Book-Length Guide for Astrophotography with "Regular" Cameras?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by astrostu, Jul 9, 2008.

  1. astrostu

    astrostu Guest

    Okay, I admit that the subject line is slightly misleading. I worded it to imply that I'm looking for a guide because I figured more people would read it. That said, this is actually about writing one.

    I've been thinking about a long-term project (as in several months) I could to which would be to write a book-length guide for digital astrophotography with a reg'lar consumer camera (covering both P&S and dSLR as opposed to $50,000 CCD chips).

    I was just starting to seriously think about doing this tonight when I thought to do a quick Amazon search. I found several books that cover this (like this book, this one, this, or this).

    So now I'm kinda put-off from the idea of doing it. All of these books are 200-400 pages or so, and they seem to cover A LOT of stuff, pretty much everything I was going to cover. I was planning on including stuff like:

    • how your camera works
    • how a digital detector works
    • sources of noise and how they behave
    • levels explained
    • curves explained
    • exposure (shutter speed, aperture, ISO) explained
    • what you can photograph with what
    • specifics on photographing the moon
    • specifics on photographing star trails
    • specifics on photographing constellations and general wide-field astrophotography
    • photographing planets
    • how to take pictures for astronomical image processing
    • how to process photographs in theory
    • how to process photographs in practice with Photoshop CS2 or 3
    • why webcams make better cameras for planets
    • and other stuff

    So yeah, it was going to cover a lot of information, basically from start to finish, from theory to practicality ... but then again, it seems like lots of other folks have covered this, too.

    So is this a worthwhile project? Or would I be re-inventing the wheel?


    Edit: I think this guide would talk more about what you can photograph with different levels of equipment than others, but I'm not sure because I've never actually bought one before.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 9, 2008
  2. Ben-71

    Ben-71 TPF Noob!

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    It seems to me that guides for specific subjects tend to include
    too much basic knowledge.

    If I wanted a guide for, say, Micro photography, I'd like it to concentrate
    on Micro, and not waste yet another tree branch on 'what Aperture means
    or does'.

    I'd gladly place an order for your guide, if it would concentrate on all
    the practical aspects of Astrophotography, and on this only, dropping
    the 'how your camera works', etc'.
    For me, at least, this would be a good selling point: "A true to-the-point
    Guide".

    From what you posted so far, I think that you have the talent to write it in
    a detailed, clear, concise manner.

    Now, where do I send the credit card details? :wink:
     
  3. Yahoozy

    Yahoozy TPF Noob!

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    i completely agree with Ben, and i'd be interested in buying your guide too =P
     
  4. Josh66

    Josh66 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Yeah, I'd be interested too.

    As long as the basic stuff (exposure, PP work, why you get noise...) was easy to skip over (not weaved into a chapter that needs to be read) I wouldn't mind it's inclusion.

    Ideally I'd like to pick up the book, ask "How can I get some good star trail pictures?", go to that chapter and learn what I need to know without reading through a bunch of stuff I already know.

    Does that make sense?

    Is this going to be an actuall printed book that your going to publish, or a web thing?
    BTW, if you were going to publish a book - I'd buy it.
     
  5. astrostu

    astrostu Guest

    Okay, not quite the responses I thought I'd get, but that's a good thing. ;) I'm curious, though, as to why one would buy a book I'd write as opposed to, say, the few I linked to in my first post? Could you folks who've already replied and anyone else going to reply possibly explain that?

    To respond to some specific comments (out of order) ...

    Yes, that would be how it would be organized. The first few chapters would be the foundation of noise, histograms, and what-not while the middle chapters would be, "This is what you can photograph with a point-and-shoot camera and a tripod," with sub-sections like "star trails." I would refer to the intro stuff, like, "check your histogram and make sure blah blah blah," but by then I'd assume people either know what a histogram is or could just refer back to that chapter if they don't.



    My reasoning behind including some of the basic "blah" stuff I mentioned:

    "How your camera works" is not meant to be a guide to your camera. In fact, I think the first sentence of that section would be, "Read your camera's manual." The point of it was to reduce it to a lens, a detector, and a case. Then explain the basic idea behind lenses (contrasted with mirrors in telescopes) and how they produce an image.

    Detector noise. Seems to be a huge question from people who don't understand why they have a bright red dot in the middle of their $100 camera.

    Levels, histograms, curves, etc. The most common comment I see on this board from people who try to photograph the moon is, "It's all white!" So explaining histograms in the "Exposure" section and how to use them, and then explaining levels and curves in the processing section I think would be necessary in such a guide.

    Exposure. Again, there are hundreds if not thousands of resources on explaining exposure and how those three elements play together, but people still don't seem to get it. For astrophotography, it's really not quite as complicated because the aesthetic depth of field is not a factor at all (an object that's 400 light-years away and 5 light-years deep is still going to be focused at infinity).


    GOOD QUESTION. Answer: I have no idea. My initial thoughts were that it would be a completely electronic thing. And actually free. But the more I thought about it, the more I was thinking that it would really be a lot of work and time to put together and that I should probably somehow charge for that, just based upon the practicality of the world in which we live.

    So then I was thinking about maybe releasing it as a $10 eBook or something like that. That way I bypass any publishing company crapola and profit-mongering and can effectively go right to the consumer. But then again, I think traditional books have much better market penetration, and so I'd be much more likely to actually reach a large number of people if I went with a traditional book form. Of course, this all assumes that I that I actually write it and could find a publisher. ;)


    Anyway, thanks for the feedback so far and I really would appreciate it if lots of folks gave feedback on this topic for me.
     
  6. Bifurcator

    Bifurcator TPF Noob!

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    I agree with Ben too but if you're going to go through a publisher (like Peachpit or other) they'll have a say in what they're willing to carry or not.
     
  7. Ben-71

    Ben-71 TPF Noob!

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    Quote - astrostu
    My reasoning behind including some of the basic "blah" stuff I
    mentioned:

    .... I think the first sentence of that section would be, "Read
    your camera's manual." The point of it was to reduce it to a lens,
    a detector, and a case.
    Then explain the basic idea behind lenses (contrasted with mirrors
    in telescopes) and how they produce an image.
    Detector noise. Seems to be a huge question from people who
    don't understand why they have a bright red dot in the middle of
    their $100 camera.

    Levels, histograms, curves, etc. The most common comment I see
    on this board from people who try to photograph the moon is, "It's
    all white!" So explaining histograms in the "Exposure" section and
    how to use them, and then explaining levels and curves in the
    processing section I think would be necessary in such a guide.

    Exposure. Again, there are hundreds if not thousands of resources
    on explaining exposure and how those three elements play
    together, but people still don't seem to get it.

    I understand your logic.

    The guide can be edited so it addresses – from page one – the less
    knowledgeable readers.
    Another option is to edit it so it is obvious from page one that it is a serious
    professional guide, which also allows the less knowledgeable readers to
    use it.

    In the first option, you begin with the basics, like almost every other guide
    does.

    Going for the second option, so I think, could make your guide different,
    and stick out in the "crowd", by plunging right into the main subject, and
    putting the basics at the end.
    This may be a refreshing change from the conventional pattern of guides.

    For more experienced photographers, who consider purchasing your book,
    seeing yet another book that starts with the most basic stuff, may suggest
    that the rest of it might not be up to what they look for.
    "Levels, histograms, curves, etc. The most common comment I
    see on this board from people who try to photograph the moon
    is, "It's all white!" So explaining histograms in the "Exposure"
    section and how to use them, and then explaining levels and
    curves in the processing section I think would be necessary in
    such a guide."
    Such issues can be answered by adding pointers to the relevant sections
    at the end, or in a FAQ section.

    (Or... ...You could also skip the basics altoghether, and address your
    readers to TPF for answers... :wink: ... )

    A very good index that omits nothing, and which includes every possible
    sub-title, is important.
    (If you haven't done it before, you'll find that this, alone, is more work than
    you expected.)

    I warmly recommend that you copy-right the book before giving a copy
    to any publisher, or publishing it on the Internet.
    Have any publisher sign a document that secures both your copyright
    and confidentiality.
     
  8. Josh66

    Josh66 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Why buy your book instead of theirs?

    I guess because after seeing your posts on here and other forums (I assume the "astrostu" I see on them is you...) I sorta feel like I "know" you, or that you're proven to know what you're talking about. I'm sure the authors of those other books know their stuff too though.

    I think I just like the idea of buying from someone I know (which is almost never an option with books) and even though I don't actually know you, it feels like I do in some way from my web dealings with you.



    As far as publishing and printing, aren't there printers that will do small runs, or even print on a per book basis? I don't know how economical they are, but I'm pretty sure if you want to print - even just a few copies - someone will do it. I've never really looked into getting a book printed, but I seem to remember reading something about these types of publishers/printers.
     
  9. Ben-71

    Ben-71 TPF Noob!

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    An important attention-getter and 'seller', in a book on Astrophotography,
    would be some very nice photographs.
    Less than 'very good' photographs would be a repellant.

    Getting good quality photographs in print, demands the use
    of good quality glossy paper and having a quality printer do it.
    Even then, supervision is necessary, when the test print run
    starts.
    Printers, who offer small runs, usually don't deliver such quality.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2008
  10. astrostu

    astrostu Guest

    Before I make some specific replies, I have yet another question to add: Would such a book benefit from a discussion of the science of what's going on? Like would it be worth - when discussing Lunar photography including Earthshine and lunar eclipses, for example - actually having a few pages talking about the physical properties of the moon, its orbit, why lunar eclipses happen when they do, what makes the moon red, etc.? Or would that detract from the actual photography?

    I was thinking it may make sense to have a completely separate section for the astronomy, but then I thought that having the astronomy separate from the photography may not make too much sense ... like discussing why lunar eclipses are red on p. 54 but then not talking about how to photograph them until page 127 seems a little scattered.


    It's been said of me that I'm too much of a linear thinker. Here's evidence of that. To me, I would prefer option #1. It just seems like the "logical" thing to do. You start with basics, then actually do the photography, then process it. 3 "Super"-steps. I have absolutely no qualms, actually, with simply laying the book out like that: Part One - Background Into Cameras and Exposure; Part Two - Photographing the Sky; Part Three - Processing Your Photographs ... or some such thing like that. I'm accustomed to writing scientific papers which constantly refer back to other sections (and I love the § symbol), so again I have no qualms with, say in Part 3 when talking about clipping the Levels to write, "For more information on Levels, refer to the section on Histograms in the first part of the book, page ##."

    Would that still work for you, then you could pick it up and simply skip to Part Two?


    Definitely, a good index is a must. As is good table of contents with clear chapters and sub-chapters. And copyrighting would also be done (though automatic, you can't actually pursue it legally unless it's registered, I've been told).


    Makes sense.


    Agreed, I would want it printed in full color on glossy. I may look into the small printers to see what's what with that, but then of course I'd also have to handle distribution on my own, etc. (I'm starting to see why publishing companies keep as much of the sale price as they do ...). However, this also isn't something I have to worry too much at the moment. Have to write it first, then figure out how to get it to the masses.
     
  11. Josh66

    Josh66 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Now that sounds interesting. It sounds like it would be substantially more work for you, but I think it could work.

    Assuming that people buying a guide on astrophotography are also into astronomy in general, and probably own as many lenses for their telescope as they do for their camera it ought to be appreciated. And if someone doesn't really want to learn more about the science behind what they're photographing, it would be easy enough to skip over.
     
  12. Bifurcator

    Bifurcator TPF Noob!

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    Any information that relates to the images processing, exposure, setup, shooting schedules, and etc. would be great to include IMO! I personally think it would be interesting and useful to get into some of the observations and contributions of men like Marcel Minnaert, Maximilian Cornelius Wolf, and etc. as well as the classification systems developed my William Morgan and others - and so on and so forth. :D
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2008

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