Dream bike

Zuleikha outgrew her 20″ bicycle since quite a while – so we had to get her a new one. Here’s the headlight of her new Falter FX407 Pro (and since it’s for girls, the colour isn’t white & green but white & apple 😉 ):


Taken with the Zuiko Digital 50mm/2 Macro lens on my E-M10 camera.

Thanks for viewing.

Dream car

I’ve taken lots of pictures of the night sky lately, and I’m far from done with it. But to produce what I have in my mind, I need some additional gear first, like a German equatorial mount with at least one motor which compensates the rotation of our planet. One of the most clever designs I saw for this, if you just want to mount your camera onto it, would be the Skywatcher Star Adventurer, best as a complete photo or astro bundle. It will carry a DSLR and something like a 135mm lens just fine, but if you want to add a real telescope later, you’d probably need something bigger. Be prepared to spend over 1200€ for a good starter combination… (the mount alone is about 1k€ in the stores around here).

So during the last weeks I was busy reading and learning about how to take photos of the stars. And nebulaes. And galaxies. And believe me or not, but you can forget about everything you thought you knew about photography. This is as much science as it is art, and sadly, it’s a numbers game – you’ll need precision, and that always costs real money.

Today I was out for a short walk again, with a camera or two (those Micro Four Thirds cameras and lenses don’t weigh that much, so you can carry more than one if you like). It was a nice walk, and the funniest thing I saw was this:


Rusty, yes, but who says you can’t love rust? And like the sticker in the driver’s window says, at least this one is not sponsored by Mom & Dad… 😉

In it’s back window was another funny one, but this would probably best be understood by Germans (hint: Flensburg can take your driver’s license if you behave too badly):


Loved that car. Even the mostly matte black paint job is really nice. And the rust. If you want a car like that, or plan to pimp your own one like this, ask Holger.

Ok. Sunday afternoon. Cake time. So I’ll make coffee.

Thanks for reading.

A very interesting afternoon

As I wrote lately, Zuleikha developed some interest in stars, and in astronomy. So I bought her a little Newton telescope, and some books and a star map. And today there was one of the open door days at our local public peoples’ observatory, or in German, in our Volkssternwarte in Darmstadt. So that is where we went.


And it was interesting indeed. I talked to some people, and learned a lot, while Mitchie and Zuleikha listened to some talk, went into their library, and even had some cake. Later Zuleikha bought a photo of IC 1318, or the butterfly nebula from Mirko Boucsein, one of the members of the society. Mirko took that photo with a modified Canon 500D DSLR camera (minus the infrared filter layer on its sensor), and with a GSO 150/600mm f/4 telescope on a Skywatcher HEQ5 equatorial mount which was guided by a second camera.

I even forgot to take photos inside, and because the sky wasn’t clear, we couldn’t even look at the sun through some of their telescopes. But I was invited to come back on a Friday evening when there’s a clearer sky, and to observe some stars and/or deep sky objects together with them.

Before we left, we had to take a look over Darmstadt from the place which is called Luisenhöhe. We’ve been here, and I’ll definitely come back.


Thanks for reading.

A Barlow lens, and some adapters

In my last blog post I wrote that you need some additional pieces to be able to mount your camera to a telescope (or to a microscope, there aren’t that many differences). Here’s what you need if you want to adapt a Micro Four Thirds camera to a standard ‘scope with a 1.25″ focuser:



So besides the mentioned Barlow lens (German Wikipedia explanation is here; English one is here), you need a µ4/3rds/T2 mount, and some additional distance ring and T2/1.25″ adapter.

But a fair warning before you even start: if you really want to take pictures of the stars, and of deep sky objects, things can get pretty pricey pretty quick. A good motorized equatorial mount will start at 1000-1200 dollars / Euro, and that doesn’t even include a telescope (nor the second “guiding camera” which you definitely need for exposure times of > 30 seconds or so). So for deep sky objects, be prepared to spend north of 2000-3000 dollars / Euro for the beginning. Be also prepared to carry heavy batteries out into the fields and on top of some mountains, and to spend many nights in the dark and cold. And still your pictures won’t compete to Hubble’s because of our earth’s atmosphere, and the “seeing“. You can eliminate that with something called “adaptive mirror technology”, but then for us consumers, prices start at about a million… you’d rather ask the NASA or ESO to help you with this. 😉

If you start without a telescope, you can have it a bit cheaper with devices like this one, or with an AstroTrac for about the double amount.

Thanks for reading.

A telescope, indoors

I have bought a telescope. No, not for me, but for Zuleikha who shows some real interest for space, the stars, and astronomy in general. The product we’ve got for her is called the Sky-Watcher Heritage 76, which is a 3″ f/4 Newton reflector on a small one-arm Dobsonian mount. Looks like this, with her camera beside it:


Here you see the scope in its parking position, with the (inside) main mirror on the upper end, the finder scope at its side, two eyepieces which come with it, and Zuleikha’s (my old) Olympus E-PL1 camera with its kit lens.

Why did I put the camera in the picture? Well because I couldn’t resist to get some additional pieces to adapt it to the scope 😉 And sure, I had to try that right away as well.

So, for comparison – here is a photo of the kitchen door on the far end, with the Olympus E-PL1 and its 14-42mm kit lens at the long end (42mm):


And here is the same shot but through the scope:


And no, this isn’t 300mm. A small Newtonian scope which isn’t optimized for taking pictures but for live viewing instead cannot get a camera in focus – the camera would have to dive into the scope’s shaft too much to make this possible. So your only chance is to use a Barlow lens, which I did (with 2x magnification). So this is real 600mm which would compare to 1200mm on a film (or “full frame”) camera because of the 2x crop factor of the Micro Four Thirds sensor.

We’ve got some books and a rotating star map for her as well, and tomorrow morning Zuleikha wants to see the moon with it (if the weather allows).

Thanks for reading.

An excursion to our Müllberg

When I told Zuleikha that today at 20:35 we’d have a full moon rising, she wanted to see it with her Nikon 8×25 binoculars. So we drove to a nearby site to which officials gave the nice name “Oberwaldberg” (I suppose because you can see over the forrests, as you will see in one of the photos I took). But it’s in fact our garbage hill, so for me it is (and stays) our “Müllberg”.

It was quite nice. Zuleikha couldn’t believe how big the moon was when coming around a corner there, and I shot it with my 25mm (50mm-equivalent) lens like all other photos of today:


When I reached the top, both Mitchie and Zuleikha were laying on their backs already, gazing at the stars. I told them that if we come back in about two weeks and the weather would be as nice as today, they’d see lots more, so this is what she wants to do. She was quite amazed that she could actually see the stars moving without any tools, just laying there and looking up (of course we are moving on our rotating earth, but that’s another story, and Zuleikha knows that already).

I also looked around a bit, and took a photo in the direction of Frankfurt:


And after going downhill again and talking about red torchlights (which wouldn’t affect our night view that much as white ones), we sat down on some rocks under some trees. I saw the big dipper, so I knew that to its right there was Polaris (and a bit further, Cassiopeia). So I pointed up 50 degrees to my right and said: “Polaris”.

Zuleikha asked how I could know this, so I explained, and I wanted to show her that this one wouldn’t move across our skies like the others do. So with the “Live Composite Mode” of my camera, and 15 exposures of 60 seconds each, I showed her:


She asked if they would have astronomy lessons in school, and I said yes, probably in physics. And now she cannot wait for that as well.

While walking back to our car, the moon was pretty bright already, so Mitchie and Zuleikha began to sing “Moon Shadow”.

So, a nice evening (and she loved to have been up until after 10pm).

Thanks for reading.