• Paul Cooper

Newsletter #53 19th March 2021

Editor - Derek Godridge Guest Author – Paul Cooper Hello Everyone

Just a quick reminder about the Charles Hosken Competition this Saturday 20th at 7.15pm for 7.30 start. I will include the Eventbrite link below and it is fairly simple to purchase tickets. You will be asked to provide your name along with your email address – this allows Eventbrite to send the necessary Zoom link to your email address. You can pay by debit card or PayPal if you have an account. It’s always great to see how our own images have done and also to eye up the competition along with maybe getting a few ideas for projects in the future! Here you go https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/charles-hosken-results-evening-tickets-143284109629

PCC News of the Week: Meetings

Just a mention regarding joining other CPA Club’s Zoom meetings. I had a chat with Lorraine Robbins a couple of days ago and she mentioned that her club St Austell CC would be very happy to allow any Penryn CC member join any of their meetings. E.g. In a couple of week’s time they have a good creative photographer giving a Zoom talk so if anyone would like to give it a go just contact Lorraine on programmesecretarystaustellcc@gmail.com.

1) Well that was a different take on the usual Lockdown series and the requirement to select 1,2,3 has made us all think a bit deeper about our selections I’m sure! Good to see members sharing their thoughts so openly and don’t forget it’s quite OK to have a different opinion. Photography is an Art form and hence there is no right or wrong!


2) Next week of course we have another ex-member and very capable photographer Helen Davis (Gadd) judging KF3 for us so it should be a really good evening.


3) The week after next 1st April is the follow-up to Victor’s 6 of the Best

Competition News

1) Congratulations to Tranquillity Lockdown winner Julia Bate with her Port Navis Creek image.


2) No competition next week due to the KF3 so the next Lockdown subject on the 8th April with the subject “Construction/Roadworks” and the week after 15th April is “Open”.


3) You also need to start thinking about the Image of the Year – Colour and Black and White and off-camera coming soon with the Hand-In date 8th April. As was stated last night we need to have seen it and had it judged, so any of your KF images and also any of your Lockdown series images can be entered.


Now for something really interesting from Paul! See you next week Cheers Derek

Guest Author – Paul Cooper Comet Neowise / Astrophotography

I thought I’d show you how I processed a recent set of images of the comet Neowise. I know quite a few members are not keen on post-processing but, in this case, as you can see by the left-hand picture of the car’s headlights below, you HAVE to post-process if you want to see the faint stars.

Last year, when I first tried astrophotography, I created a set of Google “slides” (I know them as PowerPoint slides) for my own benefit to remember the settings and URLs. We are already into the 2021 Astro-window this year but if this is something that might interest you then, remembering it was not intended to publish, please feel free to review this document. Use your arrow keys (click your mouse, or tap your touchpad) to step through at your pace.

The first stage involves dragging yourself off to somewhere dark at some unearthly hour so I chose Lanyon Quoit at 1 am. It is so dark you cannot see the stones right in front of your nose, and when it was time to go home I couldn’t see which way to go for the car! Next time I may paint some breadcrumbs with fluorescent paint.

Aligning things can be a nightmare as the comet I wanted to take was not visible by eye or in the camera viewfinder. I started by taking a 13-second shot (starting point f2.8, ISO 6000) in what I thought might be the right direction. It was so dark I had to feel the camera lens to see which way it was pointing! I then previewed it, looked at the histogram, the focus, the stars and adjusted both physically and electronically until I had something I wanted to proceed with. I wish I could show you the view I had but it would be a very boring picture; imagine photographing a black cat in a coal cellar with the door shut!

Focusing is especially hard - cranking to infinity will not do. You need to set focus on a planet or a bright star, then zoom in to maximum zoom and twist the manual focus dial until the star is pin-point sharp. I have learnt, after an entire evenings work going into the bin, to do this for EVERY set of images taken.

Once happy I delete all the test images (saves memory card space and me getting confused later), and take a shot with the lens cap on (all black, of course) separating this sequence from the previous sequence. Then, to capture the very faint stars, I shoot 15 images one after the other. I am lucky as my camera has an intervalometer built in so I set that going then stay very still for over 3 minutes to avoid kicking the unseeable tripod leg (which I have done before!) or falling off the mound I am balanced on. For those who have not tried this, it is quite hard to stand still in total darkness - you can get a bit disorientated.

Once home I reviewed the set and discarded a couple of images, shown below. Some darn motorist inconsiderately came over a far distant hill, without a care in the world for my photography, and flashed their headlights all over the landscape. Remember these are the results of a 13-second exposure - you cannot even see this much “live”.

Discarded images - light pollution from a car
Discarded images - light pollution from a car

Next up it’s into my favourite image editor (ON1) to bring out the best in the image - bringing out the stars as much as possible. Once happy with the adjustments I copy and paste that profile to the remaining fourteen images. This is important, they must be identically edited for the next process to work. Finally, I export the set as TIFF images - I don’t want to lose any of the quality I have been building into the set, and Nikon NEF files don’t work in third-party software.

The next tool I reach for is StarryLandscapeStacker. It’s quite surprising how far stars move in a short space of time. There are two ways to cause star movement (streaks); one is to set the shutter speed too slow (over 15 seconds for my lens, which can be good if you want star trails), and the other is to take many images where each is not aligned with the next as the Earth spins around quicker than you expect.

Star trails due to slow shutter speed (over 15secs on my camera)
Star trails due to slow shutter speed (over 15secs on my camera)

OK, that’s not quite true. The stars are not aligned, anything solid IS aligned and any reflections are not aligned in the reverse direction. Last year I started out aligning by hand in Photoshop (and have how-to notes if any masochist in the group wants to try) but I felt life was too short to continue doing that so bought some software to do most of the alignment grunt-work for me. Trust me; emptying the Atlantic with a thimble is preferable to manually aligning stars.

This software has several algorithms and I export two (still in TIFF format) one dark to showcase the stars and one light to showcase the foreground object, Lanyon Quoit stones in this case. I’m not sure about this step - it can leave the foreground looking a bit artificial. I will probably tone down this a bit this year. OK, we are almost there. Back into ON1 (or Photoshop, or Gimp if you like free) to further lighten the foreground, stack the two images, and mask out the dark stones. The final image is a combination of dark stars with visible foreground interest;


Comet Neowise over Lanyon Quoit
Comet Neowise over Lanyon Quoit

This is a screenshot as the editor I am using (Google docs) complained about the size of the image I uploaded and refused to use it.

Talking about size, you will need to do some file management if you try this genre. My camera (set to RAW top quality) takes 60Mb files so 15 files = 910.4 Mb. After “developing” the sidecar files add 88k each, then include the TIFF files 363.5Mb each, then the stacking files another 900Mb. Total 6.75Gb for one final image!

I zip the camera images which saves 10% on their unzipped size. Not a lot, but if you have several sets it mounts up. Then, as I have automated scripts in ON1 so I can reproduce the same files again if needed I delete the TIFF files, the sidecar files, the original images (now saved in a zip) and any temporary files (e.g. if submitting to Penryn CC the max 1600x1200 file) and after all this wanton destruction, this folder is a mere 1.88Gb.

As with any other genre, even after all this work, the rejection rate is high. The background (which you cannot easily see until now) can be wrong, the stars can be just off sharp (bad focusing i.e. bad photography), foreground bushes or grass (not seen until the final image) distracting, but when it all comes right you have a stunning image. I am hoping this year I will not have forgotten everything and will get some better images than last year.

I hope this has sparked an interest in you. There is a lot to align (time of year, phase of the moon, clear sky, location etc. and only a few days that “work") but you can get some shots that not everyone takes with a bit of loss of sleep and some screen time. If you have any questions I am happy to answer them, contact until we meet again (cannot wait!) is my usual email.

Best, Paul