BACK TO THE FUTURE

The night sky over Mount Rundle near Canmore.

The night sky over Mount Rundle near Canmore.

Standing under the night sky on a crisp winter evening, I was transported back to a time nearly 40 years ago, when I made my first foray into astro photography.

As an aspiring teenage photographer, I teamed up with classmate Richard Huziak, who was, and still is, an enthusiastic amateur astronomer, to photograph the night sky. With my dad’s trusty Pentax camera, a tripod and cable release, we braved the frigid winter nights of the prairies to map the night sky with our photographs. Richard lived on the edge of town in an area without street lights, so we set up the camera in his back yard and he timed the 10-minute exposures with his wristwatch. One night it was so cold that dad’s camera froze – the shutter open and the mirror locked up – until it warmed, along with my frozen toes, indoors.

The film was black and white and I processed and printed it at home in my darkroom, which doubled as mom’s laundry room. Later we teamed up to photograph a partial solar eclipse using a borrowed telescope. We achieved small-town fame, as the local paper did a story on our adventure.

Since that time I’ve marveled at the night sky, enjoyed its quiet beauty on canoeing trips or from the dock at Clear Lake, but I’ve not tried to photograph the night sky until recently. A chance reading of an on-line article about new techniques in astro photography inspired me to head into the mountains south of Canmore to play.

Instead of making one long exposure like I did so many years ago, I used an iPhone app to control my tripod-mounted camera. I made hundreds of short 20-second exposures and then used free software to convert those files into one picture, which captured the magic of the night sky.

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