First Celestial Photographs

When I was a kid, studying the night sky was my absolute favorite hobby. We didn’t study astronomy in my school district, so I relied on the public library and occasional trips to the bookstore to pour through magazines and astronomy guides. I’d beg my dad to drive me out to my uncle’s farm where the skies were pitch black. Every lunch period was spent making lists of stars, planets, and nebulas that I wanted to see with my own eyes.

As I got older, i’d take advantage of every opportunity to venture out to a dark spot in the country and spend hours just gazing up at the stars. It was how I relaxed and recharged after stressful work days and how I kept my creativity fueled by imagining all the possibilities out there.

During graduate school I had to put this hobby on the back burner as there was just too much work to get done. If I wasn’t locked away in the windowless, fluorescent lit studio building, hidden in the library, or teaching, I was desperately trying to catch up on sleep.

I finished grad school three weeks ago. The first night free, as I was finishing moving boxes, I looked up and noticed what a clear and beautiful night it was. I dropped everything, immediately filled with the urge to grab my camera.

I setup my old rickety tripod and dslr camera and snapped some very fuzzy photographs of the stars, the first ones i’ve ever taken. Most of them were failures, but a few had almost sharp bursts of light come through. My favorite is the second photograph, when I pointed the camera at a seemingly empty part of the sky and took a 20 second exposure. When the image appeared on the lcd screen, I was shocked to see it was filled with stars.

These few simple photographs have reminded me how important it is to hold onto the things that bring you joy. Even working in a field you chose and enjoy, everything eventually becomes a grind. We all need a way to step away and find ourselves again.

I am looking forward to taking more photographs and learning more about the process of Astrophotography. If anyone has any tips or suggestions, please feel free to share in the comments.

-ML

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