Interview with Stephen Mudge
On the 28th of July I was tagged in a viral Lunar Eclipse photo by Stephen Mudge and I was gobsmacked! Let me show you why!
On seeing this photo which has been shared over 350,000 times. I wanted to know more behind the photo, and the photographer Stephen Mudge.
His astronomical photos have been published on several astronomy websites (including NASA’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day” (six times) and the front page of Spaceweather.com (six times). He has also had more than twenty photos published in books, calendars and magazines in recent years.
Three of his images have won “Honourable Mention” awards at the David Malin Awards, which is the premier astrophotography competition in Australia. The most recent was in 2017, with the others being in 2014 and 2012.
What is your name?
Where are you from?
I’m originally from South Australia, but now live in Brisbane.
What are your passions?
I’m a molecular biologist by trade, but when it comes to hobbies my passions are photography and astronomy. With this combination, photographing the night sky is an obvious outcome! I also do a lot of macrophotography, and my favourite subjects in this genre of photography are the many types of jumping spiders that live in my backyard. (I’ve photographed more than 30 different species in my Brisbane backyard… an advantage of living in the subtropics!). A common link between astronomical photography and macrophotography is that both can reveal details that go un-noticed to the human eye. I think this is what attracts me to both types of photography.
Tell me a little bit about the amount of work that went into creating the viral masterpiece of the eclipse?
This was actually a fairly simple little exercise. I’ve photographed enough lunar eclipses to know what exposure is required to bring out the red colour in the eclipsed Moon. So it was simply a matter of getting up early and heading down to the local park in Brisbane and setting up the camera on a tripod, putting it in manual mode with the appropriate settings, and taking a photo every 5 minutes as the eclipse progressed.
There was actually a bit of fog around for the first 15 minutes or so, and so the photos taken at the start were not included in the final image… but luckily the fog then cleared away. The stacking process sounds complicated, but it’s all done on the computer in just a few seconds! The last couple of total lunar eclipses have been clouded out in Brisbane, so it was nice to have good weather for this one.
What was your 1st thoughts when your photo went viral?
A combination of surprise and excitement… surprise because I wasn’t completely happy with the image when I posted it, and excitement because it was the first time that an image of mine has gone viral. It was amazing to see how fast it spread, and it certainly gave me a new insight into how social media works!
How long have you been a photographer?
I actually started out in photography back in the days of transparency (slide) film, so I’ve been taking photos for a while. But digital SLR cameras have certainly revolutionised the hobby, and the newest generation of dSLRs make it very easy to capture astronomical subjects such as the Milky Way.
What are your 3 favourite photos you have taken?
That’s a difficult question, but here are 3 that would be in my current top 10.
I love capturing the Australian night sky, and the first image here captures the ENTIRE sky, with the Milky Way stretching right across the sky. (We are lucky in Australia because we get the central part of the Galaxy directly overhead.) This image was made by stitching together 30 separate photos, each of which was taken with my Canon 6D and Samyang 14mm lens.
The second image is of one of my favourite little jumping spiders (Mopsus mormon). This is the male, and he has a great looking Mohawk hairstyle! These jumping spiders have great personalities as well, and I think that even if you hate spiders, you would find these little ones appealing!
And the third image, which was taken in Tasmania a couple of years ago, captures both the Aurora Australis (the southern hemisphere’s version of the “Northern Lights” or Aurora Borealis) and blue bioluminescence in the breaking waves (caused by bioluminescent plankton called Noctiluca scintillans). Being able to capture both of these at the same time is a rare occurrence, so I was very lucky with this shot… but it goes to show that if you get out there with the camera often enough you will get lucky sometimes!
If you could travel to any country in the world where would you go?
There are lots of places that I’d love to visit, but chasing the Aurora Borealis in Iceland is fairly high on my list.
What is your favourite thing about Australia?
I like most things about Australia! But with respect to my hobbies, I’m are lucky to have access to fantastic dark skies only about 1 hour’s drive from suburban Brisbane. And even in the city, the diversity of wildlife (both big and small) is amazing.
Where can people find more of your amazing photography and what can they expect?
I have a large collection of images on my Flickr site, including astrophotography and macrophotography, but also cityscapes, landscapes, birds and other wildlife of Australia, plus more. These can be found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenmudge/albums.
In response to many requests after the lunar eclipse image went viral, I have also recently set up a Facebook page where I will be showcasing the best of my photography. This can be followed here: https://www.facebook.com/stephenmudgephotography/
Thanks for Reading
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