Old Giant in the Fog takes out this year's David Malin astrophotography competition
With a love of science fiction and photography it seems Ian Inverarity was always destined to get involved with astrophotography.
The mechanical engineer has been capturing the wonders of the night sky for several years now, travelling to regional areas of South Australia in search of the perfect shot.
He says the addictive pursuit leads him to Hawker in the Flinders Ranges, about once a month.
And many nights and long hours in the dark have paid off, with his photo of an old gum tree in Gawler shrouded in fog before the Milky Way taking out this year's David Malin astrophotography awards in New South Wales.
"That is relatively unusual. Of the seven or odd years I've been going up there, I've only encountered fog at night one other time," Mr Inverarity said.
"So I was very lucky, because it did make quite a difference to the photo."
The amateur competition is held annually — provided there are no COVID-19 interruptions — at the Central West Astronomical Society's Astrofest festival at Parkes in NSW's central-west.
The competition's namesake, David Malin, says the hobby is booming as increasingly advanced cameras become more affordable for the average participant.
"This year has included the most marvellous array of pictures I've ever seen," Dr Malin said.
"It improves every year."
Dr Malin said the amateurs had access to far better technology than when he used to work at the Coonabarabran observatory.
"Most of my tech was in a dark room, using chemicals and plates," he said.
Almost 200 photos were entered in the competition, with this year including the inaugural smart phone category.
Lucy Yunxi Hu's photo of a dead tree stump on the banks of Lake Eucambene in the Snowy Mountains won the phone category — her first ever entry into the competition.
The Canberra-based researcher said the niche hobby was becoming more popular.
"Astrophotographers around the world now days are exploring the opportunity of using smart phones," Ms Hu said.
"It brings more people the opportunity to take astro-photos."
CSIRO Parkes Observatory scientist John Sarkissian said the winners of each category would go on display at the Parkes radio telescope facility, also known as The Dish, for the next year.
"Photography allows people to see the night sky in ways that you can't see with the naked eye," he said.
"When you take a long exposure photograph, you bring out details that you don't normally see, colours that our eyes can't detect."
Mr Sarkissian said it was great to see the hobby becoming popular and that amateur photographers were taking better pictures than professionals were able to just 10 years ago.
"When you see the photographs, you can understand why," he said.
"People are always amazed by what's up above their heads."
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