Astronomy and night sky photography program looking up
Twinkling stars, a meteor shower, a thunderstorm in the distance and aurora borealis: all things two youths photographed this past weekend at Athabasca University Geophysical Observatories (AUGO II) as part of the 2013 Rotary Youth Academy “Photography and the Night Sky” program.
The Rotary Club of Athabasca, Athabasca University (AU) and Science Outreach-Athabasca grouped together to offer the three-day course. It ran Friday night from 7 p.m. ‘til 1 a.m., Saturday from 1 p.m. ‘til 2 a.m. and Sunday from 1 – 4 p.m.
The two youths, Micaela Schwede and Bryson Pochynok, started in a classroom at AU learning about camera care and settings. Then they went into the field and tested out what they had learned.
The course not only focused on astronomy and night sky photography, but also learning about photographers and different jobs within the field of photography.
Rotary member Mavis Jacobs helped organize the workshop and said she even learned a lot.
“From now on, I will always view pictures differently. I will think of them in terms of composition, timing and exposure,” she said.
The program was hosted this year as a trial, according to Jacobs.
“Next year, we plan on putting it on nationally as an Adventures Program,” she said. “It will be supported by Rotary clubs across Canada that would send interested students to the program.”
Dr. Martin Connors with AU’s Centre for Science facilitated the AUGO section of the program and gave a tour of the facility southwest of Athabasca.
“It is mainly for aurora studies,” Connors said of the observatory. “This is a very dark location, and we are at a special location for studying the radiation belt for scientific studies.”
Connors thought getting people out in the dark with a camera was an important part of the workshop.
“It all comes together nicely to show what you can do with a camera,” he said. “I think it was a really good, original idea that speaks to some of the strengths we have at the university.”
Science Outreach-Athabasca member Robert Holmberg taught the photography session of the weekend.
“I’m hoping the participants not only enjoyed themselves, but also learned something,” he said. “Photography is a great hobby, and it is also a vocation for some people.”
Holmberg said it takes some knowledge and skill to take photos, but that with new technology, it is getting easier to do.
He learned something, too.
“I have very seldom taken photos at night, and I myself have learned some things,” he explained. “I found out that I need to learn more about what is on my camera and where to find it quickly in the dark.”
Schwede was in awe after the night photography outing.
“I learned how to actually take a picture of the sky with stars in it,” she said. “I have never been able to do that at home.”
She also found the weekend very informative.
“I learned out how to use my camera better,” she said. “I had no idea of certain settings.”
However, with only two participants showing up out of the four who signed up, Schwede said she would have liked to see more people.
Pochynok thought the weekend was a good experience.
“I learned how a DSLR works and different ways to take photos,” he said. “It was a really good experience, and I recommend it to other people who want to learn about cameras, photos and the night sky.”
Photography enthusiast Allan Lindoe was invited to attend.
“I learned a bit more about my camera and about night photography,” he said. “Photography is really very unlimited. You can do whatever you want with it.”
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