Shooting the Sky

The patient and persistent ways of the astrophotographer

01 January 2013
Star trails above the Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh. The low levels of light make astrophotography a particularly challenging field.
ATISH AMAN FOR THE CARAVAN
Star trails above the Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh. The low levels of light make astrophotography a particularly challenging field.
ATISH AMAN FOR THE CARAVAN

CB DEVGUN WAS A SCHOOL STUDENT in Paharganj, Delhi, when he began to be fascinated by the sky. Although his science textbooks were bland, he found himself drawn to the sections on astronomy. Devgun also found encouragement from within his family. “My uncle was a senior scientist with the Chandigarh-based Central Scientific Instruments Organisation,” Devgun recalled. “He gave me two telescope lenses—one, an eye piece, and the other an objective lens, the lens responsible for gathering light from the object.” Using these lenses and some PVC pipes, the enterprising young Devgun put together his first telescope; through it, he gazed skywards and began to study the patterns of the stars.

Over the years, Devgun’s passion for watching the sky grew stronger. In 1987, when he was in his twenties, Devgun decided to go further, and capture the images he saw—he bought a second-hand camera from Chandni Chowk, connected it to his homemade telescope and began to take pictures of the sky. It was his first step into the world of astrophotography.

Astrophotography can be divided into two broad categories: earth-and-sky and deep-sky photography. The former involves shooting celestial objects against a terrestrial backdrop—such as a monument or a mountain range—while the latter involves capturing star trails, clusters and galaxies. Examples of both were seen at the recent India Astrophoto Festival, the first of its kind, held in Delhi in December. Devgun, who gave a presentation of his work at the workshop inaugurating the festival, believes that astrophotography is one of the most challenging fields of photography. “The objects are up there in the sky and so far away that no illumination would work for them,” he said. “So the challenge is to handle the low levels of light.”

Aayush Soni is a Delhi-based freelance journalist and a former writer at Time Out Delhi. He graduated from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2012.

Keywords: photography telescope India Astrophoto Festival Nehru Planetarium Astrophotography
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