What We Learned This Week: Photographing the Night Sky By Proxy

By David Schonauer   Thursday September 13, 2018

The sky isn’t falling.

In fact, the sky is booming: The new big thing in travel, noted The New York Times recently, is “astrotourism.”

“Astrotourism is any kind of tourism that involves the night sky or visiting facilities related to astronomy like observatories, and combining that with a broader sense of ecotourism where interaction with nature is what the visitor experience is about,” said John Barentine, the director of public policy at the International Dark-Sky Association, a Tucson-based nonprofit organization devoted to battling light pollution and certifying dark sky preserves where stars and planets shine brightly.

In its 30-year history, the association has designated more than 60 International Dark Sky Parks in protected areas, such as the Grand Canyon National Park, as well as  International Dark Sky Reserves, which have protected land at their center, and four remote International Dark Sky Sanctuaries.

To meet the rising demand of those who want to view and photograph the sparkling heavens, night-sky resorts and attractions are also springing up across the U.S., Mexico and Canada. In June, Viking Ocean Cruises launched its new ship, the Viking Orion, featuring a planetarium and a resident astronomer.

But you don’t have to travel to seek the stars: This week we learned about a new company that lets you view the night sky remotely. Deep Sky West  is a remote astrophotography observatory in New Mexico, USA. “It offers the opportunity for any astrophotographer around the world to use the site to access clear skies without the need to travel there, and to use advanced astronomy and photography equipment without the need to own it themselves,” noted PetaPixel. The observatory, which is situated on Glorietta Mesa in Rowe, New Mexico, “is for the average backyard astrophotographer who has a love for the hobby, sometimes has great equipment, but is plagued by poor skies,” say its founders.

The observatory normally opens its roof every day one hour before dusk and closes 30 minutes after sunrise. Here is a video showing its operations over a 24-hour period.

There are two ways you can utilize Deep Sky West: Rent a space and use your own equipment, or sign up to join a Deep Sky West-operated team and use equipment already there.

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted this week:

1. Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize Shortlist Announced

Irish photographer Enda Bowe’s portrait of woman holding her daughter is one of the images shortlisted for this year’s Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. Bowe’s image is from his “Clapton Blossom” series, which, he notes, “focuses on finding the color and beauty in the urban, the light in the grey.” The British Journal of Photography spotlighted all the nominees. Winners will be announced Oct. 16, with one overall winner receiving $15,000, and will go on view at London’s National Portrait Gallery on Oct. 18.

2. Drawing "Aeroglyphs" With Drones

Photographer Reuben Wu  has made a name for himself by creating long-exposure landscape images capturing light traces from drones. (When we last spotlighted him, he was creating halos over rock pinnacles.) In his new series “Aeroglyph,” Wu captures glowing symbols over over bodies of water — the Pacific Ocean, in one case, and Lake Michigan in the other. “The project name 'Aeroglyph' describes what I see as large temporary geometries created in the air,” Wu told Colossal.

3. Photojournalist Jonathan Alpeyrie On Covering Conflict in Ukraine

In 2013, photojournalist Jonathan Alpeyrie was on his third assignment in Syria when he was abducted by rebels and held for 81 days. Later, he began looking for a way to those events behind him. "As people deal with such experiences in various ways, mine was quite simple: How can I get back into war and face my demons?" he says. His way of coping was to jump on a plane heading to Ukraine to cover the war there in 2014. "From that date until this day, I repeatedly covered the conflict there," Alpeyrie told us.

4. Anxious and Hopeful Faces in Shenzhen

A generation ago, Shenzhen was an impoverished fishing village of thirty thousand on China’s coast. Today it’s a megalopolis of 20 million. Photographer Christopher Anderson received an open commission from Shenzhen’s Daken Art Organization to document life in the city and spent three weeks walking streets that “seemed to have been built overnight.” His work, collected in his new book Approximate Joy, tells the story of the Shenzhen through the faces of the people Anderson saw there, noted The New Yorker.

5. Focusing on "Transhumanism"

Transhumanism (sometimes abbreviated H+) is a patchwork of ideas and practices dedicated to enhancing human minds and bodies, from dietary supplements that supposedly slow down aging to devices that allow paralyzed people walk again. It also seeks to expand the boundaries of sensory experience — an idea, noted Hyperallergic, with fascinating implications for artistic representations. Swiss photographer Matthieu Gafsou has been exploring the field and has now published a book, H+: Transhumanism.
At top: From Reuben Wu


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