I’ve just recently begun photographing the night sky. I have always enjoyed gazing up at the myriad of stars and planets that grace our view of the heavens so I suppose it came naturally that I would want to capture that grandeur in pictures. I sought out a local group of photographers who had experience in this, asked a few questions, searched the internet for the best techniques employed by the pros, and began compiling a list of dos and dont’s. There was some variation of course, on what was the best lens and camera settings, but almost everywhere I looked gave some semblance of this same advice:Shots of the night sky are a dime a dozen. Do something different to make your photo unique.
Since my daughter lives in an area void of light pollution, I drove out to her house one night. We trudged through the fields to get to a lone tree so I would have something ‘different’ in my picture. But a tree is a tree and it didn’t look or feel different. So I enlisted the help of my willing grandsons, positioned them on a fence, begged them to hold perfectly still for 30 seconds (not an easy feat for little boys)…and took my shot. I then posted it in a few groups and emailed it to some pro friends asking how I could improve my methods to get a better picture. The answers surprised me!
The very first response I received mentioned nothing about the mechanics of the shot or any suggestions on how to improve it. This same sentiment was echoed over and over again: “Oh. . . I wish I had a photo like that of my three sons when they were younger!”
A retired professional photographer sent back this response: “When I saw the photo I could think of a dozen photos I missed because I concentrated on what I thought was the subject and missed an even bigger photo which told a story. The picture of the milky way is very good, adding the boys made it into a treasured photo.”
I’ve thought a lot about that over the last few weeks. Not the picture part, but the adding-in-the-family part. What difference does it make if I become the very best at astrophotography, but have left my family out of the picture? How many times has someone in my family been just ‘out of frame’ in my focusing on my life or what I want, when all I had to do was include them?
At the end of our lives, I don’t think we’ll be ruminating on our great accomplishments, or whatever successes we have claimed in this world. I believe we will mourn over lost or damaged relationships, celebrate the love we feel, and be ever so grateful for the times we have made our family the focus of our big picture.