I have been always attracted to those twinkling celestial bodies, stars; which lead me to study astronomy. But most importantly my interaction with the Khagol Mandal (An organization of amateur astronomers in Mumbai) and meeting the impressive people there has not only developed my hobby, but also made a big impact on my life. My dad bought me a 5” telescope to sate my repeated demands. The first thing that I observed through it was Saturn. Of course it is an unforgettable experience. This celestial beauty got me tied up with astronomy for my lifetime. The images and photographs in any astronomy book or magazine are far superior and dazzling than what we really observe through a telescope. Now, that’s the catch which hooked me to clicking the stars and planets. I tried my first hand at it in 1997, by clicking a comet with a borrowed Nikon FM 10 camera. I won’t say it was a success, but certainly it wasn’t a failure! Later in the year 2003 I could successfully photograph Mars and its polar ice-caps using a cheap web-cam. But astronomical photography needs a lot of expensive equipment.
Space photography is as vast a subject as the universe itself. Then, it has its branches and subtypes. Of course the instruments and technique change with each of them. I spent a lot of time in searching and researching the technicalities and gathering proper instruments. The more you reach to the depths of this subject, the more experience you get and the more you’ll need advanced instruments. I have utilized a lot of time in gathering advanced equipment and then acquiring the skills to use them. Usually we need to travel away from cities for better photographs since the intensity of the stars fades against luminosity of city-lights. I moved and settled to Pune from Mumbai for the same reason. Outskirts of Pune, about 30-40km away from the city, offer clear and dark sky for photography. Despite of the distance from city, there are other factors which can affect a good photograph, like digit of moon, clarity of sky, moisture and wind speed. Apparently, there is a dispute between clear sky and holidays. So many a times we have to rush directly from the offices after daily hustle. Though carrying and setting the heavy instruments (My instruments weigh about 150kg.) consumes a lot of time, it never diminishes the pleasure of such a trip. But sadly, not all such trips are successful in terms of results.
All these clicks need to be processed using different software, which is a time consuming task. It can easily keep you busy for hours together. Many a men, including my parents, do not understand my love for space photography. Some consider me crazy! But travelling on the winding roads, twinkling stars, cold blowing breezes at night and clicking those humongous-tiny lanterns in the sky can drive anybody crazy! And then, the balmy return journey makes me forget all the back-aches and night-ups with its foggy roads, chirping birds and marvelous sun rise. This enthusiasm lasts for days, sometimes even for weeks! Space photography is certainly more than a mere hobby for me.
Comet Lovejoy: This picture is taken with Canon 7D using Canon 400 F 5.6 lens, in 3 minutes. Comet revolves around the sun with variable speed with respect to its relative distance from the star. So it changes its position every few minutes, apparently. I set up the camera to follow the comet and that’s the reason other stars look prolate in this picture.