The Subtleties of Astrophotography: Sorting out the noise of light and living

Don’t worry, my daughter is a concealed carry holder who routinely shoots in dangerous areas such as Over-the Rhine and in Chicago—so she knows how to handle dangerous situations.  In these following photographs I didn’t worry about her.  She did take her sister along on some of the shoots which was smart, but even though she knows the risks, she has enough experience to mitigate the impact of those risks with her knowledge of firearms.  The thing I worry about more is the legal mess a young woman would get into after having to shoot someone in self-defense.  She has the personal safety angle covered—the legal angle is the biggest concern for me.  However, I hardly ever get to see my kids anymore because they are always out doing things like this.  Professionally my oldest daughter Brooke has literally been booked for photo shoots every weekend and many week days lately and has a full schedule extending into 2019, and it keeps getting worse with bookings.  She’s become a very good photographer in a very competitive field and now she is turning up her comfort zone into the very difficult field of astrophotography.  As she shared her images obtained during the third week of July I knew she had done something very special and was headed in a direction that was putting a fine point on her professional uniqueness.   To hear from her personally click on the video below or read her article about how she captured these really phenomenal images of the Milky Way in the night sky.

http://www.brooketownsendphotography.com/journal/2017/7/18/gvgxr4wjglf1mj8ejw2sb13rkp1tl3

For people who have become victims of our horrible education system and our generally destructive trend socially to highlight stupidity as some badge of honor so not to make stupid people feel bad about themselves, the Milky Way is the galaxy that we live within through the vastness of space.  We are loaded on a spiral arm of star clusters spinning around a massive black hole which is at the center of it.  So to capture the perspective of that arm in the night sky is quite an intense feat of light, focus and natural environmental conditions.  It is not an easy thing to do so it makes me very proud to see my daughter attempting to do just that.

My kid is not yet 30-years-old and while her peers are out making fools of themselves partying it up like a bunch of idiots—she’s out doing things like this in her spare time which  is increasingly happening after long days of professional endeavor between photo shoots.  If you watched the video you can understand why I couldn’t be prouder of her—listen to her speak.  It’s like listening to a fine symphony of music to hear her utter complete sentences and using a nice vocabulary coming out of the mouth of such a nice young lady. If she weren’t my daughter I’d be extremely impressed.  However, she is my daughter and I know what she has pushed herself through to arrive at this level of professionalism—but it’s still nice to take a moment to consider how magnificent she really is as a person.   She’s a pace setter and she’s emerging as a very unique photographer in a field of professionals who have been doing it for years and are quite good.  What’s giving her the advantage isn’t just the conceptual side—it’s the conceptual application that she naturally has mastered that is doing it.  There are a lot of people in the world who know how to take a nice photograph.  There are people professionally working in Hollywood as cinematographers who would greatly struggle with the light she was working with to capture these images.  But it is how she sniffs out a photo from nowhere that is setting her apart from the crowd.  In the world of tomorrow—which is literally getting nearer with every sunrise, Brooke is the photographer of her age to record the optimism of all that’s coming.  Her playfulness at living comes out in her photographs and that is something you can’t teach.  A person either develops this trait or it’s not there revealing only mechanical applications of a heartless artist.

Just as she said in her video, there is a lot of light noise in the night sky and so it is true as well in most professional fields.  It doesn’t matter if the profession is acting, being a musician, business tycoon, or housewife; you have to work really hard to separate yourself from the noise of our society.  Everyone is living their life and hopefully they all think of themselves as great and try to be the best that they can be every day.  But as nature has it, not everyone can be the best so to put yourself above the fray, you have to work really hard and make it so that you are continuously pushing yourself.   My daughter and I have had these long talks for many years so she understands what she needs to do, but it is always nice to see her doing it.  Just as she had to drive hours out of the way to capture these photographs at just the right time of year and at the correct time of day—so too in life—you have to go further than other people and be willing to always push for that extra bit to get there to arrive at the definitions of success—because there is a lot of noise from people who try to be good at things from the rolled down windows of their cars.

I’ve showed Brooke a lot of movies over the years and she is well read and has been exposed to the finer things in life—so she has context on the details of what makes things—good.  But I was surprised to learn that her favorite movie was Interstellar recently.   That was the Christopher Nolan film that I wrote about several years ago which I drug my family to on an opening night because I thought it would have an impact on their lives.  I’m glad it did, but it still surprised me that it was her favorite movie out of all the movies she’s been exposed to.  She told me that recently in one of those rare moments where she and her husband were able to come home and have some dinner and watch a collection of political speeches about NASA, that it was Interstellar that most touched her and I just think that’s magnificent.  You might have noticed that she inserted a song from the Hans Zimmer masterpiece musical score from that film on her article for context.  When the first space stations open up to the public and hotels start popping up on the moon in a few years, I have no doubts that Brooke will be one of the first to be there.  And that quite simply makes me very proud.

Most parents are proud of their kids—and that is mostly a selfish emotion.  After all, who wants to raise children only to think they are pieces of crap?  To think otherwise would be to concede to failure.  So it’s not unusual for parents to be proud of their children mostly out of the necessity of justifying all the hard work that goes into the job.  But when a child evolves into something that is uniquely defined and hungry for living life in their own endeavors it is something to celebrate. It just so happens that in Brooke’s case she is my kid and she has given me a lot to be proud of, and she’s just getting started.  It makes me very proud that she speaks so articulately, that she is running around at 11:30 PM looking for the right light in a night sky for a perfect picture not for some magazine or other paid endeavor—but because she has a natural passion to do so.  And it makes me proud that she’s not naive enough to do these things without being heavily armed to defend herself.  The results of all those elements are showing up in her artistic endeavors and whether or not she was related to me, it’s a beautiful thing to witness.

Rich Hoffman

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