Kothabriksha had conducted an interview with Photographer Snehajit Roy on his experiences of shooting the Milky Way galaxy. We are thankful to Snehajit Roy for taking out time to speak to us on this very interesting subject.
Kothabriksha: Today’s discussion is a bit specific, we know you have been a professional photographer for a long time now, what was the first thought in the process of capturing the milky way?
Snehajit: First of all thanks a lot for featuring me and my work on Kothabriksha.
Though I have been practising photography for more than 20 years now, my first attempt to shoot the Milky Way was in late 2017. It was in Hampi, Karnataka (India). Two of my friends and I scouted for a place which would have the lowest light pollution in the middle of the night. But I failed miserably on that day to capture the Milky Way. I realised, what went missing was proper planning.
It takes a fair bit of planning while capturing the Milky Way. So when I shifted to the UK in 2018, I decided to make full use of the (occasional) clear sky here and capture the Milky Way during every possible opportunity and this time with maximum planning.
Kothabriksha:What kind of preparation needs to be done while taking up this kind of project of capturing the Milky Way?
Snehajit: Like any other photoshoot (except street photography or candid photography) Milky Way also has three stages i.e Planning – Shoot – Post Processing.
Especially for astro-shoot a fair amount of time is spent on the planning phase. In the Northern Hemisphere the Galactic Centre (the brightest part) of our Milky Way is best viewed from June to October. So one needs to plan accordingly. Few important things to keep in mind are – it has to be far from the city or any kind of light pollution, the weather should be clear (preferably no moon day), and at last but not the least your gear should have certain features that let you shoot astro. These days almost all cameras or even certain cell phones for that matter have the features to shoot astro so any recent gear would be sufficient along with a sturdy tripod.
Also, recce of the place from where you plan to shoot the Milky Way is always advisable. This gives us enough time to frame our shot and choose our foreground properly. On the day of the shoot , getting to the spot early always help. Like I always say, all stars must be aligned metaphorically and literally to shoot the stars.
Kothabriksha: The universe is a mystery to all the people in this world, you must have read a lot while working on these projects, and then you have clicked pictures, how do you want to describe our galaxy and the universe?
Snehajit: The first feeling of seeing our home galaxy in all its glory in the night sky is an experience I won’t be able to describe in words. Sometimes when I go to shoot the milkyway I keep aside all my gears and just stare at the stars for hours, just to get engrossed in its mysteries. Just imagine ,how trifle we are in this vast space!
Kothabriksha: Art or technology? Which one is more essential in this kind of work? Or is it about striking a balance? How do you go about doing it?
Snehajit: Technology has been a massive contributor in making the Milky Way or any form of astro shot possible to the likes of amateurs and professionals. High ISO sensitive sensors, wider aperture in lenses, star trackers and various post processing techniques to reduce noise from images with high ISO and long exposures have even made it possible to shoot our neighbouring galaxy i.e the Andromeda Galaxy. But you said it right, It is all about striking the right balance between technology and art. Because a bright Milky Way photo would be incomplete without a good foreground in the composition. While shooting the Milky Way I always try to give a perspective to my images with strong foreground. I guess that gives a different dimension to the images.
Kothabriksha: Can you give references of any other photographers who have worked on this subject? Anyone who has inspired you?
Snehajit: Though there are many, but I would like to name two photographers whose work inspire me a lot in this field – Babak Amin Tafreshi and Vikas Chander.
Kothabriksha: We have seen a lot of films related to space and space travel, which one film’s cinematography was most appealing to you? And can you name the cinematographer?
Snehajit: There are many. Though star wars remains the cult but for me it has to be Interstellar. Hoyte van Hoytema’s magic is to die for. But apart from space and time travel films if you ask me I would say I am a huge fan of Santosh Shivan, Ravi K Chandran, Roger Deakins and Janusz Kaminski. And recently I am quite liking the work of Gairik Sarkar.
Kothabriksha: What made you come into photography?
Snehajit: I was 10 when I first saw a transparency slide through a transparency slide viewer at my uncle’s place in Haldia. The first image I saw was of Mt. Everest during sunset. I was very intrigued by that image. I remember scanning through the black and white images, my dad used to take during those days, with his Yashica. My mother used to keep them neatly organised in albums. It was this time when I started to appreciate the art.
My father and my maternal uncle played a great role in inspiring me to take it up as a hobby at a very early stage. I started shooting with films and then moved to transparencies. Later when digital came in I was elated that I wouldn’t have to keep myself restricted to just 36 frames.
Kothabriksha: Are you a spiritual person? If yes, then does it have any relation with your photography?
Snehajit: Though I won’t say that I am a spiritual person, but to me photography is meditation. And whenever I shoot I get that peace of mind. If this means spiritual then I guess I am.
Kothabriksha: What is the importance of aesthetics in photography?
Snehajit: The aesthetics of an image determine what your viewers will feel when they look at your image. From composition, tone to color and contrast, the aesthetics of your photographic work, establish how your image will be received. In a vague sense, visually pleasing images are perceived to be aesthetically beautiful. When we see a good image it means the photographer took the time to reflect on the composition of the image to achieve a result that looks beautiful or elicits a specific emotion. Though this can be taught to an extent but blessed are those who have it in born.
Kothabriksha: Can you share any interesting experience while shooting?
Snehajit: There are so many experiences that I would love to share with the audience. One such instance would be when me and my wife Somrita (who also happens to be my partner in crime and assists me in all these shoots ) were extremely spooked out at Birling Gap, UK. In the middle of the night we were just two of us in bone chilling wind and there was no one within 25kms radius. All we could see was sky full of stars next to the English Channel and could hear distant sounds of giggling. Our best assumption was some one else was also shooting the milyway and came with their infant but to our surprise we couldn’t find anyone else other than us – that night.
Kothabriksha: What is the future of photography and visual arts? How would you like to contribute?
Snehajit: The future is immensely progressive for photography and visual arts.. Technologies like Ai will change the face of visual arts completely. Smartphones have already replaced compact cameras and mirrorless cameras have already started replacing DSLRs. As a photographer I expect myself to adapt to the evolution of technology and try to give my best to create art and memories for our next generation.
Kothabriksha: What would be your message to the readers of Kothabriksha?
Snehajit: Kothabriksha is an amazing platform for creative people to share their experiences and journey. All I would like to say to the readers, is that keep supporting young talents be it any form of art and keep spreading love. All the best for the future endeavours!
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