Levin Dieterle is an amateur photographer, and his interests are related mainly to nature and astronomy. You just have to take a look at his work to realize how talented he is. So we are pleased to introduce you to Levin… please enjoy this interview and part of his great work.
When did you decide to become a photographer? What´s your story? How did the interest on astrophotography raised in you?
I have always been interested in astronomy and natural science. The attraction to natural science finally ended in studying physics and making my PHD. Many years before that, my photographic story starts about 1997/98, when I bought my first telescope. I noticed very fast, that just visual observation with the telescope didn’t satisfy me. So I tried to catch the beauty of the starry sky with my photographs. I did my first exposures with my dad’s old analog SLR. My digital era started in 2004 with a Canon EOS 10D.
How would you describe your photographic style and how it has developed over the years?
I would describe it as fine art nature photography. I started with astrophotography but over the years I also get addicted to landscape photography and cityscapes.
Whats in your camera bag most of the times?
Certainly my camera. I like my primes, especially the 200/2.8, which is great for astrophotography but also for portraits.
How do you find your subjects? How do you decide what to shoot?
Star, nebulas and galaxy are stable over hundreds and thousands of years, so you don’t have to hurry. Special events like comets, eclipses are much more thrilling, but the time is more limited. They last from month to only some few minutes. You can get information in the astronomical journals or you can use astronomical software. Furthermore, there are special events like ISS solar transits (when the silhouette of the international space station is visible in front of the sun). For these events I use the calsky (http://www.calsky.com) website. With this website, you can calculate these special events like Iridium flares (very bright reflection of sunlight cased by the antenna of an Iridium satellite) or ISS transits for your observation site. However, don’t ever look directly at the sun through a telescope or in any other way, unless you have the proper filters. You can one damage their eyes by looking directly at the sun.
If you want to plan the position of the sun or moon for your landscape photography, The Photographer’s Ephemeris (http://photoephemeris.com) is a great tool.
When you photograph, do you have a theme in mind?
Normally not, I just want to document the beauty of nature.
Who or what inspires your photography? Which are your influences?
Normally I’m inspired by the light. Over the years I have learned that the most important thing for stunning photographs is light. There is nothing like light. You can have the most expensive equipment but this doesn’t help to get the best light. The equipment only helps to get the most out of the scene.
I am a fan of Ansel Adams and his impressive black and white landscape photographs. He was a genius in using natural light for his photographs.
Would you give us a brief walk through your work flow for astrophotography?
The most important thing for astrophotography is the location. You need a very dark spot away from the urban lights. If you have found such a place, then there are different possibilities to catch the starry night sky in your photographs. The first one is to use a fixed, stable tripod to image star trails. This is the easiest technique, which is accessible for every photographer. Trees or remarkable landscapes are perfect to link heaven and earth.
Getting pin point sharp star images with long exposure times and long focal length is much more complicated. For this purpose, the rotation of earth has to be compensated precisely during acquisition time. This is done by a motorized mount which is adjusted parallel to the rotation axis of the earth. Then, the object of interest has to be centered in the image frame and the lens has to be focused. Normally I work with focal length between 15 mm (fisheye) for all sky images and 2500 mm for high resolution photographs of the sun and moon. Deepsky images of galaxy or nebulas are taken with the Canon 200/2.8 prime lens or the Pentax 75 SDHF (500 mm, f/6.67 apochromatic refractor). For the final image several exposures of about 10 min exposure time, as well as darks and flat frames have to be taken, which are combined to the final image.
What do you listen to when you’re editing your work?
Did you mean what kind of music? I like progressive metal and rock. I’m a great fan of the of the Swedish metal band Katatonia and the American band Tool.
What genre you have the greatest feelings for and why? Cityscapes, landscapes or astrophotography.
I didn’t differs between the different genres I like them all. It normally depends on my mood and the location where I am.
In general, during a session, how many pics would you say you take to find “the right one”?
It depends on the photographic genre. During one session of astrophotography I shoot about 100 images. Most of them are for checking the focus (unfortunately, I have no live view camera for astrophotography), 10-20 are real exposures (about 10 min exposure time) and the rest are so called dark frames. They are subtracted from the exposures to get rid of the dark current of the camera. Afterwards all corrected exposures are summed up to get a noise free image. In the end you get just one image out of one night.
Tell us the story behind the Upper Antelope Canyon (Canyonlight series). How did you get there? And how did you manage to get that amazing show of stone and light?
My first visit was in 2006 on a one week holiday round trip around Las Vegas. I went there, because I saw impressive images of this canyon at the internet. The canyon is located just a few miles beside the little village Page in Arizona. The excess is managed by the Navajo Indians. To visit the canyon, you have to book a guided tour. I was stunned as I entered the canyon for the first time. The light was so impressive. You need a tripod to manage the long exposures times up to 20 sec in the canyon.
However, you should avoid including any visible sky in your frame, as it will exceed the dynamic range of the camera and will be burn out. Due to this fact, I concentrated on the indirect reflected sunlight on the sandstone to get these impressive colors. During my next visit in 2010 I realized that the colors also changes with the seasons. The colors are more vibrant in May.
Last but not least, the Antelope Canyon is also famous for its impressive light beams. The Navayo guides show you where and when they appeared. If you have the opportunity to visit this canyon, don’t miss it. For me it was one of the most intense experiences of light in nature. Unfortunately, the canyon is very crowded during the summer time.
Wanna share some short tip to shoot great night cityscapes?
Take advantage of the blue hour. This is the period of twilight, when there is neither full daylight nor complete darkness. If it’s too dark, then the contrast between artificial light and sky is too harsh. If it’s too light you didn’t get the city lights. Make longer exposures to get lights trails from headlights of the traffic. You have to find the right balance between long (more city lights and brighter sky) and short exposure (better exposure of the moving headlights). I usually prefer to make several shorter exposures and combine them, so the traffic flow looks more impressive.
Any advice for aspiring photographers?
Take your time to compose the field of view and wait for the perfect light.
Got any question for Levin? Just drop it below!