We had a great turn out for the San Jose Astronomical Association's general meeting last night. Board elections, a visit from a representative from the Astromical Society of the Pacific and the featured speaker were on the agenda.
This was my first time at a meeting where board elections were held, and it went pretty quickly and smoothly. All the candidates recommended by the board were elected, and there we no write in candidates from the floor. Happy to report that yours truly is also now an elected member of the board.
Next up was Brian Kruse, Lead Formal Educator from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. He showed up to talk about the ASP's program called Project ASTRO. In his ten minute pitch, he discussed transcendence in astronomy, how it can be a lead in to other disciplines, such as math, other sciences and even literature. I'm a strong believer in that idea too. I tend to consider astronomy a crossroads of practically any other topic, but I like the idea of transcendence too. He discussed how misconceptions are easily created, and how Project ASTRO attempts to replace that with understanding by getting people, students to see concepts and getting some hands on experience rather than just hearing someone talk about concepts.
Project ASTRO fosters this hands on learning by "linking professional and amateur astronomers with local educators". Sounds like a worthy and fun way to get involved, to share enthusiasm for astronomy.
Next we got to the featured speaker, Rogelio Bernal Andreo who gave a unique and interesting talk about astrophotography from local skies. He had various images to show as examples of his work and work of others, illustrating different aspects of the art of astrophotography. Not sure which dark sky site he captured it from, but he even displayed a very real looking flying saucer!
Rogelio wanted to be sure people knew that all you really need to do night time photography is a camera and a tripod. With that simple gear, you could make images of star trails. But nightscapes are better: think of a landscape, but at night. Time lapse images are interesting and easy to start with too. Some tips for the beginner with starter equipment include: make sure to have some landscape in the image, such as a foreground tree or hill; use landscape orientation rather than portrait; keep the main stuff of in the middle of the image; and watch out for dew, wind and your battery charge.
Real astrophotography, at least what people usually think of, requires lots more equipment than a camera and tripod. But don't be fooled into thinking you need to spend five figures. Good images of shallow or deep sky objects can be created with equipment costing around a thousand bucks, or maybe not much more than that. But of course, the sky's the limit when it comes to gear; we all know that.
Rogelio spoke a bit about the local sites he likes to visit to collect his data (in other words, take his raw images). Coe, Dinosaur Point and Montebello seemed to be favorites for various reasons. Setting a goal and appropriate planning are also important to make your time well spent.
What was really interesting was Rogelio's take on what the photographer wants an image to convey in the end. This really was a serious hat tip to the art of astro-, or any kind of, photography. He showed lots of vanilla pictures of the Eiffel Tower. But to make it interesting, you need to do something interesting with that subject. Different perspectives, different colorings, a unique tilt of the image all can produce a unique image unlike others. It's all in the framing of the image, and so we also saw examples of some really cool variations of the Parisian landmark.
For the more advanced folks in the crowd, Rogelio wrapped up with discussing some processing techniques and tools he uses or is familiar with. But that was beyond my level of attention. I was still nodding my head about his spot-on opinion of astrophotography as an art form.
Good job, Rogelio, and thank you so much for the talk, for your time!