What Tracking was I using for Three Comets?

Here is the extended question that I was asked shortly after posting Three Comets:

It was fun to watch you that night.  Your preparation truly paid off in a stellar way.  What tracking were you using with your Canon?  I have no experience with or software for stacking images.  On Saturday, I pushed my 14mm lens to the limit with 25 second exposures without star trailing when pointed south.  With that lens, I’m able to use a lightweight travel tripod with no tracking.  I’m considering a 70-200mm lens for my Nikon D750 for astrophotography, but I’d still like to be relatively lightweight and portable (carry on).  Suggestions?

And my answer:

Thanks, I am glad that you had fun watching me struggle and sweat with that one. 😎

Actually, I am pretty sure that I had the most fun working on this image.

My Canon was fitted with a 55mm f/1.4 lens that I had stopped down to f/2.8. It was tracking on a $160-ish mechanical wind up tracker made by Omegon. It is called an LX2 Mini Tracker. 

For anyone who already has a DSLR and a couple of lenses, this device is hard to beat for anyone wanting to get started in astrophotography without a huge up front investment. I wish that my Losmandy G-11 tracked as good as this tracker does…feel free to open the image and zoom in. There are no elongated stars in forty seven 25 second exposures. So that’s my suggestion for a tracking device. The tracker is small and lightweight, so it is perfect for travel.

I am pretty sure that I would have gotten elongated stars if not for the tracker. The tracker runs for about 30 minutes on a wind up (like winding your watch), and I got star trails in some frames after it timer ran down at the end of my run.

Stopping to reflect for a moment while writing just now, I realized a few things. This is an exception image, but it was not just me. This is a HAL image.

Acquiring the kit that I have to do this imagery, wider FoV camera lenses and the tracker, was inspired by Cheryl’s wide field imagery.

The image would not have been possible without Victor and Bob opening Carrs Mill both nights this weekend, or without my good fortune to be a member and and having access to this incredible resource.  Of course, there have been many HAL members opening the park over the years, which has given me the opportunity to learn the astronomy arts.

I have been inspired by Brad, Gene, Ken, James, Steve, John, and HAL’s many other top-notch astrophotographers. Additionally, people like Gene and James have inspired me to work carefully and take my time and read the literature on any new software that I might to use. 

Last, and certainly not least, without what you and the HAL Board (and past boards have done) does month in and month out to keep HAL vibrant and relevant, there would be no HAL to make this image possible.

I am very grateful for being a HAL member, which has having been in the right place at the right time for grabbing the torch and running with it.

© 2020 Jim Johnson

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