Donald Nool was only seven years old when he realized that he wanted to take photos of the Milky Way, the stars, and other heavenly bodies.
"Pangarap ko na lakbayin ang kalawakan gamit ang aking mga mata," he tells FHM in an interview.
The 23-year-old scientist from Tarlac dreams of becoming a physicist or astronomer, and has taken the first steps by getting a degree in Chemistry. As for his photography ambition, Donald started doing astrophotography last year, using—believe it or not—a cellphone camera to shoot the famous constellation Orion.
He has been sharing his night sky photos on social media; it helps that he already has a single-lens reflex camera or SLR. But it was only recently that his night sky photos have gotten significant attention, particularly on Reddit as user dodochem.
Donald's otherworldly snapshots of the Orion Nebula (419 upvotes), the Andromeda Galaxy (433), and his favorite, the "majestic" Milky Way (104), which he posted on Thursday, have received a considerable amount of positive comments.
So, how does he feel about the online clamor for what he's doing? We had a chance to talk to the budding astrophotographer about his craft, the sudden appreciation for it, and the dos and don'ts of this type of photography.
Wow! You're pretty good for someone who just began a year ago! How did you learn to shoot things that are light years away?
By observing the sky in my childhood days, and now reading books and websites about astronomy and astrophotography. I started photography during high school and tinuloy ko lang siya kaya madali na lang sa'kin na intidihin yung camera settings and tricks. Dahil siguro sa passion ko sa astronomy at physics kaya naabot ko itong ganitong klase ng photos.
Obviously, this isn't your average point-and-click method. Is self-study possible?
Yes. Ang tanging nagli-limit lang ay money to buy a telescope and a good charge-coupled device camera, which costs a thousand USD. I use a lens without vibration reduction, but I plan to upgrade kung magkaroon ng pagkakataon para makakuha ng mas magandang photos na pwedeng ilagay sa Wikipedia or other related sites.
Nice! So you really have everything planned out! Were you surprised by the attention that your photos got on social media? What was the reaction of the people around you when you were just starting out?
I don't know. Supportive naman yung family ko. Konti lang ang nakaka-appreciate sa Facebook kahit na maraming aka "photographer." Sa Instagram at Reddit talaga ako nakadama ng importansya sa ginagawa ko. Ang sarap lang sa pakiramdam.
Have you met a fellow astrophotographer here in the country?
Iilan pa lang ang nakakausap at nakikita ko. Hindi siya common dito sa bansa natin dahil kulang sa appreciation, tsaka mahal ang equipment. This year, I'm planning to pursue 35mm film astrophotography kapag nakabili na ako ng telescope.
I hope you can buy one soon! What do you think needs to be done for the sky photography community to grow?
I think we need to get more young people interested in sky photography. And to make that happen, we need to have a group of people na merong mga telescope and equipment na maglilibot sa Pilipinas, like other groups of young and old astrophotographers around the globe.
Any tips for those who want to pick up a camera and start shooting the stars?
Start with the basics, ang mga smartphone ngayon may manual mode na, then shoot the stars and the moon. Kung desidido ka na, go grab an SLR camera for galaxy photography. Choosing a camera is hard, but when it comes to astrophotography, it must have a) big sensor (APS-C or/and full-frame); b) high ISO capabilities for low-light photography; and c) a live-view screen that can be moved in different angles like a video cam.
For the lens, dapat mataas ang aperture like f/2.0 to f/4.0; pwede din yung gamit ko, f/5.6. For mobile, I suggest yung kayang mag-manual mode at merong RAW option for processing like SLR.