By Crystal Chung @crystalkchung
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Photographer David Clapp is used to people asking him if his images were taken on another planet - and his latest series of incredible photographs show the otherworldly scenes of Owens Valley Radio Observatory.
Located in a bowl of mountains between the Sierra Nevada range and the White Mountains, the radio astronomy observatory is the largest university-operated radio observatory in the United States.
David, 46, was travelling around California continuing his photography of ‘alien landscapes’ when he came across the incredible site at the end of his trip.
He said: “The images are of radio observatory equipment and dishes that are operated by Caltech University in Bishop, California.
“Their primary use is to improve on the location of radio works in the sky and also to study hydrogen clouds within the Milky Way.
“The site is one of a number of radio telescope sites located in different states, providing data that then gets collated from each site, to create one massive radio telescope, the width of the entire USA! The time coded data is processed in a central source to provide a ‘big picture.’”
David’s images were taken using a Canon 5Dmk4 camera - sensitive to low light levels.
The British photographer said: “As the atmosphere has very low humidity, the clarity of the stars was exceptional.
“The camera captured the galactic centre of the Milky way with incredible detail, which is the intense gaseous cluster you can see in many of the images.
“There are many locations in the USA that are superb for night photography, due to low levels of light pollution and low air humidity.”
Owens Valley Radio Observatory, owned by Caltech University, uses its telescopes and other instruments to improve on the locations of radio sources in the sky, as well as to study hydrogen clouds within the Milky Way.
For David, he encountered several challenges when capturing the galactic-looking scenes on camera, from timing to Milky Way positioning, dish movement and ambient lighting.
He said: “The key time to take images was when the night sky lifted from black to blue. This window of time was very small and as the light levels lifted, the stars start to lose their intensity.
“The The Milky Way then faded and the images looked too ‘daytime.’”
David has received much positive feedback, with one of his friends, Arjan even asking, “What planet are you on now?”
Clapp said: “To be in the presence of such photogenic space technology gave the images a distinct edge over the usual night time work I have seen.
“The work has such an otherworldly look, giving the images exceptional narrative with rhetoric. I have always dreamed of photographing an observatory of any kind and everything came together beautifully.”