Astrophotography tutorials, reviews, and more on our YouTube channel.

I have had a YouTube channel for a long time but never really developed it until recently. Now I have started putting up astrophotography tutorials, reviews, and much more at a breakneck pace. Just last weekend I put around five videos up with several more in process.

Astrophotography tutorials, reviews, and more on my YouTube channel

Just this weekend I added the following videos:

I have also redone several of the existing videos to bring them up to HD (1920 x 1080 @ 30fps) so they look better.

If you have a topic you would like for me to cover, use the contact form to let me know. I will be covering anything and everything I can come up with for a while to help build the channel. If you are interested in contributing videos to the channel, let me know as well.

Be sure to subscribe to the channel!


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WordPress For Normal People book released!

WordPress For Normal People is my new book which has just been released on Amazon in both print and kindle editions.

  WordPress for normal people front cover WordPress for normal people back cover

WordPress is the perfect tool to help you build the website you’ve always wanted. But the ‘help’ aspect which is built into it isn’t always the right thing for someone who just getting started and needs to know how to build a website.

What you need, and what this book will provide, is a book that shows you how to get off the ground and then build on that knowledge to give you a secure and usable website.

Written in distinct sections WordPress for Normal People will give you everything you need to know on how to create a website including;

*Getting Started
*The basics of websites and WordPress
*Getting WordPress up and running
*Using it day to day
*Going past the basics
*Advertising and promoting your website

WordPress for Normal People aims to take you from not knowing what WordPress is, and only knowing what a website is from the end user’s point of view, then educating you all the way into being able to install, secure and maintain a fully interactive website by reading one single book.

With an emphasis on the things you need for the WordPress website to work on a day to day basis, the focus is on simplicity for both the user and admin. Simple, effective, fast, and with as little interaction from the admin as possible are the goals. And WordPress for Normal People delivers!

From WordPress For Normal People back cover:

If you have ever deleted a file accidentally or had a hard drive fail and take all of your precious data with it, then this book is for you. From the simplest procedures of restoring files from your recycle bin to completely disassembling a hard drive to replace a bad head, you will find it covered in here. Tips and tricks from over thirty years of working on computers are here with plenty of images accompanying the text.

Written for the typical computer user with virtually no technical experience, or for the novice computer technician who wants to add basic data recover to their toolbox, either reader is bound to find a treasure trove of useful information covering all three of the major computer platforms: Windows, Macintosh, and Linux.

Learn how to:

* Undelete accidentally deleted files
* Restore deleted partitions and file systems
* Copy or “clone” drives even when malfunctioning
* Identify characteristics and work with a variety of file systems
* Recover files from drives that will not boot
* Create bootable media for Windows, Mac, and Linux machines
* Backup your data to prevent future data loss
* Permanently delete data so that it cannot be recovered
* Talk to the customer about their options

WordPress For Normal People is available from Amazon in both Kindle and print editions.


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Data Recovery For Normal People book released!

Data Recovery For Normal People is my new book which has just been released on Amazon in both print and kindle editions.

  Data Recovery For Normal People front cover Data Recovery For Normal People back cover

Information Technology is an area which is constantly on the move, sometimes at a speed which is dizzying and difficult to keep pace with. In particular data recovery can be one of the more complex problems you might encounter and in order to keep up with the latest trends and information you could be required to read endless tomes, watch hours of videos or trawl through myriad blogs. The sheer amount of information is often overwhelming and confusing.

Data Recovery for Normal People is a new book which aims to make this process a lot simpler. Designed for both beginners who have little knowledge of technical issues and for those who may own their own computing business and want to learn more, it delivers what you need to know in 9 parts, covering all the essential such as;

• How data is lost
• Understanding data storage
• Recovering deleted or corrupted files
• How to prevent future data losses
• Encryption and data destruction
• And a whole lot more…

You will also find explanations behind the hardware and software, helping you to understand why some data can be recovered and some cannot.

Data Recovery for Normal People also provides a foundation in file storage in general. It is a comprehensive and important read for anyone who wants to understand a bit more about the problems that data loss can bring, and whether you are a novice or a budding enthusiast this is one book you cannot afford to miss.

Get your copy today. Use it as a ‘how to’ manual for everyday issues, or as a handy guide to be picked up and studied when problems occur.

Available from Amazon in both Kindle and print editions.


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Brightest supermoon in seventy years

Last night was the brightest supermoon in seventy years, or so they say. Unfortunately I was not doing anything special for the occasion although I did get to spend a few minutes out at the observatory and took a few pictures.

So what exactly is a supermoon? Let’s start answering that question with the fact that the moon’s orbit around the earth is not a perfect circle but more of an ellipse. At times that means the moon is closer to the earth than at other times. A supermoon is when you have a full (or new although you can’t really see it then) moon at the same time as the moon is at it’s closest point in it’s orbit of the Earth.

Put a little simpler, it is when the moon is full and close at the same time.

What this means to us astronomers and astrophotographers is that the moon appears bigger and brighter than at any other time.

Supermoon rising over the observatory domeThis image is the moon rising above the observatory dome. Unfortunately unless you are familiar with the SHSU observatory and what the moon typically looks like out there, you may not see that this does indeed look pretty big. It was an impressive sight.

This next picture should get your attention however:

Supermoon backlighting the observatory domeMost people would guess that this is the observatory dome right before sunrise, or sunset. They would be wrong. This was taken at 7:09pm CST facing east (the sun sets in the west, so behind me, not behind the dome). The light you see is the moon about 20 degrees or so above the horizon.

Yes, it was that bright. How bright? Reading a printed book with nothing but moonlight was not only possible, but quite easy.

When is the next supermoon?

If you missed it never fear, the next supermoon is scheduled to appear on December 3rd, 2017. It will not be quite as spectacular as this one however. If you want something this amazing you will have to wait until November 25th, 2034!

Until the next supermoon, Clear skies!


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How much do dark skies really matter?

If you are even a little into astronomy or astrophotography you will hear people extol the virtues of “really dark skies”, but do dark skies really make that much of a difference? The short answer is yes, dark skies are crucial, what follows is a somewhat longer answer 🙂

Dark skies are rare in the US

Dark skies map of the US

I planned a trip from where I live in Huntsville to a little town in south west Texas named Terlingua. Terlingua is pretty much right in between Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park just a few miles from the border with Mexico. It is home to a real 1800s mining ghost town and 58 residents as of the last census. That is not an error, fifty eight people live there. There isn’t even a gas station in town, you have to drive five miles up the road to Study Butte for that and you better do it before 9PM or they will be closed. This area is home to some of the darkest dark skies in the nation as you can see from the dark sky map above. This is one of the few places with no light pollution in the Texas.

I picked Terlingua because I had seen some amazing pictures from photographer Lance Keimig from this area which I wanted to try my hand at. His night photography with light painting (where you add light to an object in the scene and have that mix with the natural light, such as from the stars or moon) was just fascinating. There was just no way I could do that kind of work with the light pollution around here, much less without that kind of cool scenery.

In picking the date I needed to maximize the dark skies and that meant a new moon, the Milky Way up somewhere in the middle of the night, good weather and if I could get other objects in the picture as well, that would be a bonus. The first weekend in June looked good as it had the new moon, the Milky Way would be up high at about 1am, and both Mars and Saturn would be close enough to the Milky Way to be in the shot. The weather, as anyone from Texas will tell you, could be anything.

The ten hour drive was typical until we passed Austin a hundred miles or so when things began to change. Trees started to get much smaller, grass started to disappear, larger and larger hills appeared and everything started to get rocky and sandy. Slowly cacti stated to replace shrubs in popularity.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon, checked into our motel, ate dinner in the motel’s restaurant (where they had amazing Mexican food cooked by a guy from Ireland) and took a little driving tour of the ghost town (which we were less than a quarter mile from down the road the motel was on) to find suitable places to shoot from. Finally we took a nap. Getting up at midnight would have been hard any other time but I was truly excited to try my hand at this. I had never been in these kinds of dark skies, rarely shot anything at night other than astrophotography, have never tried light painting, and had never gotten anything resembling a good Milky Way shot.

Picture showing dark skies over Terlingua

One of my shots the first night out, cropped but otherwise the JPG right out of the camera.

That first night I did a lot of shooting, learned a lot, made a lot of mistakes and as I was heading back to the motel I noticed an old rusty car with a light in front of it. It looked interesting so I stopped and took a closer look. The light was one of those you stick in the ground and it uses a solar cell to charge during the day, turning on at night automatically. This light was just laying there under a piece of plastic pipe, not stuck in the ground as it normally would be. I thought about moving the light or covering it with a blanket but my test shot showed me something interesting; the light almost made it look like the headlights on the old car were on and shining on the ground.

I had already determined that I could shoot about 30 seconds without getting too much star trailing using my 10mm lens, D7000 camera at ISO 3200. Balancing the existing light and adding just the right amount of light painting with my headlamp on low to the passenger side of the car was the trick. After a few test shots to get the lighting right, and the focus (you have to manually focus for these types of shots) I was happy enough to start clicking off real frames. This was about the third try and as soon as I saw it on the screen I knew that I wasn’t going to get any better so I packed up an went in for the night.

The image you see above is completely unedited other than a crop and resize. In fact I have my camera set to take “RAW + JPG Basic” and this is the basic JPG file, not a RAW conversion. I can’t wait until I have time to work with the RAW file. This will probably be the first print I ever do as a 20″x24″ metal print. Note the colors in the sky, not just the single stars, but in the Milky Way. How about the amount of structure and detail? All of this without editing at all, amazingly dark skies!

terlingua02

A shot from the second night out, unedited.

The second night out was just as amazing. I could walk out my brightly lit motel room, look up and almost immediately see the Milky Way even with a porch light three feet from my head on the right. Simply amazing. That really tells you how dark skies affect your vision of celestial objects.

The image above was taken next to the ruins of one of the miner’s homes from the late 1800s. I did not light paint this one as the red glow from a nearby cabin light gave it exactly the right amount of ambient light. This was another 30 second exposure at ISO 3200.

If you can do this with nothing but a tripod and consumer DSLR for the Milky Way, image what you can do with your astrophotography equipment and deep sky targets? I absolutely want to go back and see. Dark skies do make a huge difference.

If you want to see more images shot in these dark skies, and even some in daylight, I will soon be posting them on my photography website over at www.paperbirdimages.com so go take a look.


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