An update ot my workshop rig

I own a set of telescope equipment I have accumulated since 2005 which at first was my personal portable telescope gear and in recent years has been primarily used for workshop participants using their own cameras for astrophotography. This has been my Losmandy GM8 with William Optics Megrez 90 refractor and ZWO 130mm guide scope.

In 2022 I decided it was time to change this setup used for workshop participants. A few considerations coming in to the mix were:

  • My Megrez 90 has become a more permanent fixture at my dark sky observatory and bringing it back for workshops is a time killer (both retrieving it and the work to re-calibration the permanent dark sky setup).
  • I would like a faster focal ratio to achieve more for my participants quicker
  • I have become a little tired of the ~600mm focal length range telescopes, and want something a little longer but still manageable on a small mount.
  • I needed to improve the setup time – making it quicker to polar align, guide, and get going with exposures longer than 30 seconds.
  • My new equipment needs to be at an amateur astronomer achievable price point, for a mid level amateur, as this is what they’ll get to try using. There’s no point them testing out a premium OTA or mount when it’s not going to be affordable for most of my workshop participants.

My new telescope equipment

The set up so far looks like this:

  • Retain the Losmandy GM8, though am continuing to assess whether it needs to be replaced.
  • New Skywatcher Quattro 200mm (8″)
  • New Sharpstar MPCC
  • New ZWO 120MM guide camera
  • New ZWO ASIAir Plus
  • New William Optics red dot finder
  • New OCAL Electronic Collimator
  • New Prima Luce ESATTO 2″ electronic focuser
  • Custom made travel case for the Quattro with various accessories attached

I’ll introduce these to you over a few blog posts and talk about some learnings and improvements/changes yet to be made.

Here below are some pictures to bring you up to speed. The equipment is currently spending most of it’s time set up in my backyard observatory which these days largely serves as a test bed for new equipment. Setting up the new equipment here allows me to make small tweaks now and then with minimal time commitment each time. 30 minutes testing guiding or collimation, or adapter spacing or focuser software, all goes a long way.

A new video!

You might be wondering why I have been so quiet? Well, I am still alive, and I am still shooting photography, although mostly astrophotography now. You will find more of my recent work at https://www.astrophotography.com.au

Here is an astrophotography timelapse video shot in February 2019 from my wheatbelt property. This video features the Milky Way rising, along with the Moon and planets Venus and Saturn. Turn up your audio and enjoy the movie!

Gloucester Tree Kari Forest

Afternoon sunlight shining through the Kari Forest surrounding Gloucester Tree.

As the sun lowered in the sky on this late afternoon walk the last rays of warm sunshine are a contrast to the cooling forest. The damp starts to settle in and the warmth of a nearby cottage starts to call. This is the karri forest surrounding the Gloucester Tree in Pemberton and I’m sure this particular view is very familiar to many who walk the short tracks around the tree. I remember the exact scene from years ago. The scene may stay somewhat the same, but the lighting and person taking the photo changes constantly.

Karri Forest Leaf Litter

Karri Forest Leaf Litter (Pemberton, Western Australia)

I absolutely love the forest floor of the WA Kari Forests, and what better than to have the colour and detail of the leaf litter raised up to a more convenient height for photographing by a very obliging xamia palm leaf? It’s the glistening wet, the dynamic colour, the high saturation of the colours, it’s all there in the leaf litter.

Edge of the Karri Forest

Karri Forest in Pemberton, Western Australia.

There were many good photographs captured in a recent (May 2017) family holiday to our frequent stomping ground of the Karri Forests of Pemberton, Western Australia. This one photograph I keep coming back to, least expected though I have to admit. I snapped the photograph when quickly walking back from a short walk around the Pemberton mountain bike tracks. The tracks weave up and down the hill side of Kari forest opposite the town. Generally I’d say it’s not the most picturesque of Karri forest spots but of course it still has photo opportunities.

This photograph is straight out of the camera with no editing at all. It was taken using my Fuji X-E2 in film simulation Velvia mode. Velvia is a throw back to film days, where I started with my photography. Many of the photographs on this website still are scanned images from my film photography days, using Velvia and Provia slide films which were my favorite. The latitude, colours and definition straight out of the Fuji X-E2 are often “wow” and just perfect. The lens is a 12mm Samyang.

I particularly like how this photograph give some perspective to the enormous height of the Karri trees, even relatively young ones like these. I would normally avoid the perspective given by this 12mm lens in this situation, but it has worked out well in this case. The patchy cloud and blue sky in the distance also works well for the image, giving some depth where you might ordinarily have just a uniform blue or cloudy sky. That same partly cloudy effect lets some nice warm sunlight shine through the trees from the neighbouring paddocks.

Back at Kalbarri

Back at Kalbarri in Westen Australia’s mid-west region for a family holiday, I’ve been snapping some new pics of the area. Fitting photography in around a 1 year old’s eat and sleep routine is not impossible but it does preclude photography at one of the ideal times of day: evening/sunset. So, we make do with what we can!

Kalbarri Jetty (Murchison River)

Sunset rock pool at Kalbarri
Sunset rocks and water at Kalbarri

Morning Storm Clouds

Early morning storm clouds in the Perth Hills, Western Australia. 2nd January 2016.
Early morning storm clouds in the Perth Hills, Western Australia. 2nd January 2016.

Early morning storm clouds in the Perth Hills, Western Australia. 2nd January 2016.
Early morning storm clouds in the Perth Hills, Western Australia. 2nd January 2016.

Early morning storm clouds in the Perth Hills, Western Australia. 2nd January 2016.
Early morning storm clouds in the Perth Hills, Western Australia. 2nd January 2016.

This morning (2nd January 2016) there was a series of small storm cells that passed over the Perth Hills. The low angle of the ealry morning sun made for some nice photographs.