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In the intersection of the cosmos and photography | Łukasz Żak

The Milky Way lying above spruce trees and a snow-covered landscape, displaying the Capella, one of the brightest stars, and the Orion, too: Łukasz Żak’s shots take us on a journey to explore the night sky in Poland.

Astrophotography is almost as old as photography, but it is also one of the youngest autonomous genres at the same time, as capturing the starry sky used to be the privilege of specialized astronomers up until the early 21st century. Łukasz Żak’s adventure with astrophotography started more than ten years ago, when he was observing the airplanes passing high up in the sky in the northeastern region of Poland, in Masuria, with a simple telescope. Over time, he replaced his telescope with a camera, and there was no stopping from here: soon he took his shots with a Pentax K-5, later followed by a Canon EOS 6D. 

Studying celestial phenomena and astrophotography became his passion, and so he started to educate himself in this field. As a result, he found many others with similar interests and later also joined the Polish Astronomical Society.

“I usually plan my photographs in advance, for which I use light pollution maps: I look for places within a 200 kilometer radius from my home, the darker the better. Usually a photo session means an all-night trip. My photographs are often characterized by putting fascinating objects and things into the foreground, beneath which the night sky blends in with the landscape beautifully,” Łukasz told us.

Most of the time, the photographer takes his astrophotographs in Podlasie Province, but he plans to capture the Milky Way in the Tatras and the Bieszczady Mountains the next time. As Łukasz shared with us, the sky of the Bieszczady Mountains is a Class 2 on the Bortle scale measuring the brightness of the night sky (the scale ranges from Class 1 to Class 9, where Class 1 is the darkest skies available on Earth – the Ed.), thus providing a perfect spot for capturing stars. Looking further ahead, he plans to explore the night skies of the countries of the southern hemisphere, including Chile as well as Namibia and other African countries.

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