Published: 07th March 2017
Navneeth Unnikrishnan's pictures will make you fall in love with star gazing
This Kerala-based photographer opens up about his love for deep space photography and the process behind it
Since time immemorial, people have laid under the blanket of stars and pondered their place in the universe. But, gone are those days since the stars seen in the night sky — especially in the city — are so few owing to dust, pollution and light scattering. Yet, 23-year-old Navneeth was hell-bent on reconnecting with the stars, by capturing their elusive beauty on camera.
The neighbour: Navneeth Unnikrishnan's photograph of the nearest galaxy, Andromeda
"I remember a time when I had just started photography — maybe three or four months into it — I saw a bright cloud-like formation in the night sky. I was intrigued by it and took a picture," recalls Navneeth. But, the Kerala-born photographer soon discovered that the picture he took wasn't of any normal cloud. When he previewed the picture on his camera’s LCD display, Navneeth was amazed that he had captured our Milky Way galaxy. That moment unearthed a curiosity buried deep within him to seek what's beyond. He soon bought a telescope and thus began his constant research in what's beyond the planet we live on.
The process of taking a picture of the Milky Way or the Andromeda galaxy isn’t straightforward, he says. "When you take a photograph of something like the Andromeda, it’s a painstaking one-hour process, as opposed to the five minutes needed for standard photography," says Navneeth, who explains that multiple images need to be shot with at least 5 minutes of exposure. There needs to be a minimum of ten such images and then, using a process called stack, these images are combined together to form the final masterpiece.
Night sky: Navneeth's photograph of Indian Astronomical Observatory during night
Currently, Navneeth has set up his equipment at the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh, because of its zero-pollution levels. He makes several trips there to capture the sky at different times of the year. His next trip is planned for June, where he will conducting his annual workshop on night sky photography for a small group of 10 to 11 people. What began as a hobby, today, Navneeth is one of India’s pioneers in deep space photography. His work has been published in famous international media agencies like BBC.