C O L O U R of S T A R L I G H T
The Colour of Starlight has been developed over a number a years, born from my interest in the sublime and the cosmic landscape. The research is a combination of photography, creative coding and history of science, culminating in a series of multimedia works.
The process starts with the night sky. Having worked with photography in the past I was glad to pick up my camera again and develop my skills with astrophotography. This is challenging because the relationship you have with light and your camera is the opposite of how you are taught to use a camera in ample light/studio conditions.
I try and go to places I know have very low light pollution at night, so that when I take the photographs I can pick up all the colours I possibly can in the sky. Once I have a large cache of images the editing process begins. I do not use any filters or stacking when I’m trying to analyse the colours found in the stars because these techniques can warp and change the colour of the image.
Once I have the images edited to a state I am happy with, I am ready to analyse them. This has several stages. First I use a programme called Astrometry.net which is a project supported by US National Science Foundation and NASA. It is open source so you can upload as many images as you like. Astrometry.net will analyse your photographs and tell you what objects are in the images, including constellations, stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae and star clusters.
The next stage is examining the objects I have in my image and starting to sort them. This helps me to work out which stars/objects appear particularly often as well as directing my research into the type of star or object I’ve photographed. This is not a huge step in the process but learning more about the historical and cultural importance of what I’m photographing is incredibly important to my process. For example, Betelgeuse the Red Giant Star in the constellation Orion, which could go supernova any day now, or the biggest supernova observed in the constellation, Leo.
Once my images are categorised and the objects catalogued I can start working on the image recognition code and matching colours to the stars. The code was developed to combine all the bright pixels found in the image, therefore, providing an average colour of each star in the picture. Now that the colour image files have been rendered I convert them into RGB colour files which allows me to work with the colours in a range of different media such as print and light.
With the colours loaded into Photoshop, I decided to use colour gradients to work with the colours which in itself was a process of editing due to the range of colours I had available to use. I decided to convert the gradients into different shapes on the page and in the end circles seemed to be the best shape to use for aesthetic reasons but also because of the relationship between circles and Astronomy.
Once the gradients had been printed I wanted to work into them by hand, with the process to generate the colours being so digital I felt that working into the prints by hand would complement the works. Combining digital and analogue techniques is important in my practice as I feel it gives my work balance and can make the cosmos more relatable.