When this pandemic is all over do you want to have travel experiences that give you a new perspective? So go experience a total solar eclipse. And the aurora borealis. And a dark sky with the Milky Way arcing over your head.
This week has seen the results of the Travel Photographer of the Year 2020 plastered all over the media, but the star turns were—as is so often the case—the images taken not of Earth, but of our sky.
The overall winner was Russian photographer Vladimir Alekseev, whose portfolio featured this article’s main image—a total solar eclipse in Svalbard on March 20, 2015. “In the morning, a blizzard began, and the sky was covered with clouds,” said Alekseev about eclipse day. “But an hour before the eclipse, the weather improved, and I managed to capture this amazing moment.”
Alekseev also showcased this image, below, of the aurora borealis taken at a reindeer herder’s camp in Russia’s Yamal Peninsula.
Another standout night photographer in the competition was 16-year-old American Nayana Rajesh, who ran out a runner-up in the Young Travel Photographer of the Year category.
In Rajesh’s portfolio is this photo, above, of Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico, while below is a shot of July 2020’s Comet Neowise taken from Muenster, Texas.
“Due to the global pandemic this was one of the few times this year I was able to shoot the night sky,” said Rajesh. “I was able to see and photograph Comet Neowise C/2020 F3 about 90 minutes away from my home.”
Rajesh also showcased this photo, below, taken in Lone Pine, California. It features the Milky Way, which in the northern hemisphere is best seen between May and September.
“It was a thrilling experience for me to be under truly dark skies and to be able to see the night sky in all its glory,” said Rajesh.
Now it’s back to the aurora borealis with France’s Nicolas Raspiengeas, who was highly commended in the Travel Portfoloo category.
His images included this image, below, of the polar lights from Flakstad beach in Norway’s Lofoten Islands. He used a headlamp to illuminate the foreground.
Another of Raspiengeas’ images included this one, below, of the aurora borealis above Senja Island, Norway.
However, it is surely two images of solar eclipses in Raspiengeas’ portfolio that really stand out. The first, below, shows the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017 at Smith Rock National Park, Oregon, USA.
“This is the most technical photo I have taken, and one that I dreamt of achieving for years,” said Raspiengeas. “I wanted to compose a strong image with meaning, putting the human being back in contemplation before this unique celestial phenomenon.”
Not happy with that one, Raspiengeas then created an equally compelling image during totality a couple of years later when he captured this stunning image, below, during the total solar eclipse in Argentina on July 2, 2019.
“I wanted to include a human element, though I didn’t have any precise idea as to how,” said Raspiengeas. “I guided my partner by walkie-talkie, until the moment of the totality, and it was there that, during those crucial few seconds, she ‘touched’ the Sun.”
Finally in this round-up of the astro-images from the Travel Photographer of the Year 2020 is a stunning capture, below, from Italy’s Alessio Mesiano.
Commended in the Travel Portfolio category, Mesiano’s images were all shot in the Faroe Islands, an archipelago if windswept islands in the North Atlantic between the UK and Iceland.
You can see the rest of the the winning shots on TPOTY’s online winners’ gallery.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.