Q1: Hello, Ernest! At first, congratulation that your 2 nice images won #ASIWEEK. Can you introduce yourself to us?
Hi, thank you. My name is Ernest Brendel. I have been addicted to photography my whole life. Last six years I have lived in Tenerife, Canary Islands where I moved from Lithuania with my wife Olga and two of our children. Here I raised my love for Astrophotography. Also, I have another hobby that is very important to me – Windsurfing.
Me with my Equipment
Q2: When did you start astrophotography?
Photography is my hobby already for more than 30 years. I worked a lot on improving my knowledge and skills in Landscapes and Portraits, studied composition and light and how to deliver my mood into my photo works.
After moving to Tenerife, my first experience was taking photos of the Milky Way. The night sky of Tenerife is really dark and you can enjoy the beauty of the Night Sky.
Then I started to study more advanced techniques of capturing the Milky Way by using my first Mount Skywatcher Star Adventure and camera Canon 1Dx with lenses 70-200 mm and 16-35 mm.
So I was taken over by the Night Sky and wondered to look deeper into the space.
First project with additional light for composition and mosaic panorama with tracker for Millay
Q3: Why do you love astrophotography? Does it own a special place in your heart among your hobbies?
Since I was a boy, I was excited by sci-fi movies about space and was always charmed by the Night Sky and the Stars.
At the moment, Astrophotography takes an important place among my hobbies.
Technical progress let guys addicted to astrophotos. Capturing amazing pictures from the Earth is wonderful.
“Dolphin Head Nebula” ZWO ASI1600MM Pro camera, ZWO ASI290MM Mini for guiding, WO FLT 132 on EQ6R+EQ8R with SestoSensoII focuser and PrimaluceLAb EaGLE computer, WO GS61 Guidescope
Q4: Do you still remember the feeling when you first saw something from the eyepiece of the telescope?
I have never used telescopes for observing the sky. My first observation was made by using Canon lens 400 mm to watch and capture the Moon.
After moving to Tenerife and my first successful picture of the Milky Way I bought my first small telescope SpaceCat from Williams Optics.
Using an ordinary camera Canon RA, I made my first Deep Sky photo of Lagoon Nebula. When I looked at the preview on the camera, I was so excited and almost cried.
“Lagoon Nebula” First shot using Canon EOS Ra with Optolong L-eNhance filter on SpaceCat WO
Q5: What gear do you use for astrophotography? Any pictures of them?
At the moment I use the Mount EQ8R Pro. I used the Mount EQ6R Pro previously and it is no longer available for the photo because I changed it in order to move forward and have a more heavy and powerful Equatorial Mount.
All the rest of the gear on this photo is the same I used to take the photos that won ASIWEEK.
EQ8R Pro mount, WO FLT 132 F7, Flat 68III, ZWO ASI1600MM Pro, ZWO ASI290MM Mini, ZWO filter wheel with full set of Astrodon 3nm Filters, Primalucelab Eagle System with ECCO, and ESATTO3 focuser, WO Giudescope GS61
(Sorry guys, at this moment I don’t have EQ6R mount. It has been sold)
Q6: Your ASIWEEK images “Needle Galaxy” on #32/2021 and “Islands of Heart” on #1/2022 were both incredible! How did you capture them?
Every astrophotographer will tell you – planning is everything.
Everything begins with a plan. The Needle galaxy was a part of my plan for the galaxy season. As long as the galaxy is in a horizontal position towards us, it was the last galaxy I captured.
So, I could spend a lot of time working on the details.
As I use an incredible Monochrome camera from ZWO, I have to collect a lot of information for each channel and use it in further integration.
As it is my favorite hobby, I can afford everything, like not being hasty, and collecting the information for a long time though it is painstaking.
So as a result I can get an amazing image because its integration used the best data. For some galaxies, I spent 3 months of work getting qualitative data.
Maybe that is why my image of the Needle galaxy was highly appreciated on social networks.
Almost the same work was done with the Heart nebula which I called Islands of Heart. It was planned and highly performed work at every step.
Gathering information for Ha, O3, and SII channels was very special. The quality of every exposure was maximally detailed.
“Needle Galaxy” it’s Broad Band spectrum image of galaxy without Halpha integration. So, LRGB Image. Therefore, for this type of Image, we use “DARK” moon phase.
“Islands of Heart” to the uninitiated
It is in SHO version, also called Hubble palette.
To get it requires a mix of three very narrow specific wavelengths.
Obtained with filters and only let those so-called wavelengths go.
Ha (Hydrogen Alpha)
Q7: What do you think is the most difficult part of DSO imaging? How do you deal with it?
I think it is very individual.
For some guys who take the EQ8R out of the garage is pretty challenging. For some people who have a backyard, everything becomes very simple in general.
In the Canary Islands, I have Dark sky that is evaluated as Bottle 3-4. No doubt, this is an advantage, but my house is 100 meters far away from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. So I can’t use my gear on the terrace of my house – in one hour my expensive gear will be covered with a plain layer of salt and dust which can kill the gear due to high abrasivity.
So for me, the most difficult part is the journey to the mountains every time: 100 kg of gear that I have to place into my car and go up. It is not so easy to find a good place to set up the gear in the mountains because of turbulence and wind – the evilest enemy in the mountains.
The wind is absolutely unpredictable after midnight when the temperature and pressure change.
The other very specific factor for the Canary Islands you have to consider is the Calima – the dust mass that flies across the Atlantic Ocean and reaches the forests of Amazon.
The visibility on such days can be just about couple hundred meters.
So every journey is about the detailed study of wind direction, its power, probability of dust in the air over the island, humidity up to 6,000 meters and the behavior of high clouds.
Finally, there’s a chance that the session lasts just for one hour and you have to go home with empty hands making a useless 200 km journey through serpentine National Park Teide. Probably this is the hardest part of DSO on Tenerife. But the pleasure of watching the Night Sky full of Stars motivates me to move forward and keep taking photos of Deep Sky Objects.
“NGC 2359” ZWO ASI1600MM Pro, ZWO ASI290MM Mini, WO FLT132, EQ8R Pro
Q8: Shooting alone or with friends, which one do you prefer? Why?
As I already mentioned, I work on the Field and none of my friends shares my passion to spend the whole night in the mountains.
Sometimes my family arrived with me to watch the beauty of the Milky Way but got frozen too fast.
And to be honest, I love to be alone. There are a lot of excursions held on Tenerife and mostly there are a lot of people around me till 23 o’clock and it is annoying.
Q9: Do you usually travel to dark places to take photos of the night skies? If so, is there any unforgettable story that you want to share with us?
As I mentioned, I don’t have my own AstroBackyard and for every session, I have to go to the mountains.
One of the sessions is especially memorized as the wind was very tricky that night and I was forced to change my location three times which means reinstalling of all the gear every time. As a result, I didn’t make a single shot. All my friends call me crazy when hearing about that 😀
“M106” in HalphaLRGB combination
ZWO ASI1600MM Pro, ZWO ASI290MM Mini, WO FLT132, EQ8R Pro
Total integration time: 15.2h
Q10: What do you think the future of astrophotography if take the increasingly heavy light pollution and the rapidly developed technology into consideration?
I think this situation is a subject of deeper research, not only Light Pollution. Probably in the nearest future, not only expensive and more advanced filters will compensate for the Light pollution but also the post processing itself will become much easier.
Q11: You have started this hobby for no longer than 2 years, but your images were fantastic. How could you make it? Is there any shortcut?
The shortcut is my experience in photography for more than 30 years. My photography works are famous around Europe and there were 5 exhibitions of my landscapes in different corners of the world. I once represented my country as a photographer – a landscaper. So I do have some photo knowledge.
After I moved to Tenerife with my family and got interested in capturing the Milky Way, I started to study the technique and Deep Sky post processing very fast. I was excited and inspired by the possibility of making true my childhood dreams. Get closer to the space and feel myself as a discoverer of new objects. The combination of passion, access to the information and technology makes the progress very fast and lets you achieve amazing results if you really love it.
“Orion Nebula” Combination of Halpha signal for detail in (L) and RGB for colors, specific method of post processing.
Q12: If you are asked to use 3 words to sum up your achievements in astrophotography during the year 2021, what words would you choose? You can elaborate them if you want.
Passion for the Night sky, self-discipline, and strong character.
“M51” ZWO ASI1600MM Pro, ZWO ASI290MM Mini, WO FLT132, EQ6R Pro
L 6h, R 3h, G 3h, B 4h, Ha 5h. Integration: 21h.
Q13: What goal do you have for this year? Do you think you can accomplish them?
My goals are very simple – to keep doing things I love, things that inspire me. And if it can make other people happy, it is more than sufficient for me.
Q14: What’s your impression of ZWO? Is there anywhere you think we can do better? Please feel free to tell us.
ZWO products are highly respected all over the world and I am happy to be one of those who are loyal to this brand.
On the other hand, there is always something to improve. I could mention the following: Reduce step size in ZWO focusers, make them more precise and not so massive. Avoid the oil leak in all ZWO cameras because it spoils the impression however this is not a big problem to remove the oil from the sensor of the camera.
(Reminder from ZWO: For those customers who were affected by the “oil leaking” issues, we are truly sorry, and we offer you “Free Replacement” if your camera is under 2-year warranty or “Free Repair” if your camera is beyond the manufacturer’s 2-year warranty. And both with lifetime warranties. Click here to know more: https://astronomy-imaging-camera.com/news/oil-leak-issue-on-asi2600mc-pro-and-other-cameras.html )
Don’t have any other complaints as it is a great product.