Photographer Travels World For a Year to Capture Night Sky Without Light Pollution

photopic sky survey nick risinger image

Screenshot from Photopic Sky Survey. Image: Nick Risinger.

It's easy for urban dwellers to forget about the tens of millions of stars filling the night sky. With so few stars visible in the world's cities due to light pollution, we often find ourselves shocked on camping or overnight boating trips to see constellations and even galaxies in the black reaches overhead. Photographer Nick Risinger spent an entire year seeking out such places, traveling 60,000 miles to create a 37,440-picture portrait of the night sky.Accompanied by his retired father, Risinger -- who quit his job as a marketing manager to purse his photographic quest -- set off an a journey that took him through the American west and the western Cape of South Africa, among other places. Capturing "the full sphere of the night sky" from both hemispheres required chasing through "the remote areas of Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Colorado, California, and Oregon," he wrote on his Photopic Sky Survey website:

As light pollution continues to spread in America, these western states contain some of the last havens of true darkness, a shade few of us are any longer familiar with in which the Milky Way alone can cast a soft shadow. This darkness was crucial because even the slightest amount of light pollution could overpower faint starlight and haze the exposures.

Connecting With Nature
Risinger assembled his nearly 40,000 images into the 360-degree, 5,000-mexapixel photograph featured on his website, where, the online cultural tipsheet Very Short List says: "You can zoom in and out, scroll left or right, or lay a map of the constellations over the image. It's a very simple, very beautiful way to explore the universe, one star at a time."

For Risinger, the trip was also a way to enjoy time in the natural world. "The click-clack of the shutters [of his custom multi-camera rig] opening and closing became a staccato soundtrack for the many nights spent under the stars," he wrote on his website. "Occasionally, the routine would be pierced by a bright meteor or the cry of a jackal, each compelling a feeling of eerie beauty that seemed to hang in the air. It was an experience that will stay with me a lifetime."

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