"After being invited in Stellar-Landscapes, a group devoted to capturing landscapes at night on DeviantArt, I was humbled by the notion that I serve as a muse for the admin of the group. To me, that's a compliment as grand as the scapes we try to capture. How could I, someone who is forever learning and still very much an apprentice to nightscapes himself, be a muse to someone else?
I'd love to answer these questions and am thankful for the opportunity to let a voice behind the scapes be heard.
- When was your first encounter with the stars at night? Do you remember how old you were the first time you looked above and thought "Wow"?
My first encounter that I can remember is probably when I was about three or four years old. I recall waking up in my father's arms while being carried across the street in the middle of the night. My family and I attended a party at a neighbor's house earlier that evening and, like many kids in the Netherlands, I was put to sleep in a strange bed for the first half of a broken night. I didn't wake up being carried away from that strange bed. Instead, I woke up gazing at the stars from the shoulders of my dad. The wow factor came when I saw and identified the pleiades star cluster as a bunch of stars lumped together. My parents thought I was too tired from that night and didn't even see the what I was talking about. This is very important to me as a photographer: some people have a deep fascination with the cosmos, while others do not care if it's a star or planet you're looking at. Since we are all made up of atoms that originated from the stars, it's a shame not many people share this interest.
- How do you feel when you look at the universe?
Short answer: Very much part of it, as it is part of me. Longer answer: looking up at the stars at night also makes me feel part of the earth and her inhabitants: people, plants, animals. The universe is nature at it's finest and the sky at night provides us with a sense of reality: the world we live in, isn't limited to his planet. It is more vast than we could ever imagine.
- What is the first thing you do when you start preparing yourself for a night shooting session?
Well, I plan a few things weeks in advance: * Sunset and sunrise (with the astronomical twilight in mind). Within these actual night hours I plan to go out and set up the tripod. * Moonset and moonrise. This is more important in the summer months than in winter, due to the way the solar system works, but I plan shoots during new moons or moonless nights. * Location. Look up the darkest skies in your surroundings. There are great tools for knowing how much light pollution is around the place you are planning to capture the night sky. Look up "light pollution map". * The weather. A few days in advance, the weather is crucial on making your shoot a succes and pinpointing your shoot. Aim for cloudless skies and check the infrared cloud coverage satellites for your location. * Oh, and lastly - I leave my camera bag outside after sundown on the evening before the shoot. This helps preventing condensation in the field, later that night.
- Tell us what is it you take with you exactly for your session
Since I often go to places that are not densly populated, some items might look odd. Those are for survival purposes (breaking a leg in the dead of night and not having cell reception is a worst case scenario to prepare for, but make sure you ARE prepared when you go to extreme lengths to capture a couple of pictures)
* Several layers of warm clothes. * Water * Knife * Waterproof shoes or boots * Nikon D600 * Samyang 14mm f/2.8 if UMC * Redged Tripod and ballhead (don't remember the type as tripod builders have a tendency to abstractly number their creations) * A headtorch with a red filter to protect my retinas * A raincover (especially in mountainous area's)
- Do you like to improvize or would you rather have everything set and clear when you shoot?
I've experimented a lot these past few years. In the Netherlands, ISO6400, a 25-30 second exposure at 14 mm, with an aperture of f/2.8 works very well with the latest Nikon cameras to capture the stars. But I have yet to merge two exposures for the foreground and background. But, no two scenes are ever the same - planets (Jupiter and Venus) can seriously overexpose your images.
- Do you make use of light painting to enhance the trees, bushes, houses and places you are shooting along with the stars?
I try not to do that. After experimenting with light painting, I have found that it's a lot more work and you often have to do it all over again. On the other hand: What else would you do when you wait for your camera to finish a 9 minute exposure?
- Would you want to share some special stories and/or memories associated with some of your stellar shooting?
The story of the wild horses is a fun one. read it here: read it here
- Do you have favorite places you often tend to return to when starshooting and what are they?
The dunes that protect Holland (that's two provinces in the Netherlands) from the sea, is a place I seem to return to over and over again, but I'd rather see mountains than Flatland (The Netherlands) any day.
- If you could use a teleporter and transport yourself to the location of your dreams - what would it be?
Awesome question, since it's rather related to astronomy; science fiction. That would either be the Los Glaciares National Park in Chile (where Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre are situated), the Tromso area (Norway) or Mordor (The Isle of Skye in north western Scotland). I'll be traveling to the latter in the autumn of this year. As you can see, I favour the desolate places our world is rich - those places often show the darkest skies on Earth.
Let's keep the lights off at night and enjoy the night sky as it is supposed to be seen again."