It is a great pleasure for me to be able to publish and share with you Calan's aka calanjackal 's interview.
Calan is part of my killer team of admins for Stellar-Landscapers and has worked as a telescope designer.
I am quite sure you will absolutely enjoy reading this whole stellar awesome interview as much as I did myself!
- 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 father was in the Air Force, so we moved around a lot. Some places we lived barely had a view at all, while others were absolutely fantastic. While I was always fascinated by the night sky, there are two things that stick out in my mind.
The first- I don't even remember. It's just a story that my parents tell me. I think I was around two years old. I used to make my mother sit on the floor of the kitchen and look out the window at the moon. As the story goes, it was for hours on end. I sure hope that's an exaggeration, but still- I'd just sit there with my mother looking at the moon and just say “Moon....” over and over. So they called me the Lunatic. Later on when I was a little older, I informed my mother that “I don't just think I'm going to Jupiter, I -know- I'm going to Jupiter.”
The second- One of the places we moved during my childhood was to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The air is cold, thin, dry, and there are no huge cities to speak of anywhere. It's north, so the northern lights are bright. I remember once in particular I was on a camping trip with the Boy Scouts, and we were looking up at the Milky Way which could be seen. There was a band across the sky, and we thought maybe it was a contrail or a cloud. But over time, it moved and grew, and we realized that it was actually a very unique formation of aurora. As it grew, new aurora formed and we all just watched the show into the early hours of the morning.
- How do you feel when you look at the universe?
I am a person of faith. While some may look into the universe and see how tiny and insignificant we are among the vastness, when I look up there I see how important we are among the vastness. Each star, with its own solar system around it, its own unique properties, its own story, just to put a tiny pinpoint spec of light in our sky and add to the beauty and wonder of our universe. Are we alone in seeing this beauty? I don't know, part of me really hopes not. I want to hop into my spaceship and explore it and find out, but then I realize that Earth might as well be that ship, traveling slowly through our little section of space. Only difference is that with Earth, there's no pane of glass between me and the stars.
- What is the first thing you do when you start preparing yourself for a night shooting session?
Sadly it's almost too technical. I'd love to say I prepare myself for some meaningful merging with nature, but... I check my batteries, go over my checklists, make sure I remember to bring my remote. Too many times have I forgotten my remote! Oh yes, and double, then triple check that my vibration reduction is turned -off- on my lenses. Too many times have I messed up star trails because I left it on!
- Tell us what is it you take with you exactly for your session
It really depends on what I'm going for, but for the most part my go-to lenses are extreme wide angle 14mm, and my 8 inch telescope, which I believe is a 1200mm. I use a 5D Mark II in color, and a 60D that's been converted to IR. Both have tradeoffs, the IR blocks some of the atmospheric scattering of O2, but it's also not as sharp and no color. Since the 5D is better in low light, the difference I get in the IR band is pretty much negated. But I still take both, and mess with both equally.
A remote shutter release is critical. With long exposures camera shake can destroy an image. And while it's possible to use a timer, the exposures are limited to 30 seconds unless you have a remote. This is fine for some situations but limits from others.
Tripod is a given. Can't take long exposures without a tripod. At least I can't!
- Do you like to improvise or would you rather have everything set and clear when you shoot?
I don't mind improvising at all. I do like to have my tools proper and ready, but I very often have little or no plan about what I'm going to be shooting exactly. Sometimes I know one or two of the shots I really want to get, and then I spend the rest of the night just taking whatever I think might look good. I will admit, it's usually the ones I had planned out that end up looking the best.
- Do you make use of light painting to enhance the trees, bushes, houses and places you are shooting along with the stars?
Yes, absolutely. If the moon is out, that's often enough to make it look like it's day time with stars. If not, or if I'm facing the moon in the image, then light painting is something I will do. I usually use strobes rather than flashlights for the control, but I've been known to use both.
- Would you want to share some special stories and/or memories associated with some of your stellar shooting?
While to some people this may not count, it does to me. Most of my engineering career has been spent designing and building very large telescopes. I'm not the one taking the images, I'm not the one pointing it, doing the discovery. I designed the circuitry, and put it together. I worked on the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona, PanSTARRS telescope in Hawaii, and the Magdelina Ridge telescope in New Mexico, among quite a few others. I may not be the one taking the images, but my work is right there in each and every image that those telescopes take. There is very little that is as rewarding as that- to see these historical stellar images and discoveries coming about because of the work I had the opportunity to do.
- Do you have favorite places you often tend to return to when star shooting and what are they?
There are a couple places in Colorado that I love, whenever I get the chance to visit. My uncle owns a ranch there, so I get to get out away from the city and spend as much time as I need. Very open space. Also the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs is simply beautiful.
- If you could use a teleporter and transport yourself to the location of your dreams - what would it be?
Assuming I wouldn't die! It would have to be the moons of Jupiter. There is so much potential there for humanity, and it must just be stunningly beautiful. I actually have had dreams about it, and when I woke up the one thing I was most disappointed about was that I couldn't bring my camera back from the dream and see the photos I had taken.