Astrophotography at Francis E. Walter Dam

Updated 24 April 2020: I added a third image from the night’s astrophotography shots with an amazing purple hue from the light pollution. Stacked from 16 lights and 5 darks in Starry Landscape Tracker, edited in On1 Photo. Continue reading the original post for information.

Yesterday I received the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro mount which I ordered on Amazon last week. I was so excited it came, especially as the weather forecast was great for astrophotography and shooting the Lyrids meteor shower! Besides, its been too long since I’ve had time to go out at night and shoot. I got everything put together, set up the axis and polar scope, and put a box of AA batteries near the door so I wouldn’t forget them. That part will play an important part later.

Around 9pm I headed out to Francis E. Walter Dam over in White Haven, Pennsylvania. This is a great location I have used a number of times in the past for low light pollution, Bortle 4 skies and a wonderful little space that blocks most of the light from nearby cities. I parked my car, pulled out my tripod and the Star Adventurer…

No plan survives first contact

Sonofabitch I left the box of batteries at home. Best laid plans of mice and men … or simply a senior moment.

Well, I thought, the hell with it! I have my gear and I’ll be damned if I wasted my time. Got everything up and programmed my intervalometer to grab 100 shots (and 50 darks) on the Sony A7Riv. I used my Laowa 15mm f/2 for these shots. This really is my favorite lens for astrophotography! Downstopped to f/2.8 it has amazing clarity edge to edge, and manually focusing it on the A7Riv is easy peasy. I captured two sets of 100 images 2 seconds apart and processed one set of them last night.

The images above are from that first set. The horizontal image with the red lighting is from a single 61mp RAW image processed entirely in On1 Photo. I wrote a tutorial a while ago on using On1 for astrophotography, and mostly followed the same process I documented. The red light is a complete accident and I removed it from the stacking (discussed next) but wanted to process it. The ‘accident’ was me getting into my car to stay warm and putting my foot on the brake… A Bob RossHappy Accident” indeed!

Teaching this old dog new tricks … or software

The second image is from a test I was doing using Starry Landscape Stacker for Mac OSX. Gotta admit, I was exhausted and took a few shortcuts that I will go back and fix. I wanted to show this image as it was done so easily with this software. I used Adobe Camera RAW to save all 100 images, and 50 dark frames to TIFF format and then used Starry Landscape to stack and arrange all the files. The software impressed the hell out of me with how straight forward and easy it was. I plan on using it and its partner Starry Sky Stacker for a lot more astrophotography output.

If you are viewing this on a desktop, you can click the images above for larger versions. Additionally, there is a zoom icon on these larger images and you can zoom in further on the stars.

Now I have to wait for the weather to clear up and go out while remembering the damn batteries!


Image EXIF Information (lens does not provide aperture it was f/2.8):

  • Title: Stars Meteor and Brake Lights
  • Taken: 20 April, 2020
  • Camera: ILCE-7RM4
  • ISO: 1600
  • Shutter speed: 10s
  • Title: FEWDamStars04202020.001
  • Taken: 20 April, 2020
  • Camera: ILCE-7RM4
  • ISO: 800
  • Shutter speed: 14s
  • Title: Algorithm: Min Horizon Noise
  • Taken: 20 April, 2020
  • Camera: ILCE-7RM4
  • ISO: 1600
  • Shutter speed: 10s

Image Location (Francis E Walter Dam):