Q1: At first, congratulation that your nice image won #ASIWEEK. Can you introduce yourself to us?
My name is Shaun Robertson, and I am from Melbourne, Australia, 42 years old with a passion for Science, Photography, and Superheroes! A self-confessed nerd and ever curious by nature.
We are a family of five and I have a daughter (11) and a son (6), my wife Alana and of course our energetic dog Loki (named after the mischievous God of Asguard!)
Q2: When did you start astrophotography? What was your feeling when you first saw the image showing on the screen?
I started Astrophotography in early 2020, a couple of months before Covid took hold in Australia, so the timing worked well as I got to spend more time at home and was able to invest more time learning the skills associated with this amazing hobby.
It took me a while, as it does with most, to learn the technicalities but once I got past the first few hurdles, I was hooked!
I started with a DSLR and a Skywatcher doublet so the images weren’t great, for my expectations anyway, but enough for me to know that this was going to be a lifelong obsession!
As with most astrophotographers, I started with Orion and my very first setup and image is below. I’ve come a long way since then and the journey continues.
My very first night setting up with my daughter, early January 2020
About 2 hours of integration time and what a struggle this was, but I was in awe and completely hooked!
Q3: Why do you love astrophotography? Did someone inspire you? Is there a moment that makes you have interest in it and turn it into your hobby suddenly?
I’ve always had a passion for photography and loved photographing Airshows and nature but with a young family getting out and about and travelling was becoming harder, that combined with my endless curiosity of the cosmos and long being a fan of Prof. Brian Cox and Carl Sagan, this was the perfect time for me to combine my curiosity and passion to what will now be a lifetime hobby.
Pic 1: From the Australian Airshow in 2019, taken with the same 5D that I started my astrophotography journey with.
Pic 2: I love photographing lions as well, they are truly majestic and amazing to photograph!
Q4: What gear do you use for astrophotography? Any pictures of them?
My current main setup is a ZWO ASI1600GT and the Skywatcher Esprit 100ED. I feel like these two are a match made in heaven and have made me appreciate this hobby so much more because it just works!
I am also in the process of finishing a wider field rig comprising a RedCat 51 and a ZWO 183MC pro controlled by the ASIAIR PRO which I will use alongside the Esprit.
I also have an ASI178MM on its way from ZWO that will be paired with, hopefully, a Lunt 60Tha as I really want to get into Solar imaging as well.
Pic 1: This is my current setup and I’ve allowed space for a second setup as well. Whilst I don’t yet have a roll off roof, I can still sit inside and control everything whilst also being able to remote into the rig from the house.
Pic 2: The ASI1600GT and the Esprit 100ED have been amazing and I’ve loved using this setup over the last year or so. Hopefully, a lot more winning images to come from this setup.
Q5: Your ASIWEEK image “IC 2944 – the Running Chicken Nebula” was outstanding! How did you capture it?
Probably my favourite image to date, was captured with the ZWO ASI1600GT and Esprit rig. The first 300 second Ha sub that came through, I knew that this was going to be a great image. I captured this over a few nights in January, making the most of the few clear nights we had and once I had captured just over 10 hours of data, I decided to process it and see how it looked. I was satisfied that I had enough good data across the three filters given how bright this nebula is and the final image speaks for itself.
Pic 2: 4 hours of Ha, stacked and processed in Pixinsight and Photoshop
Q6: How did you do the post-processing of your image “IC 2944”? Is it different from the other images taken by you?
I don’t really have a set process with my images and it really depends on what the data looks like and what I envision the image should look like. This one was relatively easy because the separation in the emissions was so good. I like colour in my images as I feel like it visually tells a better story for me and once I got to the colour separation I was looking for, I left it there, aside from some minor tweaking of the details.
Q7: Do you think astrophotography has changed you or your life in a bit?
It certainly has, aside from making me poorer of course!
It is extremely humbling and it definitely gives you a sense of perspective of the wonders of the universe and greater appreciation of how fragile we are in this infinite vastness.
I have invested a lot into this hobby because it enables me to visually tell a story to those that have an eagerness to learn, especially my kids.
NGC 3572 – The Southern Tadpoles
Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 ED f/5.5 APO + ZWO ASI1600GT + Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro + ZWO ASI Ha 7nm · Antlia OIII 3nm 1.25″ · Antlia SII 3nm 1.25″, 144×300″ (12h)
Q8: How do you learn astrophotography knowledge? Do you have a teacher or a club? Maybe you just learn everything from the Internet?
Most of what I know so far has been through the infinite videos on YouTube, again Covid enabled me to spend time researching and learning.
There has also been a lot of self-learning and things that I have picked up over the last few years. I want to develop a style of my own, if there is such a thing in astrophotography, and I will continue to persevere towards that.
There are also some amazing astrophotographers in the Astronomical Society of Victoria and people that I have built relationships with overseas that are always willing to part with their knowledge and experience.
Q9: Does your family like to join you when you are capturing? If your wife or kids need you to help them do something while you are just at a critical moment in capturing, how will you make the decision?
Yeah they do, but this is also time that I like to spend alone and they are kind enough to allow me this as well. Sometimes simple things like the ISS passing over become a family affair but I also like showing them how I go about doing things as well to continue to fuel their curiosity. I have also built a large deck in our backyard that not only houses my observatory but also serves as a place where we can just lie back and look at the stars. In those moments, nothing else matters!
NGC 6357 – The War and Peace Nebula
Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 ED f/5.5 APO + ZWO ASI1600GT, 132×300″ (11h)
Q10: We can know a lot from your homepage. You have a wonderful family. You should have a job too. And besides astrophotography, you also like bodybuilding. How do you balance all these?
It’s definitely not easy and I don’t spend the amount of time in the gym as I used to, but I don’t sleep much, which is probably why astrophotography suits me as well! Covid has helped redefine a lot of our lives and the way we live and I make sure I dedicate time to this each day. It makes a huge difference to my mental state as I value time spent alone, whether in the gym or photographing the night sky.
Also helps when you have an entire semi commercial gym setup at home. I am happily spending my kids inheritance and I really hope they don’t read this! Haha!
Q11: How did you know ZWO and why did you decide to buy an ASI camera?
It wasn’t hard making a decision given how prominent ZWO are and how great the products are as well. The ASI1600GT was perfect for me given I knew I wanted to do narrowband imaging and I loved the form factor. It took less than 3 months for me to jump from a DSLR to the ASI1600GT and I haven’t looked back since.
NGC 3199 – Banana Nebula
Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 ED f/5.5 APO + ZWO ASI1600GT + Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro + ZWO ASI Ha 7nm · Antlia OIII 3nm 1.25″ · Antlia SII 3nm 1.25″, 180×300″ (15h)
Q12: If you want to buy another ASI camera, which camera do you think fits you or attracts you the most? What camera do you want us to develop in the future?
I definitely want to move towards full frame imaging so the ASI6200MM Pro would be perfect, but knowing ZWO and the innovation there could be something better next year.
For now if you could make an interchangeable filter wheel for the ASI1600GT that would be amazing so I could do some RGB as well without having to unscrew the filters! Haha!
Q13: Do you have any plan or shooting target in 2022?
There are a few common targets that I have missed over the last few years such as the Eagle Nebula so I want to spend a bit of time on this.
My next project is the Dragons of Ara and I have a version of this in my mind that I want to work towards so time will tell if I am able to achieve this. These were my two images from last year and I think the Eagle nebula only had about 4 hours of integration time before it disappeared for the season.
As we head into the longer nights during the winter months, I’m looking forward to spending more time on these, and who knows, maybe another ASI Image of the Week comes from them!
NGC 6611 aka Eagle Nebula & NGC 6188 aka The Dragons of Ara
Q14: Do you have any suggestions or feedback to us? Please feel free to tell us.
Just keep doing what you guys are doing. Your products are amazing and I think the way this hobby has exploded over the last few years, innovation will be key.
I certainly look forward to more ZWO purchases in the future.