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About me... and more

Who am I?

Lunar Eclipse - 15Apr2014My first astrophoto - The lunar eclipse on 15Apr2014

My name is Frederick Steiling, and I'm a resident of St. Louis, MO, USA who made the life-changing, spur-of-the-moment decision to stick my camera on a tripod and try to take a picture of the lunar eclipse on April 15, 2014, embarking me on an astronomical journey that I now document here. 

My fascination with both science and art has always been front-and-center with long careers as a firmware engineer and musician.  While I stood in my front yard with the camera locked on the 2014 lunar eclipse, the engineer in me was instantly engaged with the challenge of photographing a moving target from a stationary tripod, while the artist in me was enamored at the eeriness of this magnificent display.  It's a combination of passions that I've never found elsewhere.

The real surprise was yet to come the day after shooting the lunar eclipse as I become enormously shocked when the "star" in this image was identified not as a star, but as Saturn.  "That's a planet!"

I was gifted a 5" Dobsonian for my birthday 2 months later along with gear to hook my camera to it, and the enchantment took hold.  Over time, I've accumulated more equipment and more knowledge, but each step I take today is in the same vein as those that started me: The engineer tweaks and modifies the gear for better data acquisition, and the artist works at more gracefully processing the images to uncloak the beauty in the universe's many wonders.  Nothing is more exciting than toeing the frontier of our universe.

Where do I take these photographs?

It's easiest to say where I don't (usually) take photographs: from home. Most (though not all) of my photographs deal with wide bands of visible wavelengths that are negatively and substantially affected by light pollution. As you can imagine, living in an urban area doesn't present much in the way of deep-space-friendly skies.

In the field - 15Sep2015Photographing overhead at White Memorial Conservation Area

One of the measurements of sky quality is the Bortle scale, an assessment of darkness from 1 (darkest) to 10 (brightest). My home skies are Bortle 9, where about 100 stars are visible without aid, and even the most perfect night sky is cast with colored washout from the city lights. It's no wonder that no one tends to look up!

When I began, I'd packed up my gear and set up in a remote location every time I imaged in order to escape this nighttime poison, typically making overnight trips to White Memorial Conservation Area (Whiteside, MO) or Danville Conservation Area (New Florence, MO) where the skies are Bortle 4: The Milky Way is easily visible with dark dust lanes, and even M31 (Andromeda) can be observed as a smudge in the sky with the naked eye. On a rare occasion and particularly when the forecast and daytime schedule made an enticing invitation, I'd trek farther southwest to Council Bluffs Recreational Area in Mark Twain National Forest. These splendid Bortle 3 skies are even a bit darker, with Milky Way lanes popping down to the horizon.

More recently, I set up my equipment remotely in New Mexico for improved sky quality and fewer clouds.  It paid off as I bucketed photons at a rate exponentially beyond the pace with my travelling escapades.  Now I have a backlog that I've fascinated over and have been gently polishing to reality.

Why is this called "Fuzzy" Photos?

If you've never seen any of the Hubble "Deep Field" images, you're in for a treat and an instant explanation.

The image here is one of many of these fields showing the deepest parts of our universe, and after you regroup from the countless foreground galaxies, you'll start to notice the dimmer, fainter ones even farther in the distance. Those "fuzzy" objects represent a frontier in our journey to see the universe. The better we are able to expose these distant wonders through imaging, the further we are able to push our understanding of the universe -- And Hubble has done this time and again over the course of its 25 years in orbit!

When I started to take pictures of the stars as an inexperienced photographer, practically everything was fuzzy... even the moon! This site is a documentation of my own journey to bring the fuzzy reaches of the universe with clarity to my own eyes, and yours.

Can anyone use the pictures on this site or make prints?

Using the images elsewhere on the internet: I love for others to view and share my work.  I ask that you contact me to obtain the image for your use.

Prints for your home, business, or publication: I would flattered and honored to work with you on a print! There is some dark magic to making these treasures of the night sky come through well in a print, so you are most welcome to contact me to check my inventory, to commission a print to your specifications, or to get written permission for your own publication.

Will you take a picture for me? Will you gather scientific data for me?

Yes, and yes! Whether you are looking to hang a specific space object on your wall, or you are working on a large research project and want raw data of a specific target, I will be happy to work with you. Please contact me with your request and let's catch some photons!