Wednesday, February 10, 2016

'Capturing the Night' by Greg Gibbs

"Beam Me Up" is a single 30-second exposure "selfie", using a low power head torch on a string to
spin around the photographer.  Canon 5D Mark II, 14mm, f/2.8, ISO 3200 ~ © Greg Gibbs
Greg Gibbs describes himself as an Australian based hobbyist photographer, who has a passion for capturing the beauty of the night sky.

"I'm not sure I have a particular style of night photography that is easily definable," says Greg. "If I do [have a style], it is constantly changing, depending on the mood I am in, or what I want to achieve in a particular image."

"The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy" is a 16 image panorama (25-second exposures). The road sign is only a
couple minutes drive from where Greg used to live. The sign was lit during one of his exposures with the light
from his mobile phone screen.  Canon 5D Mark II, 20mm lens, f/2.8, ISO 6400 ~ © Greg Gibbs (click to enlarge)
Early History: Ever since Greg witnessed Halley's Comet at the age of seven he has had a background interest in astronomy.  Growing up, he enjoyed seeing things like lunar eclipses, meteor showers, and other bright comets.  But, it wasn't until he purchased his first DSLR camera in 2010 that he discovered a passion for photographing the night sky.

"I was playing around with the camera one night and I thought to myself, 'what would happen if I just went outside and held the shutter button down for a long time?  Could I capture a couple of stars on camera?'  The resulting image whilst completely out of focus and riddled with noise, blew my mind so much that I started devouring as much information about astrophotography as I could, and I have been hooked ever since," says Gibbs.

"For The Past, Present and Future Explorers" is a 9-image panorama of 30-second exposures. South is at the top of
frame, the middle of the image is directly overhead and the bottom of the image is North.  (It was while Greg was
processing these images that he heard of the passing of Neil Armstrong so the title for this came from thinking
about all his achievements.) Canon 5D Mark II, 14mm lens, f/2.8, ISO 3200 ~ © Greg Gibbs
Keeping it simple: Although Greg enjoys experimenting with telescope based astrophotography, his real passion is doing what started it all —using nothing more than a camera and normal tripod to capture the beauty of the night sky that surrounds us all.

I certainly like to keep things as simple and real as possible.  With the exception of things like panoramas and star trails, I really like the challenge of capturing as many of my images in a single exposure where ever I can.  Out of necessity, I might occasionally exposure blend or focus stack, but that is about as far as I go.

"Field Of Dreams" is a 6-image panorama of 10-second exposures.  A diffusion filter was used in front of the lens
at the time of shooting to highlight the brighter stars.  "A lot of people think this is a daytime shot of the crop and
windmill, blended with a star shot, but this was taken at about 1:00 AM and a 70% illuminated Moon is lighting
up the foreground," says Greg.  Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm lens, f/3.5, ISO 1600 ~ © Greg Gibbs (click to enlarge)
Equipment and software: Gibb's most valuable equipment is actually his astrophotography telescope equipment and he doesn't even want to think about how much that has cost him!  For most fixed tripod night sky-scapes, he feels wide angles lenses with fast aperture lenses are very important.  His favorite pieces of equipment are are also his two main lenses — the Samyang (which also goes by the brands of Rokinon, Pro Optic, and Bower) 14mm f/2.8 and 24mm f/1.4.  Coupled to his two cameras (Canon 6D and 5D MkII) they are hard to beat for image quality.

"I must be getting close to the only person in the world who has not yet got a smart phone, so I am still firmly computer based at this stage," quips Greg.  "I use Google Maps, Stellarium, and The Photographers Ephemeris extensively for location scouting and image planning.  I have a whole host of weather prediction sites that I use to check conditions; and being just a little bit obsessed with chasing Aurora Australis from mainland Australia, I always keep an eye on a number of aurora forecast websites."

"Midnight Rainbow" is a 9-image panorama of 30-second exposures.
Canon 5D Mark II, 14mm, f/2.8, ISO 3200 ~ © Greg Gibbs (click to enlarge)
Challenges: Greg feels lucky to live in Australia where really dark skies are readily found, but this often involves long drives, and fuel is not cheap.  Coupled with the fact that he has a regular day job on top of this hobby —having enough spare time to actually travel and photograph locations at night is one of his biggest challenges.

Another challenge he has is finding good locations.  Greg prides himself on trying to find the best composition, but some locations just don't work with night sky images.  "I have found myself doing a lot more time lapse imaging lately, with the view to releasing something, hopefully, early this year; and that has been a really challenging project, with steep learning curves.  I take my hat off to the people doing night sky time lapses full time," reports Gibbs.

"Lookout" is an 8-image panorama of 30-second exposures, taken at Mt. Buffalo National Park.  Greg feels this
is the most amazing night he has yet to spend under the stars. "I had caught a few faint displays on camera before
but this was the first time I had ever seen the southern lights or Aurora Australis dancing in the sky with my own
eyes.  This panorama was originally only intended as a behind the scenes look for the multitude of other images
I took on the night, hence why you can see another camera in the hut and my car in the carpark, but when I
stitched the images together I fell in love with the result and it went on to win the David Malin Award
(Australia's largest astrophotography competition) in 2013 for best wide field image."
Canon 5D Mark II, 14mm, f/2.8, ISO 3200 ~ © Greg Gibbs (click to enlarge)
Satisfaction: "It means the world to me that so many people seem to like what I do, says Greg.  "If through my images I can inspire just one person to look up with a greater appreciation of the night sky, then I would be completely satisfied.  I'm certainly not in it for fame or fortune, and any money I do make from my hobby goes straight back into doing it.  As a hobbyist, I am only out to please myself when it comes to photography.  I am only out taking images at all hours of the night, because I love taking images at all hours of the night."

Greg hopes that through his hobby of photographing the night sky he can inspire others to get away from artificial lights and just look up at the night sky. Halley’s Comet will return to our skies in 2061. If you're in Australia that year, keep an eye out for an 82 year old man standing next to a camera on a tripod with a huge smile on his face!

Greg Gibbs is a 36 year old resident of southern New South Wales, Australia.  He's a horticulturalist by day and hobbyist landscape astrophotographer by night.  More of Greg's photography can be found on his website, his Facebook page, Google+, or on 500px.



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