Astrophotography, 29th November, Richard Jakobson

Tonight we enjoyed a fascinating talk on Astrophotography given by one of our long-standing members, Richard Jakobson. His talk was divided into two halves, in the first he concentrated on the Milky Way describing it as a pizza with a large egg in its centre. Richard goes to great lengths to achieve his shots, camping out all night in some cases. The effort he puts in was more than evident in the many superb images he used to illustrate his talk. Most of these were taken in the Lake District. Castlerigg, Crummock Water, Wast Water and Buttermere being some of his favourite locations.

Images were shown from further afield too, including Stonehenge in Wiltshire, Portugal and Deadvlei in Namibia.

Richard explained that, although he has been taking images of the Milky Way for some years, the occasions on which he can pursue this interest are limited. The weather conditions have to be perfect with clear skies, the moon has to be in the right phase and the Milky Way has to be in a good position. Here in the North its location is best in the spring. Whatever the time of year though you need to be adequately prepared for the cold with warm clothes, hat and gloves. Richard emphasised this necessity with an image of ice that had formed on his rucksack while he was taking photographs.

He recommended surveying potential locations during daylight hours, not only to identify good compositions but also to be aware of hazards such as rocks, rabbit holes and barbed wire. In Namibia there was also the possibility of encountering wild animals including lions. Fortunately, his only encounter had been with a Bat Eared Fox.

Richard also showed some images of the moon and the Aurora Borealis and gave some tips on photographing these too.

The second half of Richard’s talk was dedicated to Deep Sky Astrophotography. This requires rather more specialist equipment than for photographing the Milky Way. The resulting images of a number of nebulas taken by Richard were however spectacular.

Surprisingly, despite their huge distance from the Earth, because they are so enormous some can even be seen through binoculars.

He explained that this type of photography is not for everyone. Considerable patience is required as 30 to 40 images are needed to build up a picture, each exposure taking 4 to 5 minutes. A fondness for spending hours in front of a computer screen processing the images is also helpful.

Julie Walker