Astrophotography PD

So you saw the winners of our Astrophotography Competition in my last post and the Astrophotography Competition 2013 Gallery and you ask – how did they do that?

That is an excellent question and requires a huge answer that I will do my best to accommodate in bite sized pieces. But this post is dedicated to the Professional Development session we had at the beginning of this term. The session was entirely on Astrophotography and held at the wonderful Quantum Victoria facilities in McLeod. Generally when a Professional Development program is put together only staff (in this case, teachers) are usually invited. TiS is a different school based program though as there is so much collaborative involvement between teachers, students, parents and University academics. So we decided to upturn tradition and invite students and parents along to the PD session as well. The students and parents integrated into this learning space seamlessly and again demonstrated to what extent everyone works together in this program as an equal.

So the agenda for the evening was pretty tight with a few guest speakers to inspire us, three schools sharing a brief report on their school’s program and then three workshops run concurrently in the second half of the evening.

We had a very special guest first up. Phil Hart crammed a life’s worth of amazing astrophotography, night sky photography and time-lapse movies into 20mins. Amongst many ohhhs and ahhhs we were taken on a journey through the night sky; eclipses, travels, auroras, planets and stars just to let us know how far you can go with Astrophotography and why everyone is fascinated by this merge of art and science. Probably the biggest take home message I got from Phil’s talk is that to get good results, you don’t need huge, expensive equipment. Good results are possible to achieve with just a little patience and practice, explore your camera and the night sky, learn the limitations of the equipment and your surroundings and you will be creating amazing images in no time. Inspiring stuff for sure. Thank you Phil for taking time out to talk to us and sharing your story. If you missed out or want to revisit Phil’s images again, check out his website and blog, he also runs workshops so you can learn how to take images like he does. And don’t forget his e-Book which will have you taking amazing images in no time!

Simon Keily from ScienceWorks, had been working with me on organising the competition because of his interest in Astrophotography, so I asked Simon to talk to us about his experiences of taking images of the night sky and we got so much more. While Simon showed us some of the images he had taken while camping with his teenage daughters, he talked about how ‘doing’ science and creating a momento of that science is such a valuable experience in so many ways. Astronomy is a fantastic example as we start to observe and value what is around us, think about everything beyond our world and what that means and then to take images after learning how to use a telescope gives us ownership and and opportunity to say ‘I made that.’ Simon gave us a lot to think about and for me personally, managed to succinctly put in words exactly what the program is hoping to achieve. Thank you Simon for sharing your images and wisdom with us.

The last speaker was me trying to get the message across that often we take an image that most of the time doesn’t look that great, but just a little post image processing can bring out a lot of the detail in your image you hadn’t realised was there. The thing to watch, though, is not to overdo things and the processing will also depend on what you want to highlight. Much of this can be very personal as to how you wish your final image to look and what you wish to portray in your image.

Next teachers from Pascoe Vale Girls College, Gisborne Secondary College and Taylors Lakes Secondary College gave a brief outline of how the program has been running at their school. Each school offered plenty of ideas, cautionary tales and success stories for us to consider. Thanks Louise, Zeita, Dale and Rob for taking time out and taking to us about your experiences.

Zeita Hare (left) and Louise Ankers form Pascoe Vale Girls College.

Zeita Hare (left) and Louise Ankers form Pascoe Vale Girls College.

Dale Barry from Gisborne SC

Dale Barry from Gisborne SC

Rob Davie from Taylors Lakes SC.

Rob Davie from Taylors Lakes SC.

After the more formal part of the evening was over, we split up into three groups. There was a demonstration and Q&A session with Phil about Night Sky photography which as you can imagine, was very well attended.

Phil Hart's captivated audience as he run's through the basics.

Phil Hart’s captivated audience as he run’s through the basics.

Upstairs in the lab was a hands on session looking at processing data with various types of software including Austostitch, Registax and Fits Liberator with David Feillafe from Quantum Victoria and myself.

Autostitch Panorama of Image Processing workshop

Autostitch Panorama of Image Processing workshop

Lastly, a small group of teachers had a discussion with Soula Bennett, director of Quantum Victoria, and Prof Rachel Webster, Head of Astrophysics, about how the program is going in their school.

Discussion group lead by Soula Bennett.

Discussion group lead by Soula Bennett.

Response from the participants has been fantastic, they have all learnt so much and very keen to learn more. Probably the biggest response has been from the parents, though, ‘life changing experience’ and ‘we’ll be back next year’. It just goes to show how much parents enjoy working with their children and how little opportunity they get once they hit the teenage years.

A huge thanks to all the staff at Quantum Victoria for once again supporting the program and hosting our PD session.

One comment on “Astrophotography PD

  1. Pingback: 2013 in review | Telescopes in Schools

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