For the Love of Astro Photography (From City Moons to the Comet Chase)

by | Jul 29, 2020

Writing and photography by Eddie Chan @eddiemarkhampyro

Additional photography by @dp.ey

Graphics and writing by Mike Simpson @tdot_shots

Astrophotography is amazing! It’s the photography of astronomical objects and events, mainly in the night sky. Besides focusing on the moon, sun, and planets, astro-photographers capture images via long exposure, allowing us to see dim stars and galaxies.

This photography can be as simple as pointing your phone camera at the moon or as advanced as attaching your camera to a sky tracker to capture the Milky Way.  For me, astro photography is the chase of dark skies, spending time with friends, and allowing myself to appreciate the vastness and beauty of the Universe.

Comet Neowise by @eddiemarkhampyro
Comet NEOWISE as seen from Dunnville, Ontario.  Shot with Nikon D3100 on Tamron 70-200m. 3 images stacked on Sequator. ISO 1600, 6 seconds, F2.8. Image by @eddiemarkhampuro

My astro journey has been a relatively short one and I still have a lot to learn.  There are a lot of more seasoned astrophotographers than myself (an understatement of vast proportions), but for the past few years, the views I have enjoyed of the night sky have been extraordinary.

When you look up at the night sky in a big city like Toronto, there are issues with light pollution.  We see constellations like the Big Dipper and dozens of semi-bright stars visible to the naked eye.  For photographers like me the excitement rises when we get a Super Moon or a lunar eclipse; these events can really spark our urban night sky curiosity. 

I love pointing my camera at the moon. It’s amazing when you learn the proper techniques that allow you to capture the moon in all its glory.  When you have the proper focus and lighting, being able to see the details of the moon is extraordinary.  To see impact craters on the surface of the moon and to imagine that humans actually walked on its surface gives you a different perspective when you look at this 4.53-million-year-old beauty.  Seeing the moon is a dependable monthly event in our calendars.  For all its glory, however, the moon can sometimes seem beautiful but ordinary.

On March 27th, everything dramatically changed. This was the arrival of Comet NEOWISE (aka C/2020 F3), first discovered by astronomers during the NEOWISE mission, which used NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope to look for near-Earth objects, like asteroids and comets.

Comet Neowise with that blue ion tail shot over the Pickerel River in French River Provincial Park, Ontario. Image by @dp.ey

At first, I thought, it’s just a comet that probably isn’t visible without a telescope. But by early July we learned that the comet was visible to the naked eye! “Holy cow!” I thought. From then on, the chase to capture it was on.

The first goal was to capture it in the city of Toronto, close to the lake out towards the west end and north ends. All successful and exhilarating yet I wanted to raise the bar. So, I embarked on a two-hour drive away from the light pollution of Toronto to Dunnville, Ontario.

The drive was completely worth it! In the deep darkness of the night sky, NEOWISE is stunning. With its double blue ion and glorious white long tails, it sails across and dominates the northern sky. What a treat to see this ancient visitor from the deep caverns of space showing up seemingly out of nowhere.

“I find NEOWISE inspiring in a year where there has been so much pain, suffering, and hate.  It has given me a month to share its beauty with other photographers, spend quality time chasing it with good friends, and it has made me reflect on life.”

Comet NEOWISE. Video by David Paul aka @dp.ey / Taken at French River, Ontario, Canada 2020

It reminds us of how small we are and of how our life spans are so miniscule compared to its 6800-year orbit when it returns to our planet.  Perhaps NEOWISE shows us that our lives are short and we should live our lives the best way we can.  It demonstrates to us that if we treat this wonderful blue ball we live on well enough, that perhaps the human species can survive long enough to see other astonishing objects like NEOWISE. 

I find NEOWISE inspiring in a year where there has been so much pain, suffering, and hate.  It has given me a month to share its beauty with other photographers, spend quality time chasing it with good friends, and it has made me reflect on life.  For that, I am eternally grateful to this beautiful comet.  I can only hope that it has inspired others as much as it has inspired me. 

I encourage everyone to look to the night skies. Try to make a trip out of the light polluted city and see the skies in a dark location up in cottage country or Algonquin Park.  Point your cameras to the skies and capture the Milky Way, the Moon, or capture a comet like NEOWISE (this is the last week you have to still catch it).  Look through binoculars or a telescope. Look above with the naked eye. I guarantee you; you will never look at the night sky the same way ever again.  Astro photography gives one new perspective and it’s changed mine for the good. Enjoy your photography my friends.

Check out the photography of Eddie Chan aka @eddiemarkhampyro
Be sure to also visit the page of David Paul aka dp.ey

Please follow us! We are Tdot Shots on IG: @tdot_shots

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Tdot Shots

Tdot Shots

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Tdot Shots is a website and IG page supporting photographers & artists in Toronto, Canada. Check us out at tdotshots.com and @tdot_shots on insta!

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