Books on Astrophotography
A book that provides a good list of deep-sky objects to photograph is Jess Gilmore’s The Practical Astronomer’s Deep-Sky Companion, which I describe on the Books page.
The classic book on 35mm film astrophotography is Astrophotography for the Amateur,
by Michael A. Covington, Cambridge University Press (Second Edition, 1999). It provides a wealth of information on basic techniques. It does focus* on 35mm film photography
much more than CCD photography, but it’s still the primer you need to become familiar with the basic issues. Note that Covington posts updates and corrections to his book on his Web site.
Another, newer book on film astrophotography is Wide Field Astrophotography - Exposing the Universe Starting with a Common Camera, by Robert Reeves, Willmann-Bell, 2000. Although the Covington book described
above is a modern classic, Reeves’ book is also excellent and either one is a good reference on film astrophotography.
CCD camera images contain a lot more information than will be apparent from the raw image displayed on your computer monitor, because they capture a far greater brightness range than can be
displayed by your monitor (or can be seen by the human eye or captured by 35mm film). Extracting the best image from the raw data takes
knowledge and experience. So if you are considering CCD astrophotography, immediately get the Handbook of Astronomical Image Processing by Richard Berry (a former chief editor of Astronomy magazine and a pioneer in CCD astrophotography
) and James Burnell. It is published by Willmann-Bell, Inc., a company that is dedicated to publishing books on astronomy (although not particularly to good
customer service in my experience). It is an excellent, very detailed treatment of CCD images and how to process them to extract the best final photograph from the
raw data. This book will save you hours of learning time. (It also comes with an image-processing program, AIP4Win, written by Richard Berry. Although CCD
cameras typically come with their own software, Berry’s is probably more sophisticated and in any event is
useful for practicing the image processing techniques described in the book.) This book is rather expensive ($80 with shipping) but the included software is excellent and most commercial CCD imaging software
applications cost a lot more by themselves, than does this software plus the book.
There is an older version of this book - Introduction to Astronomical Image Processing - which is much less
detailed and technical. It includes an old DOS software image processing application which isn’t all that useful
, but you may find this book easier to get your arms around and it is lower priced. However, in the long run you will be better off with the newer book described above.
Another book available for CCD photography is The Art and Science of CCD Astronomy, edited by David Ratledge, Springer-Verlag, 1997. But the whole area of digital astrophotography equipment is so fast-moving
that the information in a 1997 book is somewhat out of date. Your best option is to get Berry’s book or keep current by perusing the Web regularly. Start with Sky & Telescope Magazine’s Astrophotography section.
Good advice for film astrophotography is also contained on Jerry Lodriguss' Catching the Light site.
* pun intended - if you don’t get it, you haven’t yet dealt with the difficulty of properly focusing an astrophotograph.