Rob Nolan; Capturing Photons Near and Far 7/11/2022

Review by Jane Tearle
We certainly went ‘Near and Far’ with Rob Nolan’s photography; from family weddings to Cornwall to USA and then to deep space; all with some amazing images to admire en route. What a journey!

Starting with an ‘about me’ section and the development of photography as a hobby Rob gave us an insight to his images through magazine submissions locally and attendance at agricultural shows with people as the main subjects. His substantial set of Nikon gear was on display and he explained the need for two ‘bodies’ being essential for the wedding photography. The main aim was to get the money together to buy further gear to help with his eventual passion. More of that later! Tips on weddings followed thick and fast and if you had never done one yourself the list was comprehensive… oh and start with a ‘pro’ to not have the anxiety of having to get ‘that shot’.

Covering corporate events and providing portfolios for companies were added to his activities, despite having a full time job elsewhere! Running a Photobooth at social events became another line of income. The black backdrop and lighting system had to be factored in but the fun had with groups such as the Young Farmers made it worthwhile. Rob also had a special charity he supported where children with upper limb issues were photographed for their families.

Moving swiftly on Rob’s landscape images were beautiful. Our Dorsetcoastline featured with a reminder to watch the tide times on certain beaches! Stunning early morning or evening compositions with the use of slow shutter speeds predominated, with rocky promontories giving the lead ins. On a similar theme various locations in Cornwall, The Lake District and Scotland were shared with technical details included. The Applecross pano of 4-5 shots in black and white was stunning. A quick visit to the excitement of New York gave us a very different flavour of Rob’s work.

And then to the ‘Far’ photons! Lockdowns for Covid meant a new way of thinking and someway of following his real passion in photography -Astrophotography. Buckland Newton has a Bortle Score of about 4 out of 9 so is suitable for observing the skies as long as the cloud cover doesn’t hide everything! Neowise was the image that changed his perspective. The fact it was observable with the naked eye; its beauty with the unique split tail with a hint of blue; and so the move to new equipment. A Newtonian reflector, a quadruplet refractor and a cooled astro camera! Any savings were spent it seems! The images of the equipment looked very complex. He told us about the time it took to acquire, integrate and post process the images. It is not a quick photo by any means.

Rob’s knowledge and passion really shone through as he described the enormity of space in light years and just how much is observable from earth… the great scheme of things, not a lot it seems. Most would start with photographing the moon, it being the nearest object but then off we went to the Galaxy of Andromeda and Rob’s special interest, the nebulae, with their amazing shapes and names: Rosette, Horse Head, Pacman and Elephant Trunk to name but a few. The colours that can be seen are caused by gases and dependent on the colour channels assigned to them in processing but which gave fantastic images. The Globular Cluster, a supernova which actually ‘happened’ back in the time of the dinosaurs but has just been seen from earth this year! 63 million years. Amazing. We have to remember we are always looking into the past as we gaze skywards.

Concluding with a picture of the Milky Way, with its 100,000 million stars, over the Cerne Giant reminds us of the enormity of space. It also showed us the extensive knowledge that Rob has about the subject and his willingness to share his passion, realising as Carl Sagan said ‘The size and age of the cosmos are beyond ordinary understanding’. Thank you Rob for introducing us to the world of astrophotography.. and reminding us to look out for the Leonid Meteor Shower on 17th and 18th November!