And......if you knew then what you know now, would you do it all over again?
I think I probably started like most of you.....by hand-holding a point & shoot, cheapo digital camera up to the eyepiece of your telescope, at the moon. In my case it was a 6" Dob. I think I shot 30 or more frames that first time. Most of them were out of focus or not centered right, but a few just knocked my socks off. I was amazed it could be done!
That lead to some ill-fated attempts to image Saturn and Jupiter than same way. They were pretty terrible, but I was hooked!!
Next I bought a $100 webcam (a Philips ToUcam Pro II 840k) and learned about Registax. I also acquired a Celestron Nexstar 4se. The thing didn't track very well, but good enough for short video clips. The results were incredible by comparison to the one shot attempts. I was totally hooked now.
Then the real fun began. I bought a $300 original Meade DSI and plugged it into the Nexstar. I could take about 30-35 exposures of 15 seconds each before the subject drifted out of the frame. Round, pinpoint stars? Are you kidding? I was totally thrilled with these early pictures........even with stars that looked like fat, bloated eggs. But hey......there was M27 and M57 and something that sort of looked like M51.
I over-processed everything, using Paint Shop Pro Photo. Noise??? Oh yeh.....but hey, what's a little noise when you just took a picture of M51 from your own driveway. Auto guiding? Polar Alignment? Huhhhhh??? What's that? Gradient? Vignetting? Oh, heck yes......these pictures had it all, and then some.
It's been over 4 years now, and I still have more to learn than many of you have forgotten, and I have spent WAY more money that I anticipated.....even for fairly bottom of the line equipment. But it's been fun.
I still get the question, "Why do this to get mediocre pictures when you can just download beautiful Hubble images from the net?" The answer is, the enormous satisfaction you get from doing something that is difficult. "We choose to go to the moon and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." John F Kennedy