Next in our Photographer Spotlight series is Sara Wager.
Sara is a British astrophotographer currently based in Spain. She creates fascinating photographs of Deep-Sky Objects from our universe, including galaxies, areas of nebulosity and planetary nebulas.
DIYP: What is your specialty? What do you love to photograph?
My photographic passion is astrophotography……. With my telescope and camera pointing upwards I love taking pictures of nebulas and galaxies that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Some of them are more creative where I actually assign colours to the channels whereas the galaxies tend to be a more ‘normal’ colour.
DIYP: How long has it been since you first started taking photography seriously – what has that progression been like?
I first started Astrophotography in 2010 when I moved to Spain from the UK. I have been interested in daytime photography and had some decent kit. I’d seen pictures of nebulas and thought I’d give it a go….. How hard could it be? The progression has been a massive learning curve, hugely expensive and has lead to making some really good friends.
DIYP: Are there any particular images you’ve captured that stand out as being especially meaningful or satisfying for you?
I love taking all the images that I do. I generally have an idea in my head how I’d like them to look…. I am yet to take an image that I am really happy with. The standout image has to be the first NASA APOD (astronomy picture of the day) that I was awarded in 2016.
DIYP: What challenges do you face capturing the shots you want to capture?
There are huge challenges with astrophotography. It can be very technical both with software packages and hardware. Often things will work perfectly, then the following night, having done nothing, things start to fail. It’s generally software or drivers but can be something as annoying as a failing USB cable. The other challenge of course is that I am taking pictures of things that you can’t even see ?
DIYP: What motivates you to put in the effort to overcome those challenges?
My motivation is that if I gave it all up I’d feel terribly guilty about the amount of money spent on stuff that I wouldn’t use! Also I just love it, the problem solving, the processing that takes in excess of 8 hours per image…….. Have I made it sound good yet?!!!
DIYP: What gear do you use? Why?
I like to use refractor telescopes and so I have a long focal length and a pair of short focal length scopes. The camera’s that I use are mono specific Astro cameras that are able to cool to -40 degrees below ambient. If you saw them you wouldn’t even think that they looked like cameras!! I use two different mounts…. This is THE most important part of the jigsaw as the mount is what allows you to get rock solid results…… found stars and bags of detail.
I have found that cutting corners with regards to quality of equipment means you normally end up buying twice. So to that end, I try to buy the best that I can afford.
DIYP: Is there a market for your work? How do you make money?
I make some money selling my astro work on Stocksy. I also sell a few prints a year on my website…… but I don’t do this area of photography to make money. It’s a very niche market and I think less able to make money than normal photography. Also consider that an image can require over 50 hours’ worth of data and also one image can take 10 hours to process, the work output is very slow!
DIYP: How do you promote yourself and your work?
I use Social media to promote my work and also have had a few pictures featured by NASA’s Astronomy Photo of the Day. I write for UK astronomy magazines and also have had quite a few images published in books and magazines. I’ve done talks to groups in Spain and also in Austria and the UK……… I’ve ended up quite well known!!
DIYP: What are your goals for your photography career in the next year, 5 years, long term?
My goals long term are to continue to improve and also to pass on my knowledge to others starting out. I find this very satisfying. It’s more of a hobby than a career for me, so I don’t have business goals nor do I have to pay the mortgage with what I make, thank goodness!!!!
DIYP: Do you have any tips or advice for photographers who love your work and would like to photograph something similar?
Yes…… my biggest tip is ….. don’t do it!!!! I can only speak for myself of course, but I’ve found that this has become my life in so many ways. It’s also very expensive if you want to do it well and so can really impact on your bank balance!!! If you really want to get involved in Astrophotography then join some internet forums and get involved. Ask questions and remember that if you ask 5 people for their help you will get 5 different opinions. Do your research and speak to people that you trust.
Find Out More
To find out more about Sara Wager and to see more of her work, you can view her website here: SwagAstro.com
Let Us Know What You Think!
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