remained terribly dark, making for an exceptionally difficult photo to shoot and process. Everything about using the old Canon DSLR made me wishing for a modern mirrorless camera. The live-view was very dark and difficult to use for focusing, there was no built-in interval timer, and the results were exceptionally noisy. The result after stacking multiple exposures isn't too bad, but it's hard to think about how much better it could have been with better gear. The area around Cotopaxi is stark and beautiful. It's a place that I know I'd love to re-visit for a more extended period. I'm glad we got a few hours to try to capture it at night. #lonelyspeck

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In 2016, they created a full astrophotography workshop which covers everything from the technical, theoretical information, through to post-processing once you've got your shot. They have now uploaded the entire thing to YouTube, which you can watch for free. It might be the best resource for astrophotography that any beginner could hope for.

Though I haven't got to do as much astrophotography as I'd like due to where I live, I have done it whenever I've had the chance. There is one thing I learned very quickly indeed: post-processing is everything. There are few genres of photography — if any — that require more nuanced work in post to coax out the best possible image. As a result, astro can be off putting for beginners. Well, make yourself a drink, grab a notepad, and receive a free masterclass.

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5 Comments

S M's picture

2 years ago I used to make astrophotography post processing videos and while the weather in California hasn’t permitted me from shooting the stars much, being a new father has! Regardless though I went out recently and shot the stars, and trying to manage post production of the sky after so much time off in this genre felt so foreign after the time off. It was fun to go back and look at how my processing used to be, meanwhile blending my newer knowledge of Photoshop from interior photography post production and how those worlds collide.

Astro is just a beast in general. You hear 500 rule, NPF rule, stacking, tracking, dark frames, panoramas, etc etc. plus, actually blending blue hour and stars from new moon phases. None of This isn’t even considers deep sky imaging...

Steven de Vet's picture

I did do some astro photography here and there.. the occasional milkyway shot and such.
But during the Covid downtime I've been getting into deep sky imaging.

it's.... a beast... tracking and exposing four hours and hours.. it's one hell of a learning curve.. but very rewarding!

What is a shame though, it's a hobby where money matters. a lot..
Here's the result of last night, 3 hours worth of exposure in the end

Nicolas Thulliez's picture

great picture !
what kind of scope do you use ? the eagle nebula is so small, even with an apsc and a 300mm, I couldn't have this kind of result...

Steven de Vet's picture

Thanks, it's with a Skywatcher 150/750 scope. So, 750mm.
And got an old modified Canon EOS 1200d for the imaging on it

Nicolas Thulliez's picture

A few years back, this youtube channel helped me a lot on how to process an astrophotography, I now use their method on all the milky way pictures I take...