By Aimee Braniff Cree
THIS MILKY-WAY obsessed British photographer has captured the centre of our galaxy from twenty six countries and will not stop until he has captured his elusive perfect shot.
Released to raise awareness of protecting our night sky from the light pollution caused by our cities, one image shows the Milky Way in The Black Desert forming a perfect arch over a spray painted car while another stunning shot shows a babbling brook under a bridge lit perfectly by stars in Switzerland.
A moment in Valensole shows a small home in a lavender field appearing to be at the end of a star trail.
These unbelievable images were captured by photographer Benjamin Barakat (35) from Hastings, England.
Benjamin has spent the last four and a half years as a Milky Way photographer, he has visited 26 countries on his journey including Canada, Iran, Switzerland, UAE and Iceland and has lost count of the total miles.
The most he has travelled in one day is 3,200 miles to Iran, most of this was by air 2,577 miles and included a 24 mile hike.
“Light pollution has many downsides, it disrupts nature and the wild life and also wastes the resources of our planet whilst damaging it,” he said.
“Where light pollution is strong such as in cities, the stars sometimes are barely even visible.
“Imagine all that beauty in the night sky, but we can’t see it because of the artificial lighting we have put everywhere.
“Of course the sky is still above them but it’s just not visible, which is a shame and in my opinion a violation of our rights as human beings.
“We should all have access to the beauties of our night sky. It’s therapeutic and calming and reminds of who we are and where we come from.
“It would be a huge benefit if one day the night sky was taken into consideration to be protected just like National parks. We would save money, energy, wildlife and in return we have this stunning view of the night sky to enjoy every evening.
Benjamin’s favourite locations to shoot are Jordan and Iran, but Jordan might just top the list for him, he uses a Canon R, it’s a mirrorless system as it is the best for capturing the night sky.
“I’ve spent the last four and a half years learning how to plan my shots. Planning involves knowing the moon cycle as it’s optimal to have no moon in the sky,” said Benjamin.
“Second is the light pollution map, I have to search for dark skies.
“Third I need to check the weather as clouds block the viewing of the Milky Way.
“And last I need to know the position of the Milky Way and it’s orientation depending on the time of the year, and this determines whether it will be in the right direction of my subject or foreground.
“Normally the moments leading up to my imaging consist of preparation of my equipment ( camera and clothing) ; it all depends on the location.
“Some require flying and hours of driving and hiking through hard conditions hot and cold.
“Imagine standing 12 hours in -25 at high altitude, or hiking through the dunes deep in the desert avoiding snakes and scorpions all to capture an image.
“It’s quite rewarding when you succeed after putting such efforts.”
Benjamin explained how be came to be obsessed with the night sky and what keeps him shooting.
“Milky Way and night photography is the reason I first began photography,” he said.
“After spending countless nights on the porch with my wife star gazing and viewing meteor showers, I came up with the crazy idea of getting a camera and going out to capture images of the night sky.
“And that’s just what I did, I got an old camera from my father and went out to take a picture of just a bunch of stars and I was amazed.
“I didn’t even know the Milky Way or such night sky objects as galaxies were even a thing at the time but once I found out, I was hooked and I never looked back, from then on I was always looking up.
“I’m obsessed with the night sky, and crazy about it. Doing what you love is a luxury most don’t have and I’m very grateful for finding my purpose in this universe.
“It’s always a rewarding feeling once I capture my images. I’m sort of in a trance and in the zone when taking my images, almost as if I’m high.
“There’s no feeling quite like it. I guess that’s the feeling when you’re very passionate about something in life.
“Some people are amazed and blown away by my images and others are confused and left in disbelief, I guess it’s normal if you have never spent a night out under a dark sky and seen the Milky Way before with your own eyes.”