Today’s featured interview is with Ray Shore, administrator and owner of Astrophotography-Tonight and Shore Galaxy Websites. Ray is a very good friend of mine going on six years now. We first met online through correspondence at one of his websites where I had been reading up on his CGEM review articles at the time. Ray has two very informative websites dedicated to astrophotography. Both sites provide a wealth of information for those who wish to learn how to image the night skies. Ray has many articles and well written tutorials discussing a variety of topics related to astrophotography with a strong focus on the amateur astrophotographer who is new to the hobby. He documents the steps involved in learning planetary and dso imaging quite well, with a strong emphasis on providing plenty of images and screenshots of the subject matter.
When did you get serious into AP and who was your mentor, and at what age were you first interested in astronomy?
During the 2003 Mars opposition. Much of what I learned initially was from my mentor’s Rex Green and Ed Henry. I also picked up a wealth of information on forums such as Cloudy Nights. I became interested in astronomy somewhere between 8 and 11 years of old.
My family used to go to auctions every Saturday night in Belton Missouri where I grew up. My Dad liked to bid on lots containing miscellaneous items packed in corrugated boxes. We had fun discovering what was in those boxes when we got home! Most of it turned out to be typical garage sale stuff. One time though, there was a telescope in one of the boxes. It was just a small hand-held refractor probably around 50mm. At first we used it during the daytime to view things around the neighborhood. My best memory of the telescope was when I decided to look at the moon through it one night. I couldn’t believe what I saw! Numerous craters and other features that I didn’t even know were on the moon. For me, it all started with that basic telescope we got at the auction when I was a kid. My interest has never faded.
What gear did you initially start AP with?
Any Role models in AP and Astronomy who are they and why and how they influenced you?
The person who got me started in astrophotography was a guy named Rex Green who ran the security service at my company a few years ago. I was already an amateur astronomer but he got me hooked on the imaging aspect of it. Rex was an immensely brilliant guy with an astounding grasp of astronomy, astrophotography, and all the equipment and technical stuff that goes along with it. Until I met Rex, I had always put astronomers into a couple different categories. There were those who were drawn to the science part of astronomy (stellar evolution, nebula types, planetary composition, cosmology, etc.) then there were those who loved astronomy for the gadgetry involved (telescopes, computer control, cameras, etc.). At first, I thought Rex fit into the gadgetry department after several discussions on his plans for building everything from the tremendously challenging Stevick-Paul telescope to constructing giant binoculars with hand-made Pringle-shaped mirrors! But then I saw the other side of Rex one night at a public event at Powell Observatory in Louisburg Kansas. Rex brought his homemade telescope (which was super cool) to show off to the site visitors. Naturally, discussions about the wonders of the cosmos ensued. His answers to the many questions were beautifully articulated as if they were read straight from a college level astronomy text-book. Later on that evening he blew my mind with an incredible long-winded explanation for a theory related to cosmology. He kept diving deeper and deeper into the intricacies of this concept drawing on his freakish knowledge of physics and space. I remember thinking, “wow, where did that come from?” I learned a lot from Rex through our many discussions in the office and out in the field doing astrophotography. I can attribute much of my involvement in astrophotography these days to his influence.
I also need to mention Ed Henry of Hay Creek Observatory in Wisconsin. He was the other most influential person in my early days of astrophotography. I found Ed through his website where he posted his many astrophotography works. His photos were among the best I had ever seen from an amateur astrophotographer. He used a 12” LX200 telescope with a SBIG dedicated CCD camera but also did some work with a digital SLR which I took much interest in. Ed became my mentor for deep space photography with the DSLR and taught me how to capture the images remotely. Ed also had one of the coolest observatories I had seen! It was a dome type observatory with a heated/air-conditioned control room! He controlled his telescope and camera from the Lazyboy recliner in the control room! I had the opportunity to visit Ed a few years ago. He gave me a nice deal on his 12” LX200 so I rented a van and travelled to Wisconsin to take delivery. We had planned a night of astrophotography in the observatory so he could show me in person how he performed his magic. It was just an overnight trip and wouldn’t you know it, it poured down heavy rain all night! At least I was able to check out the awesome observatory! In my original tutorial for DSLR Astrophotography, I provide Ed with special recognition for all his guidance and support during my initial stages of learning DSLR astrophotography.
How did your first website come about?
My very first website was a project for an upper level course in Technology while attending Washburn University. The assignment by one of the professor’s was to build a website and post our final research paper on it. The concept was to make the paper available for the world to see. Unfortunately, there was no instruction on how to build a website! Good thing my young daughter knew how and helped me get started! It was on a free site called GeoCities.
How did you learn or when did you learn to build websites?
As mentioned previously, it was for my college course with help from my daughter. I took a liking to the web design thing and decided to build one for my astronomy / astrophotography pastime. Since I had experience with the freebie on GeoCities, I built it there. I called it “Ray’s Space Place”. When I got into astrophotography, I started posting my images there along with a few images from my friends. Since it was a free site, it had advertisements popping up all over the place which were a bit annoying. I did some research and saw that I could get reasonably priced web hosting with Bluehost. My two main astrophotography websites (www.astrophotography-tonight and older site www.astro.shoregalaxy.com) are still being hosted by Bluehost.
What inspired you to build websites you have?
My passion for astrophotography and sharing my work. Also, I enjoyed developing tutorials on how I achieved results in AP so I could share with others. I use WordPress for AstroPhotography Tonight website since it’s a very capable blogging platform.
What was your first image? Your favorite and most memorable?
The Moon taken afocally with a digital camera. The very first photos were taken by holding the camera up to the eyepiece and snapping the photos. Then I graduated to an Orion mount to hold the camera to the scope. It didn’t take long before moving to prime focus astrophotography!
Horsehead/Flame Nebula since it represented what I considered my best work based on years of learning and fine-tuning my methods. For this project, I collected data over several nights at different exposure settings.
Some of Ray’s Images, Click on image to see larger view: