Meet Fabian, a remarkable man who has turned his passion for astrophotography into a wonderful hobby that he shares with others all over the world. This is the story of how Fabian’s love of the starry skies developed into beautiful images of the world above us. Be inspired as you read Fabian’s story – wonders can be revealed when you pursue the passions that make you happy.
Tell us about your passion for astrophotography…. how did it all come about?
One of the most vivid memories I have from my childhood, when I was around 9 years old, is telling my father to accompany me to buy a telescope. That scope was a 2″ refractor mounted in a wooden tripod. It was then that I started to understand the mechanics of the skies: having a look at the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and the fascinating Saturn. During my teen ages, I learnt about the constellations and deep sky objects, being able to locate some of them from the highly polluted skies in Ramos Mejia, Argentina.
My interest in astronomy was so big that I was ready to start a serious Astronomy career at University, but, I changed my mind at the very last minute and decided to keep it as a hobby. In my mid-twenties, I joined the Asociacion Argentina Amigos de la Astronomia where I was able to improve my knowledge and to build up an 8″ reflector from head to toe. It was at that time, with a couple of astro friends, that we started an astrophotography adventure with reflex cameras and film !! Yes, we were still in the early ’90s.
I arrived in Perth, Australia in 2012, knowing that this city has 200+ clear nights per year. I decided this was the right place and the right time to start digital astrophotography.
What’s the philosophy behind it?
When I look up at the night sky my heart becomes paralyzed, I feel the immensity of Nature. I feel very small, insignificant and privileged at the same time because I am able to admire it.
I get transported to the vastness of the Universe and that makes me put in perspective my minor daily earthly problems
What’s your background?
I consider myself a bit of a hybrid person… I have an Accounting diploma from University but I have always worked as an Engineer. I guess this suits my passion for Astronomy very well – I barely remember how to put a balance sheet together.
How do you find the time to do it all?
I often asked myself that question. I need 36 hour days… I guess the secret is good planning and routines that work well.
One of my biggest steps in making time for astrophotography was the time invested in the knowledge of my equipment (telescope, camera, accessories and software). Now I am able to program the data acquisition sessions and leave the equipment working alone for hours while I spend time with my family.
Another advantage is that this activity can only be done at night when everyone else is asleep. You will often find me awake at 1 or 2 am. Many nights I don’t get much sleep.
You took a leap of faith… Did you ever wonder if you were doing the right thing?
I am always confident I am doing the right thing, everything in my life has arrived at the perfect moment. When I decided not to start an Astronomy career and go for Accounting, it was the right decision. When I decided to change jobs, it was the right decision. When I decided to commence digital astrophotography, it was also the right decision.
How did you make it happen?
It just happened. I have a lot of faith that the Universe will put in front of me the right things at the right moment.
What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
This is a very technical and complex activity. It requires knowledge and skills in Astronomy, Engineering, Photography, Computing and Meteorology, and on top of that some Artistic abilities are also welcome.
My biggest challenge was and still is the data processing. This step is done with the help of software like Photoshop, StarTools or Pixinsight. The learning curve here is very steep – every image is different and requires a variety of processing techniques, the artistic part also plays a big role at this stage.
Why is it important to be brave when you decide to do something like astrophotography?
The objects to be imaged are very faint, sometimes even for the special cameras I am using. I point my telescope, take an image and cannot see anything. I keep imaging with the ‘hope’ it will be there at the end. Most objects require several hours of exposure, mainly over one hour. My longest exposure time on the same object, so far, is 18 hours.
Then, while doing the processing I might encounter gradients from the Moon, street, my house or even my computer light. These gradients are very difficult to get rid of. I sometimes need to spend several computer hours to eliminate them.
All in all, you have to be really brave for this hobby. It will test your patience and perseverance without any instant reward.
What are the tough aspects of astrophotography?
I guess that you now can realize that the data processing, in order to get a nice final image, is the toughest part of it.
Why do you do what you do?
Because I love Astronomy, I love to be connected with the Universe and the night sky.
I have found that imaging the skies and being able to share it with others, gives me a sense of size. It allows me to be conscious of what our real place in the Universe and the majesty of Nature is.
What lessons have you learnt along the way?
As mentioned at the very beginning, I started at the age of 9 and almost 40 years later I am achieving my goals. I have learnt many things along the way, when put together, all contribute to where I am today.
But, again, the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that if I have the necessary courage and patience, then the results will certainly arrive. What discoveries have allowed you to realize your passion for astrophotography?
Most of the colors of the objects, especially the nebulas are not 100% defined. Hydrogen emission is mainly red, sulphur is mainly green and oxygen is mainly blue, but nothing forbids you from using a different palette… So, this is where your inside artist comes to the fore – I didn’t know I had one !!
Copyright Fabian Rodriguez
Who is your role model and why?
I do not have one, I think I have many. All of them are adding a grain of sand to my life. They are all special people because they are successful in being happy, pursuing and achieving their objectives.
How has pursuing astrophotography changed your life?
Well, I had never thought that I would be able to share my passion with so many people around the world. I publish my images on an Astrophotography dedicated website where many other astrophotographers can comment and help to improve the Imaging techniques. I exchange emails with many fellow Astrophotographers from different places and I have made many Astro friends.
I have also started my own website: www.fabianastro.weebly.com. (This was not even in my wildest, deepest dreams).
Wisdom for others:
What’s the secret of your success?
Perseverance, many hours under the skies and also in front of the computer.
What’s next for you? What does the future hold?
The future is a big unknown surprise, but for the time being, I would like to continue imaging the wonders of the Southern Hemisphere in order to share them with our friends above the Equator.
We are really privileged to be in Australia, I would say that more that 95% of the astro community resides in the Northern Hemisphere and they have no access to those objects. They are delighted to see what we can show them.What advice would you give anyone who dreams of pursuing their artistic passion and talents?
Firstly you need to know what you want and what makes you feel happy.
Secondly, just go for it with all your strength.
What advice would you give anyone who isn’t doing what they love?
The only way to feel complete and happy is to pursue what mobilizes you and what you love, so stop what you are doing and put yourself in motion !!!
What is the best advice you have received?
Be patient !!!
How do you think each of us can live the fullest life possible?
Pay a lot of attention to the ‘little voice’ inside you and do not hesitate in following it’s words.
A Bit of Fun:
Tell me 3 things about you that I would never expect just by looking at you:
- I used to write Formula One articles for a couple of Argentinian newspapers.
- My family says I am a good cook.
- I like Fancy Dress parties and I also like to dress up for them.
“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein
Anywhere under the stars.
Biggest passions in life:
Astronomy, Formula One, Cycling.
Most inspiring film you’ve seen:
Not a particular film but the series ‘Cosmos’ by Carl Sagan.
Most inspiring book you’ve read:
‘Contact’ by Carl Sagan.
Best light-bulb moment:
Asking my wife to marry me. My wife and I met when we were 18, starting university – we were always close friends. When I was 26, I got married (not to her), she came to my wedding, and then 6 years later I divorced. By that time, she was preparing her wedding (not to me) and I was also invited. She then decided not to go ahead with it.
A year later we were having dinner, as old friends, and I suddenly asked her: “Why don’t we try now?”
We got married the following year and we have a wonderful family with three lovely kids.
Anything is possible… what’s your wish?
Wow, what a proposal !!! Remember the Star Trek TV series? Well, I wish I was able be to travel around the Universe and contemplate the wonders I try to image from close up and… perhaps to ‘talk’ to someone out there.
Philosophy you live by:
Nothing in life is to feared; it is only to be understood.
I was driving and saw a car number plate that still has me chuckling: A royal blue Mini Cooper with the number plate “Sassenach”. It’s Gaelic for English. Oh so clever and sassy!
Also, if you are a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, it will make you chuckle even more!
What tickled your funny bone today?