Esme Batten swears astrophotography isn’t difficult—like most things in life, it’s a matter of patience and practice. But she does admit those endless hours fumbling with a camera and tripod in the dark can lead to obsession.
“My longest stint was eight nights in a row. I work full time, so that was a bit much,” she says with a laugh. “Now I typically get out a couple times a month, on moonless nights under clear skies.”
Living in a designated Dark Sky Preserve on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula, Batten’s home is perfectly situated for nighttime photography sessions. But her idyllic backyard wasn’t her initial inspiration.
During an extended visit in the UK to care for family, Batten was having trouble sleeping. Already a photography enthusiast focusing on birds and wildlife, giving nighttime photography a try seemed a natural progression. Through social media she made a friend who worked in astrophotography and showed her the ropes. “And for the next six months I went across the UK, photographing the night sky. I really fell in love with it then.”
Following her return to Ontario, she explored her surroundings after dark. “The ecology is unbelievable, and the landscapes are spectacular. I spend a lot of time at Cabot Head and Dyer’s Bay,” she says. “I’m really grateful for the Bruce Trail, as it enables me to walk much of the escarpment and capture its beauty. I feel super-fortunate to live on the peninsula; the world is my oyster as far as places to go.”
As a biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Batten says, “I had always thought of nature as its individual pieces, but I see it differently now. Now when I see a landscape, pictures emerge in my brain and I think, Wow, what if the Milky Way were behind it, or what if it were morning and surrounded by a mist?”
“It’s a meditative thing for me,” Batten reflects. “Night photography is a time when you really get to be peaceful and calm. No one is messaging you or expecting anything from you. You can sit there with your own thoughts; you can look out at nature and be awed by it.”
“It all comes from a respect for the natural world, wanting to share that with others and helping them feel connected to it as well,” she adds. “I’ve met a lot of amazing friends who are into photography, and it’s been great. I’ve spent lots of time outside with people I really love, going on adventures, trying to capture the beauty of Ontario. It’s really enriched my life in ways I couldn’t have pictured.”
Find more of Esme’s work on Instagram.
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