Oleg Bouevitch -Veil Nebula
Veil Nebula in Cygnus (Oleg Bouevitch)

Photo of the Week Contest Winners: 2019

A superb crop of reader images made selecting the “best of the best” extremely challenging

“That was really tough!” All our judges independently made the comment while trying to determine their Photo of the Week contest selections. As the magazine editor, I was thankfully exempt from voting—I step in only when there is a tie. And though no fewer than 20 entries were the choice of at least one judge in the deep-sky category alone, there were no ties. Bullet dodged! The judges’ wide vote spread illustrates just how many excellent photos we received from readers this past year. Tough choices? That’s a great problem to have.

The aim of our contest is not only to celebrate the superb accomplishments of Canadian astrophotographers but also to encourage more readers to give night-sky photography a try. Yes, the images presented here display a tremendous amount of skill and talent, but don’t be intimidated if you’ve never pointed a camera skyward. Instead, let these images inspire you. Perhaps one day, you’ll take a shot you consider prize-worthy. And we might agree!

Grand Prize

Oleg Bouevitch -Veil Nebula
Veil Nebula, in Cygnus (Oleg Bouevitch)

Winner: Portrayed here in stunning detail is the Veil Nebula, in Cygnus—an object familiar to most telescope users and a popular target for astrophotographers. Wispy features barely hinted at visually are rendered clearly in our Grand Prize winner, offering a “so that’s what it really looks like” perspective. One of the great risks of going for such a well-known object is the potential to end up with just another variation of a picture everyone has seen before. What makes this Veil image by Oleg Bouevitch award-worthy? As judge Alan Dyer summarized, “This shot really stood out from the rest right away—a fabulous composition, with excellent colour, depth and contrast.” Bouevitch recorded his Veil nebula masterpiece from his Nepean, Ontario, home employing a Takahashi FsQ-106edX III astrographic telescope (at f/3.6 with a 0.7°— focal reducer) and a FLI ML16200 monochromatic CCD camera to acquire 27 hours’ exposure through h-alpha, O-III and s-II filters.

Best Lunar, Planetary or Solar Image: Winner

Total lunar eclipse sequence. (Alec Lee)

Winner: Solar system shooters have one big advantage over their deep-sky counterparts—things change! The opportunity to record dynamic situations opens an additional set of possibilities, and our category winner is a prime example. This composite by Alec Lee of Victoria, British Columbia, shows the sequence of events that unfolded during the January 20/21, 2019, total lunar eclipse. Each individual frame was acquired using a Nikon D500 DSLR camera and a Nikkor 500mm lens. For the final result, Lee turned to Tim Zurowski for Photoshop assistance.

International Space Station crosses the face of the Moon. (Kevin Watson)

Honourable Mention: Kevin Watson of Oakville, Ontario, submitted this photo of the International Space Station zipping across the face of the full Moon. As it happens, Watson made the composite while waiting for the same eclipse shown in our category winner. To capture the transit, he used a Nikon D7000 DSLR camera and a Celestron 6-inch f/5 Newtonian reflector telescope. The camera was set to HD video mode, ISO 200 and an exposure time of 1/3200 second to freeze the motion of the space station.

Best Deep-Sky Image

Narrowband portrait of the Rosette Nebula. (Stephan Hamel)

Winner: The deep-sky category was by far the most competitive in this year’s contest. We had dozens of superb entries. In the end, this impressive narrowband portrait of the Rosette Nebula garnered a couple votes more than the runner-up (left). Stephan Hamel of Hanwell, New Brunswick, recorded a total of 11 hours of exposure data with a ZWO ASI1600MM Pro monochromatic imaging camera, an Explore Scientific 80mm refractor telescope and a filter set consisting of an Astronomik 6nm O-III, an Optolong 12nm H-alpha and a Baader Planetarium S-II.

Jellyfish Nebula or IC443. (Grzegorz Gurdak)

Honourable Mention: Some astrophotographers stray off the beaten path to record objects that may not be immediately recognizable, such as the fancifully named Jellyfish Nebula (IC443), which dominates the lower right portion of the photo. The Jellyfish is a supernova remnant in Gemini, located near the western foot of the twins. To produce this image, astrophotographer Grzegorz Gurdak of Mississauga, Ontario, acquired 21 hours of exposure using a ZWO ASI1600MM Pro monochromatic imaging camera and a Tele Vue NP10is apochromatic refractor telescope with H-alpha and O-III filters.

Best Wide-Field or Nightscape Image

Aurora east of Crossfield, Alberta. (John Andersen)

Winner: This is an improbable picture. Given the brevity of summer nights and the ongoing dearth of solar activity, catching any aurora is rather remarkable. And yet John Andersen managed to capture a lovely auroral scene in the early-morning hours of June 18, 2018, from a location east of Crossfield, Alberta, a town at 51 degrees north latitude. Andersen used a Canon EOS 6D DSLR camera fitted with a Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 zoom lens set to 15mm for an 8-second exposure at ISO 3200.

Orion in September from Indian Fields, Nova Scotia. (Barry Burgess)

Honourable Mention: No constellation evokes winter as powerfully as Orion the hunter—beautifully presented near the horizon in this striking nightscape by Barry Burgess. He recorded the 25-second exposure at ISO 3200 on the morning of September 21, 2018, from Indian Fields, Nova Scotia, with a Canon EOS 6D DSLR camera and a Sigma Art 14mm f/1.8 lens used at f/2.5.

Readers’ Choice Award

Fishing under the stars at Skitchine Lodge. (Tom Evans)

Winner: We received a tremendous response from readers, and after the votes were counted, we had our winner. This evocative composite photo was created by Tom Evans during a visit to Skitchine Lodge in Bonaparte Provincial Park, northwest of Kamloops, British Columbia. He combined 17 images taken over a three-hour period, beginning with a frame that included his brother-in-law Al (the fisherman), snapped shortly after sunset. Once it was dark, Evans made nine tracked exposures of the Milky Way (180 seconds each at ISO 800) and then recorded the horizon and lake with seven untracked shots (20 seconds each at ISO 3200). he used a Canon EOS 6D DSLR camera and a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM zoom lens (working at f/2.8) throughout the session.