About Lonely Speck

On Photographing the Milky Way on Ian’s Vimeo.

Hello and welcome to Lonely Speck! We are Ian Norman and Diana Southern, a couple with a passion for photography and travel. Lonely Speck is the home of our night photography and astrophotography adventures. It’s a project to help us learn as much as we can about photographing the Milky Way and sharing those experiences with others so that they can learn how to do it, too.

Here you will find our best efforts to impart our own knowledge of dark sky photography to you. We pride ourselves on the hundreds of images all of you have created and shared with us using the tutorials and articles on Lonely Speck. We hope that you will find as much satisfaction using the tools here as we have had creating them.

We hope that you will join our small community and share your experiences with us. Check out our sister photography site, Photon Collective, share your images on our Flickr group, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, check out Ian’s Instagram or 500px and read about our daytime adventures and Diana’s musing on travel and fashion at our travel blog and stylishtravelgirl.com.

Wishing you clear dark skies and happy photographing!

–Ian & Diana

IanNorman-DianaSouthern-LonelySpeck
Diana and Ian in Bergen, Norway

30 Replies to “About Lonely Speck”

  1. Ian,
    Here is a link to a picture I shot last night of the Super Nova Remnant M1 “Crab Nebula” in Taurus using the Pentax GPS module and Astrotrace.
    https://olddognewphotos.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/k5001657r.jpg
    I used a cheap old screw mount 200mm f3.5 lens with a 2x converter bringing it to 400mm on my Pentax K50. The aperture was wide open and I used a 40 second exposure at ISO 25600 with no significant star trails thanks to the GPS controlled shake reduction sensor in the camera’s body.
    40 seconds was close to the limit I could go with a 400mm lens in that part of the sky. I could technically go up to an 800mm lens with this Pentax system and still get about a 20 second exposure but trying to aim that very small field of view at a nearly invisible object would be an exercise in extreme patience… that I may yet try one day.
    M1 is not an impressive object to look at since it is over 6,000 light years away and only 10 light years across at magnitude 8.4 making it invisible to the naked eye. But I think it’s cool that you can see (and take a picture of) the still expanding remnant of an explosion first seen on earth 960 years ago in 1054AD.
    I also got up early this morning and shot this picture of M51, the “Whirlpool Galaxy” just off the end of the handle of the “Big Dipper”.
    https://olddognewphotos.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/k5001674r3.jpg
    It was shot with just the 200mm f3.5 lens wide open at ISO 1250 for 110 seconds. Of course long exposures like this invite the occasional satellite flying by like in the bottom right.
    Both of these shots were taken from South Central Pennsylvania with moderate light pollution. I’m still figuring out the best settings to use and hope to get a better but used 400mm f5.6 lens sometime and go find some seriously dark skies.
    All the best!
    Jeff
    PS: if anyone has trouble finding the M1 Super Nova remnant here is a link highlighting it:
    https://olddognewphotos.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/k5001657r-label.jpg
    And M51 Whirlpool Galaxy…
    https://olddognewphotos.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/k5001674r3-label.jpg

  2. Ian and Diana,

    Thanks for sharing your passion and expertise with us all. I have a Pentax K50 and I’m looking forward to adding the hotshoe mounted 0-GPS1 to use the astrotrace feature. This would allow longer exposure times without star trailing made possible by the in-body stabilization. What are your thoughts of this capability that Pentax offers?

    I am hoping to use it to overcome the short exposure times that longer focal length lenses require on fixed tripods. This should allow for brighter more detailed shots of small deep sky objects… especially with some of the 60mm-75mm clear apertures available with old 135mm, 200mm and 300mm fixed focal length lenses.
    Thanks!

    1. Jeff, the tracking feature built into the Pentax system is pretty unique. I think the biggest benefit is definitely for longer lenses and I’m intrigued by the capability for capturing some of the more distant sky objects. The only similar product I have used is a Vixen Polarie star tracker mount. I would definitely say that a tracking mount of some kind is necessary for the very best results using long lenses so it’s pretty damn cool that you can do the same on the Pentax system with just a simple accessory. If you get any good results, I’d love for you to share them. Maybe I’ll look into trying out a Pentax setup myself in the future…

  3. Hi,

    I don’t suppose you run workshops in the field do you? I live in southern California and I have always been better learning hands-on when it comes to photography. Mostly, I’d appreciate the company since I’ve been to Joshua Tree late at night by myself and it’s kind of creepy when the bushes start rustling.

    P.S. I bought the Rokinon 12mm f/2 on the strength of your endorsement. It’s a fine lens and, for what it does, is excellent value for the money. I’ve spent way more on lenses I’ve used a lot less.

    1. Kenny I am currently not hosting any formal workshops since June. My focus has been strictly on the website content rather than organizing workshops so I’m putting them on hold. That said, if I’m in the area out shooting, I would love meeting up informally to shoot together. I’m currently on the road and might not be back in So Cal until the winter just as a heads up. Maybe shoot me an email and I’ll keep you in mind: [email protected]

  4. I met Hal Meurlin at a PSA convention here in Albuquerque and saw some of his photographs. One in particular was his shot of the Milky Way. It was (lonely)Specktackular! He credited you for helping make this great image. I’m bookmarking this page and hope to make a similar (but obviously inferior) version of his shot here in New Mexico real soon using your information. Thanks for publishing this.

    1. Roland! Yes, Hal attended one of my workshops in early 2014. Be sure to shoot real early in the night! The Milky Way is setting earlier and earlier as we approach the December Solstice.

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