Astrophotography: The Journey of a Budget-Friendly IT Professional


Time to read 3 min

When it comes to hobbies, we all have our preferences. Some prefer to read, some prefer to travel, and some prefer to stargaze. And when it comes to stargazing, there's nothing quite like astrophotography. But let's be real, it can be an expensive hobby. Luckily, our protagonist found a way to enjoy it on a budget. 

Meet our hero, an Information Technology Professional living in the fast-paced city of New York. While his career kept him busy during the day, he always had a passion for astronomy. It all started when he was in high school and his older brother gifted him a telescope. He was excited but didn't know how to make the most of it. Living under Bortle 4 skies, he only managed to look at the moon and planets. What a waste of dark skies, he thought.

But he didn't give up. Over the years, he invested in more equipment, including Fujinon binoculars, nebula filters, a TeleVue telescope, and an 8 inch Dobsonian. He became immersed in astronomy but still only practiced visual astronomy. 

As with many visual astronomers, he eventually became interested in astrophotography. But with a limited budget, he had to get creative. He started with wooden barn door trackers with 12V stepper motors and 35mm film cameras. He even used gas-hypered film, which is no longer available anywhere and would be considered ancient in this day and age.

But he didn't stop there. He progressed to a modified Canon DSLR camera and slightly better mounts. He experimented with a low-cost one-shot color CCD camera attached to a 135mm Canon lens. Living under Bortle 8 skies near New York City, he continued his astrophotography experiments.

As an IT Professional who spent almost 9 hours a day looking at computer screens, he noticed that astrophotography required quite a bit of time in front of a computer screen processing images. This was one of the main reasons why he took long breaks from the hobby.

M17 by Meade DSI CCD camera
M17 - This was taken with the Meade DSI CCD camera, attached to a canon 135mm F/2.5 lens, set at F/4. A stack of 87, 2.8 second exposures. Stacked using Nebulosity‘s drizzle feature.
40 sub exposures of 13 seconds each, with Ha modified Canon T3i DSLR (on wooden barn door tracker).

But then he discovered The Dwarf 2, a smart telescope that changed the way people enjoy astrophotography forever. He saw the images people were taking with it and knew he had to have one. With The Dwarf 2, he could take beautiful images that only required a little basic cleaning up directly on his cell phone. 

What he appreciated most about The Dwarf 2 was how it was like having a tiny robot doing his astrophotography for him. He also loved the wide fields of view it provided, which comfortably framed many of the larger deep sky objects where other smart telescopes could not.

With The Dwarf 2, there was no need for heavy tripods or large telescopes. No polar alignment or hooking up to a laptop screen was necessary. Calibration frames and stacking of individual frames were not needed because The Dwarf 2 did it all for him.

Now, whenever he leaves The Dwarf 2 outside in the backyard to do its imaging, he walks back into the house with a big smile on his face saying to himself, "I love this thing!" He even claims that anyone who's done traditional astrophotography before will seriously appreciate The Dwarf 2.

It's safe to say that our hero has come a long way from his first telescope. With The Dwarf 2, he's able to enjoy astrophotography on a budget without spending too much time in front of a computer screen. Smart telescopes like The Dwarf 2 have truly changed the game and made astrophotography accessible to more people than ever before.

So if you're an aspiring astrophotographer on a budget, take inspiration from our hero and get creative. Who knows, you might just discover the next game-changing product in astrophotography.

M31 - 150 subexposures of 15” each. Taken and stacked by The Dwarf 2. Minor post processing.

For more of Al Milano works, check his Astro blog Urban Astronomy.