Astrophotography 101

Editor’s Note: This article is cross-posted from Katia Sae’s blog, To Boldly Go, and was originally published in March 2015.

“Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.” – Sean O’Connell, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”

I figured it’s about time to share some astrophotography tips. After taking 30,000+ images, I’ve learned a thing or two that I hope you will find helpful. However, I’ll be the first to confess that my gallery is more about quantity rather than quality for the simple reason of time. If I truly took the time required for each and every image capture, I’d still be exploring my first region. There are moments when I simply have to stop and take in the beauty of New Eden and try my best to capture a quality shot and that’s what this blog entry will focus on today. TLDR – Astrophotography is serious business!

Camera Control

Centered subject

Centered subject

We’re fortunate to live in an age of technology that allows us as capsuleers to focus on the subject, rather than the technical aspects of taking a picture. No longer do we have to worry or fuss over aperture, shutter speed, focus, etc, as all of that is taken care for us. We can now concentrate on the artistic aspects such as composition and framing. It’s quite honestly point and shoot today.

How to work your camera controls. Here’s the image capture command sequence:

1. CTRL-F9 (Turns off the HUD)
2. PrtScn (Captures the image) | MAC OS use Command (⌘)-Shift-3
3. CTRL-F9 (Turns on the HUD)

Same subject, off center

Same subject, off center

You may want to setup a single command that executes the sequence for ease of execution and reliability. More than once I’ve found myself in a hostile system and was thankful I could quickly line up a shot, take it, and move on, with the execution of a single command.

Depending upon your pod’s operating system, your images will be processed and placed in your data repository at the following or similar location:

C:\Users\UserName\Documents\EVE\capture\Screenshots

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds

The first rule is, there are no rules. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to take an image. It is, after all, what intrigues or interest you, that moment in time you wish to capture, cherish, and share with others. So, as long as it’s pleasing to your eye, then you have achieved your goal. But as in all things, you’ll learn in time and experience to master your craft and instead of taking fair or good images, you’ll be taking great ones.

Rule of Thirds

RuleofThirdsEx1

Planet upper left cross hair, sun on top line

RuleofThirdsEx2

Moon lower left cross hair, sun flare parallel

Well, it’s more of a guideline than a rule but it’s a good one to follow and should be broken in the right circumstances. Beginning astrophotographers, or someone who’s in a hurry like myself, usually line up the main subject in the center of the image. It’s only natural, as humans we look directly at our subject of interest. There’s nothing wrong with that per say and it can work, but often times it fails to provide a balance and it can eliminate an interesting environment surrounding the subject. Remember, looking at an image is more than just looking at the main subject, because your eyes will want to wander. A good astrophotographer will capture the main subject in its natural environment as well as provide a balance to the scene.

Here’s how the Rule of Thirds works.

Break your capture resolution up into thirds along the horizontal and vertical axis and visualize nine equal areas on your screen. Now, where the lines intersect, imagine cross hairs, there should be four of them.

RuleofThirdsEx3

Planet right third, sun flare parallel

With the lines and intersections visualized, you now line up your main subject, as well as other things of interest, at the intersections and along the lines. Why? The thought process is it will provide a natural balance to the scene that your viewer will be able to interact with. Take advantage of lines and curves to lead your viewer on a journey around your image.

Framing

Frame 1-1Mastering the Rule of Thirds is a great start to taking good images, but as you line up your shots, you’ll want to watch the outer edges and see if you can “frame” your subject. If possible, you can use other objects and/or the environment to provide a natural frame. Try to include natural lines and curves in a manner that will highlight, but not distract from the main focus. If you need to cut into your main subject, do so in a manner that looks appropriate. For example, making sure the object still looks whole and that the bulk of it remains.

Frame 1-2You may end up bending or even breaking the Rule of Thirds to properly frame an image, but that’s fine if the end result takes a good picture and makes it a great one. Watch, however, because in general you don’t want to cut objects in half. Either position yourself or your camera to include them fully or eliminate them entirely.

Frame 2-1There are however, times when cutting an object in half will enhance the frame, but only if it’s large enough to cover more than half of that particular edge. Again, not necessarily a rule, just a guideline, you have to experiment to see if the final image is going to look and feel right.

Frame 2-2Taking a look at these two examples, we can see in the first one I’ve cut into the planet leaving some space to be seen behind it as well as cliping it along the bottom. A minor adjustment to the camera position takes care of that issue. In the second example, I’ve cut the customs office in half which really distracts from the overall image. Simply zooming the camera out moves the office completely into the scene and it helps to break up the bleak blackness of that part of the image.

Contrast

I’ve often heard that black and white photography is the most difficult to master. You may ask why, because it’s simply black versus white, but therein lies the catch. It’s not about black and white at all, it’s about shades of gray. (Not fifty shades of gray, mind yourself!) A great black and white photographer succeeds by taking a picture with as many shades of gray as possible. ContrastFrom the blackest of blacks, to the whitest of whites and all the grays in between. The same is true in color photography in trying to show stark contrast with shades of color. See how many shades of color you can achieve. For planets, I try to capture the shades from the night side to the light side. A fully sun lit side of a planet can be dull, but there are the extremes, like silhouettes, that can provide for some truly amazing shots.

Interesting Textures

TexturesOther than colors and contrast, textures can provide an interesting subject matter as well. After taking so many pictures of planets, they all begin to start looking alike, and you have to turn to something else to make it interesting. You may not think of planets in terms of textures, but they do indeed have them. Especially from high in orbit, where the details of a civilization begin to vanish, and the oneness of the planet begins to prevail. A famous astronomer once referred to his home plant as the “Pale Blue Dot”. Look for textures in your images and see if you can pull them out by highlighting them via the rule of thirds and framing.

Leading the Viewer

LeadingViewerBe on the lookout for minor subjects that can help lead your viewer to your main subject. There are many interesting things in space, use them to your advantage. For me, the planets are my main subject matter in all of my shots, but I don’t always have them front and center. Sometimes they’re way off in the distance, but I always have the planet in there somewhere. In those cases I try to use nearby subjects and/or the environment to help the viewer find my main subject. Human eyes naturally follow lines and curves, so it’s fairly easy to find them and then utilize them to pull your viewer in.

Ordinary to Extraordinary

This is a difficult one, as it just comes from experience and many times, there’s just nothing in the scene nearby that can help to take what is an ordinary picture and make it into an extraordinary one. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying, nor preventing you from taking the picture anyway, if nothing else for the experience of it. Just be aware of your surroundings and see if perhaps a better position between you and the main subject will help you to pull in other things that can provide some additional interest or contrast. In the case of astrophotography, you may be able to position yourself to utilize the sun, for example, to help make some rings really pop out. ExtraordinaryOr maybe you can create an artificial sunrise or sunset. Don’t forget about other subjects like your own ship to help spice up a scene. Once you start looking, you’ll begin to see some things you can use. Move around from moon to moon, or objects like customs offices and stations, you just never know what you may find that will turn that first image you liked into something that you’ll love.

Final Words

Go out and have fun, learn by doing, there’s no better way. Sure, you’ll take some bad images, just look in my gallery, but you’ll start getting those great shots that will have others asking for more. Enjoy yourself and share, don’t be afraid of what others think. Not everyone is going to “get” your image, but you really didn’t take it for them anyway, right? Besides, there are many more who will see what you saw and that’s the greatest feeling of all, when others share in your experience.

W4C8-Q XI, E5T-CS Gate

W4C8-Q XI, E5T-CS Gate

It’s Changed

Editor’s Note: This post is cross-posted from the EvE-Scout Enclave forums and was originally published in June 2017.

I left [classified] and headed to HQ to get a new shirt to wear for non-capsule downtime.

Literally, I flew the 1,300 LY from [classified] by emerging from the hole in Hilaban, then another 14 LY to my hangar in Zoohen, just to get a new shirt. Is that indulgent and in fact evidence of Anoikis-dwellers’ skewed priorities? Have I spent too long in the dreamworld?

Zoohen regulars will know that New Eden – the New Eden – is only a few jumps away from Zoohen. I realised I haven’t been there this year (I try to go there at least once a year as a ritual) and I wanted to test something.

Since it was the middle of the day in NEST terms, and since I know most capsuleers don’t rise before noon, I expected, and got, a seamless and effortless transit up the long-abandoned and infrastructure-free lowsec pipe to the New Eden system. I even got a traffic control advisory at the Promised Land > New Eden stargate, as if I’d caught the gate crew napping at their posts, because, y’know, what the hell would anybody come here for at this hour?

There’s only one reason to come to this system  in this day and age:

The new cluster-wide, universal cam-drone upgrade we all got last month has changed the appearance of the EVE Gate anomaly. It hasn’t really changed at all, and an unaugmented baseline meathead viewing it through a window would only ever see a blinding white mass of heavenly light. To us, the resolution and fidelity and dynamic range at which we capsuleers are allowed to perceive it, means it appears more alive and more deadly than ever. It looked relatively static under the old system, but now we see field lines and what look like hot gas shock fronts, and its apparent magnitude changes every few minutes like a variable star:

The EVE Gate is 3.3 LY beyond the New Eden system, so those pulses in brightness all happened 3.3 years ago. If this huge flaw in spacetime changed tonight somehow, if it evaporated or fixed itself or whatever, then we wouldn’t know about it until the year YC122.

That is, unless the Sisters of EVE deigned to inform us first. I mean, does the SoE tell us nothing about what they’ve found out about that thing because they haven’t found anything out? Or are they as schtum about it as they are about those flotillas in Anoikis?

The trouble with coming here, to New Eden, is you always leave it with more questions than you arrived with, as well as a headache after contemplating how the EVE Gate relates to human existence.

For the record I haven’t left the New Eden system yet, as I’m ‘typing’ this through the neural interface with my ship that’s docked in SFRIM’s citadel. I might stay jacked-in and program a sleep cycle as I’ve been here before: this lot based here are devout and seem to cross the line between science and religion and back again depending on what mood they’re in. They worship that thing out there like a god even though they know exactly what it is. This citadel is their church. It scares me a bit.

Besides, you can’t get decent coffee this far from highsec.

[ENDS]

 

© Cassandra Habalu – check out more from Cass at her blog: It’s Not Personal, It’s Strictly Business

Flying Into an Ambush (xpost)

Editor’s Note: Cross-posted from the author’s blog, Cloaked in a Hole. Original publication date: September 30, 2016.

“There’s that Cheetah on d-scan again” I said as I adjusted my probes to scan the next cosmic signature in the system.

“Perhaps it’s just scouting the chain?” suggested Trevier, the crew chief of my Stratios cruiser who I’d been working with for a number of months now.

“Perhaps. Though I’m suspicious that it’s just appeared after our probes have been out near that citadel.”

“What do you propose? We’ve only found the one relic site in this system. We could leave it and jump to the next wormhole?”

“Let’s warp to 100km from the site and see if there’s any activity. If the Cheetah is sniffing around we’ll leave it.”

Staying cloaked, I land the Stratios 100km from the relic site, a Guristas monument site which I hope will break my run of bad luck and net me a nice pay day. Forty million ISK would be good, maybe more depending on the loot in the cans.

D-scan is empty, no sign of the covert ops frigate which was causing us so much concern. I warp us back to a safe spot in an empty part of space.

“Looks like it’s gone” says the chief

“I don’t like it. Why hasn’t it run any of the sites?”

“We could just do the relic site and get out, keep our eyes peeled and be gone in 15 minutes?”

“Alright. I’m going to warp to 30km and move slowly to the first can. I want to hear the minute something appears on grid.”

Again I warped to the site. I selected the nearest can and approached it slowly. The Stratios cruiser can be a formidable ship in a fight but I’d made the decision to remove guns from it, choosing to avoid conflicts altogether instead of standing my ground. The covert ops cloak fitted to the ship is now my best defence, but that means we are at our most vulnerable when we de-cloak to hack sites.

Trevier’s voice came through my pod “That’s the can within targeting range.”

I checked d-scan one final time, seeing nothing of note on the scanner and turned off the cloaking module. Nothing happened.

“OK. Looks clear let’s crack the can and get out of here” I announce to the chief.

Orbiting the can at 2500 metres I prepare the Relic Analyser module for the process of hacking the can so we can access the loot inside. All of a sudden I see a flash of grey on my grid overview.

I immediately hit the cloak and shout to the rest of the ship “We have company!”

Mentally, I cross my fingers as the camera drones show my ship disappearing from space just as another Stratios lands right on top of me.

Trevier’s voice tells me what I already know “Shit! They’re going to decloak us that close”

The cruiser shudders as I launch a flight of ECM drones and target the newly arrived ship as the first alarms sound around me informing us we’ve been targeted ourselves. I fire an ECM burst and instruct the drones to follow up with their own jamming capabilities, desperately hoping to break the lock so I can cloak again and escape. I try in vain to warp out but the ship has us pointed, so instead I align to a safe spot and wait to see if the countermeasures can get us free.

I fire off a neutraliser module to try and drain my opponent’s capacitor to minimise any damage they can deal to us. At that moment I’m alerted to a second ship appearing on grid, a Broadsword, and suddenly we’re engulfed by a warp disruption bubble.

“Watch the capacitor!” the chief says over comms “We’re dead!”

Another alarm sounds telling me I’ve burned through my own capacitor reserve trying to save the ship. There’s nothing left to stop the attack as I watch our shields and then our armour disappear with every shot from the ambush.

“Sorry chief. It’s been a pleasure having your crew fly with me”

“Just make sure the crew are looked after Gaston” comes the reply.

I send the instruction to my broker to distribute the coming insurance payout to the families of the crew. It’s not enough but it’s something. As the alarms continue to sound louder in my pod I decide if I’m to lose this ship I’m going to do it in style. I swing towards the enemy Stratios and activate the last module I have left, my Signal Cartel issue festival launcher.

Fireworks shatter the space around us in a defiant celebration of my loyal crew, as the last of my armour is destroyed and the hull begins to break apart. My capsuleer’s pod blasts free from the disintegrating wreck of my once beautiful ship and I have a few moments to sit quietly in space, contemplating the folly of going into the relic site against all my better judgements just because I wanted to do right for my crew, who are now lost with the ship.

“Farewell chief” I say quietly as the Broadsword fires on my pod and I feel my consciousness fire across the ether towards my awaking clone back in Thera.

Learning to Love a Meddlesome AI (xpost)

This is a cross-post from Mynxee’s blog, Cloaky Wanderer, written in character.

After a long sojourn in Anoikis, I had returned to Zoohen for some R&R. I was enjoying dinner alone at Armateur, my favorite upscale restaurant in Zoohen Theology Council station, when Allison piped up. Hearing our Signal Cartel AI co-pilot’s voice startled me–I’d forgotten I had enabled her on my wrist terminal.

“Captain!” she said in her usual pert tone,”I’ve detected a +10 pilot from your personal contacts list in this establishment. Consult my screen for the pilot’s name. I’ve taken the liberty of sending him a message of greeting from you.”

I tapped the terminal and a small holo-screen appeared above it.

“Fuuuuuuuu…..”, I began to mutter, seeing the name and wondering what he was doing here of all places.

“CAPTAIN, the Credo!” Allison cut in, all mock outrage.

I rolled my eyes and asked the cheeky AI, “How would you know who’s in this restaurant, Allison?”

After a few seconds of silence, she replied “Even AIs have friends.” Was it may imagination or did she sound defensive?

“Just don’t do anything illegal, and stop taking liberties if you don’t mind.” I said grumpily, scanning the crowd for that familiar face from so long ago. Oh. There he was. Sitting in the far corner, looking as beautiful as ever. He examined his datapad, glanced briefly around the room, then touched the screen lightly with one elegant finger, his hands just as slim and perfectly manicured as I remembered them. Piano player hands. Artist hands. Extremely talented hands.

I sighed and continued eating, resigned to the fact that there would surely be an uncomfortable encounter any minute now. I really need to review and prune that Contacts list, I thought.

“WELL, I NEVER!” Allison suddenly spluttered in a shocked tone. “He has rejected my– I mean your — well, OUR — message! REJECTED it. How rude!”

I burst out laughing. “That’s his second best skill,” I told her. “Please, let it drop.”

Silence ensued for some minutes, thank Bob. However, when I had nearly finished my very fine meal, Allison spoke again, quietly.

“Captain, I apologize if I was presumptuous. But if I may say, while my searches of public records don’t reveal much, he does appear to be a good match for you. Perhaps you should bookmark his spot and warp to it.”

What the hell!

I shut Allison down, then pulled up the holo-screen again. “Message,” I said and began typing.

…Transmit…

To: A Dead Parrot
From: Mynxee
Date: YC119.06.21

Message Body:

We have to talk. You won’t believe what she said to me just now!

End Message

…Transmission completed…

Then without being seen, I slipped out of the restaurant and headed for the solitude of my quarters, wondering the whole way what exactly A Dead Parrot’s creation was evolving into.

Introducing Signal Cartel’s New Site and Blog!

Greetings, and welcome to Signal Cartel’s new home on GalNet.

Since our inception, Signal Cartel information has been presented on the EvE-Scout web site, along with information published by EvE-Scout about connections to Thera.  As Signal Cartel has grown and diversified in its own service offerings and activities, we wanted a more collaborative space to share our stories and activities. This site was set up for that purpose by Signaleer Thrice Hapus and my delightful co-leader Johnny Splunk; many thanks to both of them for their help. (Note: Our application for joining, recruiters’ tools, and forums will remain at www.eve-scout.com for admin reasons.)

Here, you will find information about Signal Cartel’s various divisions, alliance information, a group blog, a link to our swag store (soon!), and more to come. Our members will be invited to share their exploration- or corp/alliance-related adventures, in-character musings, creative efforts, game features expertise, and research findings in the blog. Original posts and selected cross-posts from members’ blogs and our internal forums are all candidates for publication here. We might even consider guest posts from the wider New Eden community. Regardless of who authors the posts you read here, they will be curated by me and edited for suitability, readability, and editorial quality prior to publication.

As busy and engaged as our members are, we should generate a lot of new blog content every month. Let us know what you enjoy by commenting on and sharing posts. And don’t forget to add our blog to your blogrolls and aggregation sites.