That all changed for John Rutter when he pointed his camera at the sky.
“Cameras can see things our eyes just can’t – intense colors, billions of stars, other galaxies and of course our home galaxy – the Milky Way,” said John, of Branxton. , in the Hunter Valley of NSW.
“The breathtaking part is, due to the size of the universe and the speed of light, astrophotography literally takes a photo of the past.”
John’s photo of the Vaulted Milky Way, titled Heavens Above, was featured on the Capture the Atlas travel blog. Each year, the blog selects the best photographs of the Milky Way from around the world.
The image of John captured the Milky Way Arch above the Little Paddocks Chapel in Glendon in the Hunter Valley NSW.
“I’ve always had a fascination with the night sky,” John said.
“When traveling, I always looked up and was just blown away by how many stars there were there.”
Dark skies are needed to capture images of the Milky Way.
“This means I only have about 10 days a month to turn – when the moon is not prominent in the sky.”
The weather plays the biggest role.
Wind, fog, clouds, and haze all affect the picture. “Planning is the key to photographing the Milky Way,” he said.
It involves going to places during the day, using apps to show where the Milky Way will be at night.
Capturing the images typically involves “a long, cold night, taking two to four hours per frame.”
“I take my images statewide, but due to the need to get away from light pollution, these are mostly country towns far removed from the big cities,” he said.
John said the best places in the Hunter for stargazing are far from the city and villages.
“Light pollution will wash the sky and hide all the goodness,” he said.
“The vineyards are a great place to take the family for a night of stargazing. Sit away from any light and let your eyes adjust for 20 minutes.
“Avoid the temptation to pull out your phone, as it will spoil your night vision. Relax and enjoy the spectacle. Satellites, meteors and even the International Space Station are all common sights.”
Once you’ve photographed or observed the Milky Way, you might want to ‘explore a little more and see a little deeper’.
“A telescope is a natural progression. Although photography of the Milky Way is still my passion, astrophotography of deep space with a telescope is something I also enjoy. Just like our seasons, astronomical objects are visible at different times of the year for the same reason [the Earth’s orbit around the sun]. This means that we only see the heart of the Milky Way for about eight months of the year.
“During the other months the outlook is a little different but no less breathtaking.”