Universal Laws of Astrophotography

I often find myself struggling to glimpse an astronomical object between bands of clouds; if I'm lucky there is just enough time to take a quick look through binoculars and snap one photo. This has happened to me so many times, I have noticed some definite patterns. Other people have compiled similar lists, so I can't take credit for being the originator of all these ideas ... but that also means that the phenomena must be real!

  1. Clouds are most likely to form in the direction you want to observe and photograph (the sky may actually be perfectly clear except for that one spot).

  2.         1a. ... Unless you want to photograph lightning, in which case the opposite effect occurs.

  3. The amount of cloud cover is proportional to the amount of planning and travel expended.

  4. The act of attaching your binoculars with a bracket to a steady tripod dramatically increases your ability to see faint objects ... and eats up precious seconds that could be used seeing them.

  5. The amount of time for an object to disappear behind a cloud bank is less than the time needed to take the binoculars off the tripod and put a camera on.

  6. The more film you have in your camera, the less likely you are to have a chance to use any of it.

  7. An object will be completely free of the clouds only when the sky is too light to see it.

  8. Enjoyment of an observation is inversely proportional to the amount of sleep lost.

  9. Disappointment is directly proportional to expectation.

Revised: November 4, 2009
Copyright © 2001 Joe Orman
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