Discovery Astrophotography with ZWO ASTRO

Astrophotographer’s Story: Astro Foto Alex

Hello Alex, thanks for accepting our interview invitation. Congratulations on winning the ASIWEEK competition in week #13/2024!

Q1: At first, congratulation that your nice image won #ASIWEEK, can you introduce yourself to us? 

Thank you very much. My name is Alex and I live in a small town in southern Sweden.

Me with the setup I shot the #13/2024.

Q2: When did you start astrophotography and how?

I´ve always been interested in the stars but never got the time for exploring my interest until a couple of years ago. I actually bought my first equipment in 2016 but used it for the first time about 4 years later. My first step was looking at the moon and then I got interested in taking pictures, not just looking. My first picture was M42 Orion.

Q3: What changes and surprises do you think astrophotography has brought you?

I have developed skills I actually didn’t know I had. I have developed patience and I handle stress better. I think my ability for problem solving has developed a lot. Also when I take pictures and have all the data I need I already know how I want the picture to look like. Sometimes though it’s hard to get it right but I don’t give up and the result is always stunning, even for me. It takes time though. In all, I think I see the beauty around us in a different way, not only up in the sky but also in nature.

NGC6888/Crescent Nebula with SW Esprit 100ED and ZWO Asi2600mm Pro camera.

Q4: Can you tell us about the winning photo

Sh2-119 is a large complex of emission nebulosity in Cygnus, about 3 degrees east of the North American Nebula. The Clamshell Nebula lies about 2200 light years away. This is a beautiful nebula glowing bright with blue-white stars within it.

I started my shooting in October 2023 in southern Sweden (bortle 5) and finished shooting  in southern Poland in the mountains (bortle 4). It took me quite some time to collect enough data due to the cloudy weather in Sweden. I collected about 20 hours of data.

Q5: What gear do you use? Any pictures of them?

For this picture I used:

RedCat51

ASI2600MM Pro

ASI290MM Mini

ZWO OAG

ZWO ASIAIR Pro

ZWO AM3

ZWO EAF

ZWO EFW

Antlia Filters 3nm

Sii 50 x 300s

Ha 70 x 300s

Oiii 120 x 300s

RGB 3 x 30 x 60s

Editing the data I used Pixinsight and PhotoShop.

Two of my favorite setups.

Q6: How long is the cycle time for one of your photos to be completed? Which part of the process do you find the most challenging?

That depends on the weather, lately the weather in Sweden has not been fortunate. Collecting data requires about 15-20 hours and then processing and editing them in Pixinsight takes about 4-10 hours. The most challenging part is finding the right colors. As I said before, I imagine the picture and know how I want it to be but the hard part is to get the colors I want.

Q7: Which is your favorite astronomical target that you have photographed so far?

My favorite is the Veil Nebula in the Cygnus constellation, about 2100 light years from us.

 The Veil Nebula taken with my ASI2600mm Pro and RedCat51.

I also managed to catch the comet 2022 and I really like the picture.

Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF (close up) with SW Esprit 100ED and ZWO Asi2600mm Pro camera.

It is hard to select single favorites because every single picture is so different, every object is showing something different. The nature up there is not only beautiful, but also completely diverse in terms of colors and appearance.

Q8: Is there any memorable story you can share with us from your astrophotography days?

Where do I start? It’s all about learning by doing. You make mistakes and You learn from them. You only forget batteries or cables once. Once in southern Poland, in the mountains, I prepared everything for shooting and left all my gear out for the night. In the morning when I got to the gear all cables had been bitten off, probably by a marten. Despite my annoyance of not getting the pictures I was really happy about the fact that nothing had happened with my equipment. So it could have been worse.

Q9: How do you balance your time between hobby, and family?

Well, as I said earlier, this hobby takes time, a lot of time but my children are grown ups and my wife supports me. I think it’s kind of a relief for her sometimes… no I´m just joking. She really supports me. My family are my biggest fans and they are always the first ones to see my pictures. When I haven’t done any for a long time (because of the weather here…) they always wonder. My children even created an Instagram account for me so others could see my pictures @astro_photo_alex .

Ic 63/Ghost Nebula with SW Esprit 100ED and ZWO Asi2600mm Pro camera.

Q10: Besides astrophotography, are you actively involved in other astronomy-related activities?

No, not really, although I plan to in the future, be more active in certain groups and gatherings.

Q11: What do you consider to be your highlight moment in astrophotography?

It’s really everything about astrophotography in fact. Being outside and enjoying the sky, the knowledge of how beautiful it is up there and that we are able to catch a small part of it. When everyone else is sleeping, one hears nature and it’s magnificent. We really dont take the time to enjoy the moment but when you’re an astrophotographer I believe You do it.

Q12: When did you start using ZWO products? What advice do you have for us?

I started using ZWO Products 2021 and got stuck with them. I think they are great.  The only advice I would give You is to slightly improve Your technical support and service.

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