Hello Daniel, thanks for accepting our interview invitation. Congratulations for winning ASIWEEK competition in week #16/2023!
Q1: At first, congratulation that your nice image won #ASIWEEK. Can you introduce yourself to us?
Hi all! I’m Daniel Faull, an amateur astrophotographer from Perth, Western Australia. Professionally, I work as a software developer and have recently started learning and collaborating on some ASCOM projects with some other Astrophotographers from Perth.
Q2:What makes you become an astrophotographer and how long have you been?
I’ve always loved astronomy since I was very young, and one of my earliest memories is of my grandfather showing me the craters of the moon through his small refractor telescope.
I purchased my first astrophotography setup about 7 years ago, which consisted of a Sky-Watcher Telescope and Mount, and a Canon 600D.
I managed to stumble my way to get a few basic images, but eventually stopped as other aspects of life got busier.
About 2 years ago, I decided to get back into the hobby after reading about the ZWO ASIAIR. Polar alignment was always something I struggled with during my initial astrophotography attempts, so the ASIAIR’s polar alignment functionality was a huge point of interest for me.
I purchased a William Optics RedCat51 at this stage and got back into the hobby, and haven’t looked back since!
Q3: What gear do you use for astrophotography? Any pictures of them?
My setup until recently was a William Optics RedCat51 APO Refractor on a Sky-Watcher NEQ6 Pro, using a ZWO ASI294MM Pro as the imaging camera. My goal was to apply as much automation as I could to this setup to maximize my time imaging so I bought a few accessories for it, such as a Black Cat mount, which allowed me to use my ZWO Electronic Autofocuser with the RedCat’s focusing system, and a DeepSkyDad Flat Panel, which allowed me to automatically take flats after imaging each night.
I still had my original Sky-Watcher 250/1200 Black Diamond Reflector sitting around since my original foray into astrophotography, but struggled to use it with the windy nights that Perth gets. Recently, with the help of a good friend, I built a shed in my backyard with a removable roof, which allows me to now use the Sky-Watcher reflector as my main imaging scope. The picture of the Statue of Liberty nebula was my first image from the shed.
Q4:How many ZWO products do you have, what’s your first ASI camera?
The current ZWO products I own are:
- ZWO ASIAIR
- ZWO EAF (x2)
- ZWO EFW (8×1.25”)
- ZWO Helical Focuser
- ZWO ASI294MM Pro (imaging camera)
- ZWO ASI290MM Mini (guide camera)
The ASI294MM Pro is my first ASI camera and has performed flawlessly since day 1. The unlocked BIN1 mode was great for the RedCat51!
Q5:How is the air quality in your region? Where do you normally take astrophotos?
All my images so far are from my backyard in Bortle 6 skies. I mainly shoot in narrowband as it’s much easier to avoid the issues of light pollution. I’ve just finished obtaining all the equipment I’ll need to take the setup out, so I’m definitely looking forward to shooting in darker skies.
Q6:As to your winning image, The Statue of Liberty Nebula, would you please tell us how did you capture it? Would you like to share with us some detailed camera settings?
This image was taken using my Sky-Watcher 250/1200 Black Diamond Reflector setup in my backyard shed. It was taken over three nights – one night for each of the narrowband filters, with an hour of RGB on the last night to capture the true star colours. The exposure details are:
- Ha – 82x300s
- SII – 67x300s
- OIII – 69x300s
R/G/B – 40x300s
Q7:How long do you normally spend on processing after date acquisition? What do you think is the most difficult part of processing for you?
I’ve spent many many hours practicing and learning about processing. I do all my processing in PixInsight, which has a large learning curve but produces some amazing results. I’ve optimized my processing workflow and now it takes me about an hour to achieve the first processed image, but I’ll usually tinker with it gradually over the next few days after looking at it with fresh eyes.
I find the hardest part of processing is fixing any imperfections or aberrations of the stacked image. Light pollution is a good example of that. But I’ve found that the better your equipment works, the easier it is to process and the better results you obtain, so I’ve spent a lot of time working on my equipment to produce quality raw images.
Q8: How do you balance your work and hobby?
The automation available with astrophotography these days makes it quite easy to balance. Once my equipment is set up, I have an automated sequence in NINA that takes my images at night while I’m asleep. In the morning, I gather the data and then process when I have time.
Q9: Does your family like to join you when you are taking astrophotos?
My partner Sally is very supportive and enjoys seeing the final products, but not so much the fiddling with equipment in the dark while fighting off mosquitoes!
Q10: Is there anything you want to tell beginners?
Keep things as simple as possible to start. Nothing kills a hobby faster than being overwhelmed with complication and frustration. The simpler your setup is, the more likely you are to use it and to progress your skills.
Q11: How do you think the future development of astrophotography? Do you think we will have more friends join us?
The change I’ve seen in just the last 7 years since I started has been phenomenal. Astrophotography is becoming less of a niche hobby, which means greater support and resources to help everyone progress. I believe that further tech advances will make things simpler and more enjoyable for current and new astrophotographers. I’m lucky enough to be a part of a local astrophotography group with some amazingly talented people who have taught me a lot, and groups like these are getting more and more common.
Q12: What’s your impression of ZWO? Is there anywhere you think we can do better?
I’ve been extremely happy with my ZWO products. The ASIAIR was a game changer for me, and renewed my passion for astrophotography and got me to where I am today.
More specialized products, such as rotators or flat panels would be a welcome addition to ZWO’s product line!