Vincent Cheng lays down the ropes in astrophotography
By Patricia Hului
If you think that you need fancy camera to take amazing photos of the Milky Way, then meet Vincent Cheng.
An astrophotographer from Hong Kong, Vincent strongly believes that one should enjoy the fun of taking pictures of the night sky without being restricted by camera equipment.
In fact, with a little bit of skill, you can capture photos of the night sky with any camera including a compact camera and even mobile phone camera.
Vincent discovered his interest in stargazing during high school on a camping trip but only ventured into astrophotography back in the year 2009.
Some of his work has been featured in Apple Daily, a Hong Kong-based newspaper, and this year’s Specola Vaticana (Vatican Observatory) calendar.
When it comes to the Southeast Asian region, Cheng is currently the only full time speaker in this field.
On May 9, Vincent spoke to some 70 people at Planetarium Sultan Iskandar showing his astrophotography images taken with various devices.
First of all, he used an optical device which measured the position of stars called a star tracker to determine where to point his camera lens.
One of his personal favourite star trackers is Nano Tracker: “It is portable and small, just the size of my palm.”
According to Vincent, with a star tracker, a tripod and a mobile phone camera or compact camera, you can be ready to take deep sky images.
When using DSLR cameras, he also dismissed the myth one had to have a high focal length lens or telephoto lens in astrophotography, showing some of his work on a DSLR camera with common lenses.
So it is not necessary to have those long, paparazzi type of lenses to shoot the night sky.
According to Cheng, a telephoto lens is only necessary when you want to shoot a specific galaxy or constellation.
Being based in Hong Kong, he shared his dissatisfaction taking astrophotography images in his hometown.
“There is too much light pollution in Hong Kong,” he shared.
In overcoming this, Cheng used a light pollution filter on his DSLR camera to filter out all the unwanted light in his photos.
On his first night arriving in Kuching, the established astrophotographer did not skip his chance to take deep sky images here but to no avail.
Vincent said, “The sky was clouded. Hence, weather also play important role in this.”
He has been to many places around the world to take photos of the sky including USA and Australia.
A typical astrophotography shoot would see him packing up even his mobile camera together with his high-end equipment like a telescope equipped with DLSR camera.
But sometimes, he ends up using just the basics; mobile phone, tripod and star tracker.
He shared, “If I used all my DSLR cameras equipment when travelling, my luggage would be overweight.”
After his experience taking all sorts of deep sky images, now Vincent is looking to have that one desired photo either of a constellation or galaxy.
According to him, one final deep sky image might take him five to 20 images to stack depending on the photos. Stacking is laying one image on top of others taken from the same views and is important in processing deep sky images.
“You can download free software from the internet to do your image stacking,” Vincent pointed out.
During this trip to Malaysia, he also conducted paid workshops for two days on May 11 and 12 at Great Wall Camera, Jalan Padungan to explain more on the “how to” in astrophotography.
During the workshops, Vincent would help local night sky photography enthusiasts in how to capture deep sky object, startrail photo, how to capture the Milky Way in a light-polluted area in the city and how to get into astrophotography on a limited budget.
Want to see more of Vincent’s deep sky images? Click here to follow him on Facebook.