Hello Gianni, thanks for accepting our interview invitation. Congratulations for winning ASIWEEK competition in week #12/2023!
Q1: At first, congratulation that your nice image won #ASIWEEK. Can you introduce yourself to us?
Hello ZWO team, first of all, I want to thank you for this recognition. My name is Gianni Lacroce. I am a 47-year-old Italian amateur astrophotographer. I live in Rome, Italy, with my wife and 2 children, one 4 years old and one 1-year-old. I work for an express courier.
Q2: When did you get interested in the starry skies? How many years have you been indulging in astrophotography?
The stunning images from the Hubble Space Telescope piqued my interest in the wonders of the universe. Discovering nebulae or seeing other planets has always interested me.
I started doing astrophotography with professional equipment since 2018
Thanks to the astronomy and astrophotography forums, the videos on youtube of Trevor Jones and Luca Fornaciari, and many others, I could see that this beautiful hobby was possible to do with amateur equipment directly from my balcony.
Q3: What equipment do you use for now? Could you show us some gear photos?
My main setup: Sky-Watcher 200/800 Wide Photo Telescope + ZWO ASI294MC Pro + Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ6 60mm UltraGuide + ZWO ASI224MC+ Sky-Watcher f4 aplanatic coma corrector + ZWO EAF motorized focuser + ZWO EFW 7×2″ Filter Wheel.
My second setup: Sky-Watcher evostar ed80 telescope + ZWO ASI294MM Pro + Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5 Mount 0.85x corrector ed80 Sky-Watcher + ZWO Mini guide + ZWO ASI224MC + ZWO EAF motorized focuser + ZWO EFW 7x36mm Filter Wheel.
Finally with a short focal length of Samyang 135mm with a ZWO canon adapter with ZWO ASI294MC Pro Filter drawer, ZWO Mini guide with ZWO ASI224MC.
Q4: How is the air quality in your region? Where do you normally take astrophotos? Do you have an observatory for your hobby?
I live in a city with Bortle 8/9 thanks to narrow-band filters it is possible to limit light pollution.
I don’t have an observatory, but I’m a traveling astrophotographer. I travel more than 40km to photograph in the darkest skies.
Luckily, I was also able to often take pictures from Calabria where my parents live, where the sky is much better.
Q5: Will your family join you when you’re imaging?
My wife, my 2 children, my grandchildren, and all my relatives are very curious when they see my telescopes and they want to discover and see the planets and the deep sky with me. my first fan is my son who brightens my days.
Q6: What post-processing software do you use? People say the processing is one of the most difficult parts of astrophotography – what do you think?
For stacking, I use pixinsight which with the new wbpp process creates a much more manageable linear image. then I switch to Photoshop with which I manage the stretch, the color, the detail, and any noise or blending of brightness. dividing the nebula from the stars, I can manage the 2 images separately trying to remove noise and give more detail in the nebula and managing the aberrations due to the optical train in the other.
Post-Processing is one of the more difficult parts and this aspect is worth studying more for a better result. I thank the master Tommaso Massimo Stella for giving me various tips on the processing technique.
Q7: If you are asked to give one suggestion to newcomers, then it will be…?
There are many topics to know about astrophotography and newcomers often need advice, for example, at the beginning they need information for the purchase of the first instrument: personally, it took me 6 months before buying the first telescope, especially to understand if it was within my reach. The easiest thing to do is approach a group of amateur astronomers nearby, but then doubts arise about mechanics, software, and post-production.
Q8: How did you capture your winning picture “HorseHead and Flame Nebula”? Was the whole project rather smooth?
For broadband photography, I often go to darker places covering even 40km, with quite a significant cold.
While for narrowband photography I can take pictures from the balcony of my house, where I have everything controlled remotely, so in the heat of the sofa I control the shots until I fall asleep. Obviously, each session must be prepared in advance to avoid mishaps.
For every new project, I try to improve and refine the technique.
To make this shot I used
Telescope: Skywatcher 200/800 Wide Photo
Camera: ZWO ASI294MC Pro
Frame: Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ6
UltraGuide 60mm with ZWO ASI224MC x2
Coma corrector: aplanatic Sky-Watcher f4
ZWO EAF motorized focuser
ZWO EFW Filter wheel 7×2”
Optolong L-pro, L-Ultimate filters
Sgpro acquisition software
Q9: What changes and surprises do you think astrophotography has brought you over these years?
One change is that I sleep less at night because I stay awake checking my images and my vacations are mostly based on astrophotography. A great surprise is that admiring the vastness of the sky, with each new image I discover and am surprised by the beauty that surrounds us, as I didn’t think was possible yet, and this pushes me to always do my best to increase the quality of my images.
Q10: How do you think the future development of astrophotography? Do you think we will have more friends join us?
I think that astrophotography is trying to get a little within everyone’s reach by making systems more simplified with the implementation of software and that everything is increasingly cheaper. ZWO has given great help in this with ASIAIR and with new cameras within everyone’s reach. I think that’s just the starting point and that many people will get into astrophotography. The universe is too beautiful to admire alone.
Q11: How many ZWO products do you have, what’s your first ASI camera?
My first ZWO camera was the ASI294MC Pro. To this was added the ASI224MC for auto-guiding.
I bought a ZWO ASI294MM Pro with another ASI224MC and an ASI178MC. I have a 7×2″ filter wheel and a 7x36mm filter wheel. Each telescope comes with an EAF motorized focuser.
Finally a ZWO miniguide scope. I must say that you have many beautiful products.
Q12: What’s your impression of ZWO and do you have any feedback to us?
ZWO should continue like this. It is a company that has provided the tools for many people to obtain spectacular deep-sky and planetary images at a competitive price and managed to have a very good position in the market. it could develop more advanced products by evaluating a complete remote control, like a motorized rotator, a motorized flat generator, or cameras with an integrated rotator or with a double output for managing the auto guider and images or an adaptive auto guider integrated with the mount.ZWO should continue like this. It is a company that has provided the tools for many people to obtain spectacular deep-sky and planetary images at a competitive price and managed to have a very good position in the market. it could develop more advanced products by evaluating a complete remote control, like a motorized rotator, a motorized flat generator, or cameras with an integrated rotator or with a double output for managing the auto guider and images or an adaptive auto guider integrated with the mount.