It’s been a while since the club did an imaging workshop. Back then, no-one had ever heard of a CMOS sensor and all the big boy camera manufacturers like SBIG, Starlight Express, and Atik were only making huge pixeled mono only CCD sensors.

The Skywatcher EQ5 mount was the imaging mount of choice – unless you could afford something from Software Bisque or Astrophysics. The tracking wasn’t great, so you had to use a separate guide camera driven by the fairly well established PHD software.

Image processing was done almost exclusively done in Photoshop and Ron Wodaski’s book The New CCD Astronomy, was the image processors bible at the time. There was a piece of software called Pixinsight that was just starting to emerge, but no-one knew how to use it, which wasn’t surprising when you looked at the interface!

How times have changed. We now have mono and OSC (One Shot Colour) CMOS sensors, which are so efficient and with so little noise, that users are now starting not to use dark frames any more.

The Skywatcher EQ6-R is a good basic entry mount, but manufacturers like i-Optron and ZWO are releasing strain wave mounts that don’t need counterweights or even a handset to drive them. Some of the heavyweight mounts come with encoders on both axis, so in most circumstances, you don’t even need to use a guide camera any more.

From the image capture perspective, imaging has never been easier!

As for image processing software, that quirky Pixinsight with it’s crazy interface now reigns supreme. OK, some out there are still using Photoshop, APP, Siril and others, but with the introduction of Starnet2 and Russ Croman’s BlurXerminator plugin for Pixinsight in 2022, Pixinsight is now the serious imagers software of choice.

With that in mind, KA hosted its own Pixinsight Workshop on Saturday the 17th of February to those members who use it and want to improve their technique, or to those thinking of starting astrophotography and want to find out more about this truly amazing piece of software.

The day was presented by one of our members, Dean Ashton who have been using Pixinsight for years. Most of the session was spent on the calibration, emphasising the importance of this crucial stage in the process. Towards the end of the afternoon, Dean then processed from start to finish, one of his own images of M51 taken over three nights back in 2022.

NGC 5194 Messier M51 by Dean Ashton

Dean provided us with two PDF’s. One with a very detailed description of his workflow using a OSC camera and the second, Project Notes for the data he would be using for the workshop. Both are provided here for you to download and use yourself.

The day went down well with those that attended and it is hoped we can do another of these workshops soon, where we can go into greater detail on the various techniques both Dean and other experienced club members use in their processing workflow.

Check out some of the images from our membership by going over to our imaging section here