Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars

We met a professional photographer named Wally Pacholka down at the Death Valley 49ers Encampment a few years ago. This, in itself, was not so unusual, as there are photographers and artists galore down there over that weekend selling their various works. Even in such a crowd, however, Mr. Pacholka stood out. His specialty is photographs of the night sky, shot from angles which incorporate terrestrial landscapes. (You can read a bit about how he does it in the "About the Artist" section on his website, Astropics.) Perhaps even more remarkable than his exceptional photography, however, was his fervor for astronomy. He didn't discuss it as an expert propounding facts to an ignorant public; he just enthused, rather quietly, very selflessly, but with such single-minded attention that it recalled the first roots of the word "ardour" (fr. L ardor burning, as Webster's says). He was excited to point out the Orion Nebula to us, and even loaned us his binoculars so we could have a better look. I don't know what was better--noticing the nebula for the first time, or seeing a person who enjoyed its existence as much as Mr. Pacholka did.

It seems safe to say that his art transfers a degree of that zeal. All of his photographs are well calculated to make you take a second look upwards the next time you're under a night sky, but if I might play favourites, start by taking a look at this one.

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