John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc 
 1984 March 1 
    My situation is typical of the city astrophotographer. I have no 
place to set up a conventional astrophotography rig. When my sister 
lived across the street, I could use her treeless backyard for 
orthodox star photos, my own yard being tree-choked. My D[ynamax]-8 
mount had a bedplate for my 200mm camera lens, giving me quite 
pleasing deep-sky shots with 60-90 seconds on Fujichrome-100 film. 
    But it took several trips to gather all the parts, an hour to 
assemble and adjust everything, and careful placement of the mount to 
maximize sky exposure. When the night's work was done, an equally big 
chore was vacating the yard. It was only the convenience of stepping 
across the street that let me go through this rigamarole. 
    In mid-1982, my sister moved to South Carolina, depriving me of 
that observing spot. Of course, I continue camera-and-tripod work from 
my house and on travels, being limited to wide-angle shots where star-
trailing is not too noticeable. Deep-sky work, however, was totally 
suspended without the tracking apparatus. 
    Now, the 3M Company markets an ASA 1000 slide film, fully ten 
times as fast as Fujichrome-100. The November 1983 SKY & TELESCOPE had 
a most heartening review of this new film's utility for astronomers. 
    Surprisingly, the review referred only to tracking setups, even 
with wide-angle lenses. I wondered how the 3M-1000 film would serve 
the camera-and-tripod sector, the confined domain of the average city 
stargazer with no commodious field for observing. 
    Apparently, the star pictures I once got with a 60-90 second 
exposure -- while tracking -- I should now get with only 6-9 sec. 
    But with only 6-9 seconds, the stars trail so little that no 
tracking is necessary. I don't need elaborate clockdrive gear. I 
should get deep-sky pictures with just my camera-and-tripod. 
    So, over the year-end holidays [of 1983], I found in my betreed 
yard a spot where the Pleiades peeked between bare branches. with the 
200mm lens, I shot a series at 3, 5, 7, and 10 seconds. Then I moved 
over some to catch the Orion Nebula, and again to get the Double 
Cluster. In about a half-hour, I photographed ten objects. This 
included shuffling around to get the objects in clear patches of sky, 
adjusting the tripod, aiming the camera, and the duration of each 
    When I got the slides back, I was astounded. There were pictures 
all the equal of my former clockdrive days, and the stars trailed 
hardly at all. The 10-second shots were actually overexposed by the 
city airglow. I did, to be frank, catch a bit of roof or twig in a few 
frames. I was just happy to get the main object in the field. 
    For my second roll, I planned more carefully. I put the tripod in 
its equatorial stance, and as I moved about the yard I kept the polar 
axis aimed at Polaris. Also, I now knew that 5-8 seconds yielded the 
optimum balance between adequate star image density and skyglow. This 
    I photographed about fifteen objects, even some I had never before 
tried, like the clusters in the "W" of Cassiopeia and in the 
"Trapezoid" of Perseus. The new pictures were, then, portrait or atlas 
shots with North up and West to the right. Again, trailing was hardly 
discernible and the new pictures melded nicely into my deep-sky 
collection. I had taken quite pleasing deep-sky pictures with ordinary 
camera equipment from a most unpromising observing site. 
    This is a true emancipation of the city observer, an entree' into 
a pursuit heretofore barred from him, a loosing of the binds of his 
homestead. Now, a window, terrace, stoop, rooftop, garden, or 
courtyard are viable sites for astrophotography. 
    Armed with camera and tripod -- packed into a totebag -- and the 
3M-l000 film, the city stargazer can spontaneously go to his site, a 
friend's site, Gateway, or Fieldston. He can more casually use public 
transit or cabs, or even walk to his observing place. He can repair to 
the terrace, say, set up the tripod, get his shots, and then turn in 
for the night within, literally, an hour. 
    To be sure, there's a price to pay. The 3M-l000 costs about $9.50 
per 36-exposure roll, with 3M processing, and it's stocked by only the 
larger photo stores in the City. Also, it's a mite grainier than the 
common color slide films. Exposures are a little more critical, being 
so short overall, so you'll have to bracket in the first roll. 
    Another "price" is the ease of overexposure. The City sky will 
wipe out the stars long before they get any considerable trails. 
Exposures must be brief. 10 seconds seems to be the ultimate limit in 
outer Flatbush, Brooklyn, and about 8 seconds is tops in Manhattan's 
Upper East Side. 
    This "price" seemed wholly insignificant in late January [1984]. I 
stepped outside from my winter roost in Manhattan and photographed 
M44, M67, and the head of Hydra, with about ten minutes of effort. 
Previously, I could not even have thought of taking such pictures from 
a building terrace.