Postcard from the Summit – In The Hall

Another processed infrared image from Mark Devenot. This time the subject is an everyday scene inside the facility with some of the crew standing in the hallway. The odd feature behind them is actually the large doors that lead into the Keck 1 Telescope dome. Everything looks much different in the thermal infrared…

IR Hallway
In the hallway, a mid wave infrared image taken with a FLIR PM250 camera, with artist effects added in Photoshop, photo by Mark Devenot

The Canon 60D

A box was waiting for me when I got home. A long awaited box. A box that represented hours of reading, weighing and wrestling with the question…

A new camera!

I now have a replacement for my venerable Canon 20Da that I have used for over six years. Not that I will be getting rid of the older camera. It is still invaluable to me for astrophotography, a role it is specifically modified for. Nor will it replace my Canon G11, a camera I have carried every day for well over a year now. The G11 will remain my day to day camera, a role for which a compact is well suited.

Canon 60D
The Canon 60D DSLR camera, image credit: Canon USA

No, the 60D will be there when the smaller camera is simply not enough. There have been a few recent instances when I had opportunity for a good photo. An image I knew the camera in my hand simply could not capture. There was that pueo sitting on a lichen covered boulder last week. Or the summit under a blanket of fresh snow, lit by the full moon. Or… To many instances.

Another primary reason for the 60D… High quality HD video capability. This is something I have come to truly miss in my existing cameras. There have been a number of occasions when I really could have used that capability! Unfortunately now that I have a camera capable of truly good HD video, our backyard volcano has stopped producing photogenic lava flows. At least I know that will not last.

The decision was made more difficult by the choice of cameras available. A dizzying array of options now exist. A number of very capable DLSRs, the new mirrorless designs, this was a decision without a simple answer. In the end it came down to a choice between the Canon 60D and the very similar 7D. The newer 60D sports a flip out screen (something I love to have), better movie controls, and while it gives up a metal body it is also much lighter to carry. Both cameras use the same sensor and feature essentially the same image quality.

My thanks to Baron. I ran into him at the ROV competition last week. And lo… he was carrying both the 60D and a 7D. Even better, he let me fondle his gear while we chatted about the relative merits of the two cameras. Nothing like a hands-on look at the gear and the opinion of someone who uses the cameras extensively.

Even when holding a brand new camera I am wondering what will replace it in a few years. Maybe a mirrorless compact? That is a market segment to watch. What about my veteran G11 camera? Deb is making less than subtle suggestions about my getting a G12 so she can have my G11, mostly for underwater I suspect. Cameras are one place the technology is still changing rapidly enough to make these decisions difficult.

For now I need to learn a new camera and find its limits. A good low light session is in order, and I have a night on the summit coming up… with lasers!

DSLR Astrophotography

Digital SLR cameras make surprisingly good astrophotography cameras on bright objects. Good sensitivity, low noise and a convenient form factor make these camera a good choice for shooting the night sky.

One useful modification to the camera is removing the standard IR cutoff filter present in cameras and replacing it with a filter that is tuned to let in more of the red. The new filter should allow light at 656nm, what astronomers call hydrogen alpha, or Hα, the light emitted by neutral hydrogen atoms, the most common element in our universe. This is the red glow that makes the emission nebulae so colorful. An astrophotographer can do the filter change themselves, send it to a specialist who can do the work, or buy an already “modded” camera. Canon has produced two special models specifically for the astrophotography market, the EOS 20Da and 60Da, with this special filter.

Below, one can see the results of using modified, and unmodified cameras and relatively small telescopes…