Q1: At first, congratulation that your nice image won #ASIWEEK. Can you introduce yourself to us?
Hi! Thank you and it’s an honor to be selected for ASIWEEK. My name is Liqun Zhu. I live in Shanghai, China. I’m 53 years old and I love Astrophotography.
Q2: When did you start astrophotography? Did someone inspire you?
I started to take digital photos about 20 years ago as a hobby. I took family and travel photos mostly until 2019 spring. I took a Milky Way photo during travel by chance and I’m amazed at how beautiful the starry night is. Shortly after, I decided to do deep sky photography and took my first Orion Nebula at the end of 2019.
M42, ASI1600MM Pro+Esprit100+CEM45, 3 hours
Q3: Why do you love astrophotography? Is there a moment that makes you have interest in it and turn it into your hobby suddenly?
I love astrophotography because it’s a combination of science and art. Every time I process an Astro photo, I’m always thrilled by the fact that these lights are from millions of light years away and wondered how big the universe is and how short human life is. Although I know little behind the Astro photos, I want to show people the beauty of the universe.
Q4: How did you learn astrophotography? What has it taken to get these achievements?
I learn astrophotography from the internet. I read and watch tutorials and then practise. It’s a long way to go and I’m still learning now. Nowadays, I and my friends established a group to share astrophotography experience via online meetings and live broadcasting to help others.
Online astrophotography experience sharing, May 14, 2022
Q5: What gear do you use for astrophotography? Any pictures of them?
I have 3 gears at the remote observatory and 2 with me. They all use ZWO ASI6200MM Pro. About the telescopes, one is RC reflector and the others are APO refractors. I also have ASIAIR PRO and ASIAIR Plus. I use them when travelling and they do make astrophotography much easier.
ASI6200MM Pro+FSQ106+CEM60EC at Shangri-La remote observatory
ASI6200MM Pro+GSO RC14+CEM120EC2 at Yang-La remote observatory
ASI6200MM Pro+TOA130+CEM120 at Yang-La remote observatory
Q6: Your ASIWEEK image “Rho Ophiuchus” was fantastic! How did you capture and process it?
Thank you! I knew the rain season was coming to my remote observatory and there would be little chance to capture any photos. I love the color of Rho Ophiuchus so much, so I took 2 nights worth of 6 hours subs right after it’s photographable. I took 2 panels mosaic and process them in Pixinsight. In the end, I processed them in Photoshop.
Q7: We see you posted a lot of astrophotos in ZWO ASI Camera group and earned plenty of likes. Do you have any unique skills of astrophotography to share with us?
I just do some daily astrophotography. I like to take more subs to start with and process it slowly and carefully in every step to avoid over-process.
M51, ASI6200MM Pro+TOA130+CEM120, 36 hours
Q8: Do you want to say something to the newcomers? How to select equipment, how to learn astrophotography, how to do post-processing better, etc. Say whatever you want. We can definitely learn a lot from you.
My advice to the newcomers is as followed. First, buy a small reflector like 3 or 4 inches APO and cheap Astro camera of small format like 4/3” or APS-C format and a good mount to start with. Second, watch tutorials to learn how to take astrophotos and then practise at home. Third, join forums or groups to learn more skills and ask for help sometimes.
Iris Nebula, ASI6200MM Pro+FSQ106+CEM60EC, 8.5 hours
Q9: Which photo or target is your favorite? Would you mind telling us something about it?
I like big bright nebulae such as M42, M45, M31 at first and I still love them now. Then I try narrow band emission nebulae such as Eagle Nebula, Heart and Soul Nebula, and I love the colorful Hubble Palette tones. Lately, I have turned to challenging objects like dark nebulae, planetary nebulae and small galaxies. I think they are all very beautiful and I want to capture as many as possible.
M42, ASI6200MM Pro+TOA130+CEM120, 19 hours
M45, ASI6200MM Pro+TOA130+CEM120, 21 hours
M16, ASI6200MM Pro+RC14+CEM120EC2, 12 hours
Heart and Soul Nebula, ASI6200MM Pro+FSQ106+CEM60EC, 18 hours
Q10: How do you like your ASI cameras? What camera do you want us to develop in the future?
I like ASI cameras very much. They are easy to use, and I can take very clean and sharp subs with them. I wish ZWO can provide an affordable COMS camera with a large format like IMX461.
Q11: People say the complex astrophotography software is one of the reasons that makes newcomers tend to give up at the beginning. What do you think? How to get familiar with the software quickly?
Astrophotography software works differently compared to common photography software like Photoshop. I think the best way to learn it quickly is that you should try to know the basic concept and workflow by reading books or watching videos, then practise with an easy target like a bright nebula.
Q12: Have you ever travelled to distant dark places for astrophotography? Are there any interesting experiences that can share with us?
The nearest dark place from my home is Dongtan, 50 miles away and barely Bortle 4, very humid and often with strong wind. Although it’s not ideal for astrophotography but it’s a beautiful bird reserve place. I have travelled there many times with friends and had lots of fun. Three years ago, only a couple of people went there for astrophotography and now there are dozens including high school students whenever there is a clear night at weekends. The biggest event was 2021 Perseid Meteor Show, families and couples were all over the place, and I heard “WOW” all night. I’m glad to see astrophotography community growing so rapidly. We call the place “The Astro Street”.
Q13: Do you think astrophotography somehow changed you over the past times ever since you were into this hobby?
I have been into a new world ever since I started astrophotography. I have learned a lot of new knowledge, made many new friends and had a lot of fun when travelling and taking Astro photos together.
LDN1622 and M78, ASI6200MM Pro+Sharpstar 656+CEM70EC, 10 hours
Q14: Last one. Do you have any suggestions or feedback to ZWO? Please feel free to tell us.
I would like ZWO to make more accessories like drawtubes, adapters, rotators, etc. And I prefer cables of higher quality. I personally think the lens on some cameras are not very useful, and I hope they could be improved. I will be very excited if ZWO can produce high-quality telescopes.