Astrophotography: Capturing the Sky…

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The right angle. The best light. When it comes to property marketing, our photographers know exactly how to present every home at it’s best. But for many, the passion for photography doesn’t just end with real estate.

As well well as producing stunning property images for his agents, Open2view photographer Matthew Lowe also has a keen interest in Astrophotography.

We asked Matt to tell us a bit about the region he covers and what Astrophotography is all about.

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Q. How long have you been a photographer with Open2view?

I started with Open2view in December 2010, so it’s almost my 4th Birthday! Do I get a cake, or is that next year?

Q. What area in New Zealand do you cover? What do you like most about it?

I cover the Eastern Bay of Plenty – the sunshine capital of NZ and home to NZ’s beach best – Ohope Beach.  It is a large area to cover, from Matata / Kawerau down to Whakatane / Ohope and right up the coast to the East Cape. I like the diversity in the area – you can go from photographing a little 1 bedroom converted garage to a bare block of land with 100km views all the way to Mt Maunganui, then to a million dollar beach front home or a farm all within 30 minutes drive.

A lot of my photo shoots consist of rural or coastal properties, which isn’t a bad thing given the stunning locations we have right on our doorstep.

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Q. How did you get started in real estate photography?

Photography has always been a hobby of mine since I was about 10 years old, when I got into astrophotography.  Career-wise I started out as a graphic designer for a newspaper in 2004 and progressed from there over the next 8 years.  Sitting in front of a computer in an office where you couldn’t see outside for 40 hours a week was starting to do my head in, and the opportunity to purchase the Open2view franchise in my area came up.  After a few enquiries and discussions I decided to make the jump into real estate photography.  Even though I still spend half of my time at a desk processing photos, emails, invoicing etc, being able to combine my hobby with work is far more satisfying.  I can’t imagine there are many jobs where you can spend 40 hours a week working, and then on your days off go and take photos just for fun!

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Q. Tell us about Astrophotography…

I think every photographer needs a ‘personal project’ that they work on for no reason other than to provide a creative outlet and a bit of fun, so I try to focus on astrophotography in my spare time.

Astrophotography basically covers anything in the sky – the stars, moon, milky way, satellites, the sun, planets etc etc.  There are many different styles of astrophotography such as shooting star trails, where you leave the shutter open for a period of time (anything from 10 minutes to 8 hours) so the camera captures the movement of the stars; or you can shoot through a telescope to capture deep-sky objects such as distant galaxies and gas clouds which aren’t visible to the naked eye.

An interesting thing is some cameras can pick up parts of the spectrum which are invisible to the naked eye (ie UV light), so you can often pick up detail which you could never see with the naked eye or through a telescope.

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I have recently had the opportunity to use some of the equipment at the Whakatane Astronomical Society where they have a solar telescope which allows you to safely view the sun without burning your eyeballs out (literally, don’t try this at home!)  It is fitted with special filters to separate certain light wavelengths so you can actually see the detail and explosions happening on the surface of the sun, and when you attach a camera you can get some pretty cool shots.

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When I started out with astrophotography I was using a film camera, before I went away from it for a few years while I focused on my graphic design.  Now everything is digital I have to re-learn all the techniques as they are slightly different.  For example digital camera sensors are more prone to image noise or batteries running out on really long exposures, but the advantage is you can immediately see the result and whether you’re on the right track or not.

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You can view Matthew’s real estate photography portfolio on the Open2view website here

Or follow his Facebook page here

How to view the Transit of Venus

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The Sun does its best Cindy Crawford impression.

Today marks the Transit of Venus, which is a fancy way of saying “Venus goes and gets in the sun’s way”.

In New Zealand we should be able to see it between 10.15am and 4.43pm. I say “should” because, for many, the weather hasn’t quite come to the party today. This is a shame, as the next transit won’t happen until 2117. It is, literally, a once in a lifetime opportunity. (If you are expecting to make it to the next viewing, send your secret to socialmedia@open2view.com.)

One News reckons the best viewing spot will be the south of the South Island – specifically Southland, Fiordland and central Otago. That doesn’t mean the rest of you shouldn’t try though. And if you’re going to, make sure you do it safely. For starters, looking straight at the sun will blind you.

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What happened to the last guy who looked straight at the sun.

NASA, the experts in such matters, suggests using “some type of projection technique or a solar filter. A #14 welder’s glass is a good choice.” ABC News elaborates further: they recommend “projecting an image onto a flat surface, through a small telescope or a pair of binoculars”. Properly filtered telescopes and cardboard eclipse glasses will do the trick too. Sunglasses are a no-no; they just aren’t dark enough to protect you properly.

For those of us obscured by clouds or blizzards I suggest you stay indoors, crank up the heater, make a hot cup of cocoa, and watch NASA’s live stream of the event. The only way to have a warmer seat would be to watch it from the sun itself.