Catching Sunlight with Alan Friedman

Today we are honored to share the work of Alan Friedman, an amateur astrophotographer enthusiast from Buffalo, New York who takes incredible photos of the sun using a telescope in his own backyard. The detail Alan achieves with his humble equipment is astounding, capturing the grandeur of the sun that we are never able to see with our naked eye.

Alan uses his telescope and a Hydrogen Alpha filter that enables him to capture photos of the sun without destroying his eyes or his sensor. He also uses an industrial webcam to capture the photos. He explains the process in greater detail in his artist and process statements:

"My photographs comprise a solar diary, portraits of a moment in the life of our local star. Most are captured from my backyard in Buffalo, NY. Using a small telescope and narrow band filters I can capture details in high resolution and record movements in the solar atmosphere that change over hours and sometimes minutes.

The raw material for my work is black and white and often blurry. As I prepare the pictures, color is applied and tonality is adjusted to better render the features. It is photojournalism of a sort. The portraits are real, not painted. Aesthetic decisions are made with respect for accuracy as well as for the power of the image.

To record my images, I use a filter that passes only a narrow slice of the deep red end of the visible spectrum. Called a Hydrogen Alpha filter, it is attached to the front end of a small (3 ½" aperture) telescope. Think of it as a 450mm f5 telephoto lens. The camera used is an industrial webcam. It can stream images at a speed of 15 to 120 frames a second.

Our atmosphere is a formidable obstacle to capturing sharp photos of a distant object. Streaming many frames in a short period of time allows me to temper the blurring effects of air turbulence. Each photo is made from many thousands of frames. Most frames are unusable, distorted by the heat currents rising from rooftops and asphalt driveways. But a few will be sharp. I review the video frame by frame for these moments of "good seeing." The high quality frames are selected and then averaged to form the raw material for my photographs."

We highly suggest taking the time to watch Alan's TED talk where he talks more about his work and why he does it. A fascinating watch well worth your time! The enthusiasm Alan radiates is contagious, and we find him incredibly inspiring.

KEEP UP WITH ALAN: Website | Tumblr | Photo-Eye Gallery in Santa Fe

February 2013