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On his first time out with a new DSLR, Matt Robinson captured a stunning image of a cloud display that went on to earn him a photography award. We caught up with him to find out more…


Behind the Image: Matt Robinson, Sunderland Noctilucent Cloud Display

Image by Matt Robinson


When Matt Robinson headed down to his local beach to properly figure out this fancy new Canon DSLR he’d just bought, he hardly could have expected that any of the shots he took would go on to place in a prestigious international photography competition. It was therefore probably a bit of a shock when one went on to do exactly that.

Matt’s image placed runner-up in the ‘Skyscapes’ category of Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year, being pipped to the top spot by the image that would go on to win the entire competition. Not bad for your first week’s work!

We’re huge fans of Matt’s image, and were really pleased when he agreed to tell us more about it. Read on for the story behind the shot.


On the location…


“I live then minutes away from the spot where I took this shot – it’s my local beach, and it’s where I go to enjoy the quiet and the scenery. I am quite often found down there taking shots of the sunrise.”

“The image was taken on the 7th July 2014, at around 3am, from Roker Beach in Sunderland. Sunderland is my hometown, it’s where I was raised, so I’m extremely proud that an astrophotography image from there has been given an award.”


On taking the shot…


“This was my first attempt at astrophotography – I had bought the camera a week before this photo was taken. I spent two hours taking shots of the display, setting up my tripod in different positions and using various foregrounds, but this image seemed to stand out.”

“The main challenge was working out how my settings affected my image, noticing that the ISO increased sensitivity and sometimes resulted in unwanted noise. This was all new to me, and this was the night I spent time getting to know my kit and what I could do with it.”

“This image has proven that you don’t need to travel to far-flung destinations with expensive kit to get involved in astrophotography. You just need to learn about the subject you’re taking shots of, and then get out there in the thick of it and take shots of whatever you think is beautiful. Then you share them, show the world, and inspire others.”


On placing in the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition


“Shocked. I am still in shock. I keep looking back at my pictures from the awards to confirm it actually happened. I never once believed the image would do this well but I am immensely proud it. Hopefully I can build on this and do better next year. The image that won my category took the overall prize and it was a spectacular image of a total solar eclipse from Svalbard in Norway – to think an image from Sunderland came runner-up to that still makes me smile.”


On the future


“Next for me in photography is to inspire more. I will be on the lookout for more astronomical events to inspire others with – eclipses, aurora, noctilucent clouds, meteor showers. The list goes on! The universe lays on wonderful events for us for free, and I believe it’s important to make the most of them, and capture them in an image that encourages others to do the same.”


The technical details


Behind the Image: Matt Robinson, Sunderland Noctilucent Cloud Display


Camera: Matt used (and still uses) a Canon EOS 1100D and the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens that came with it.

Settings: 20sec, f/4.5, ISO 400



See more images from Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year


About the Photographer

Matt Robinson is an astrophotographer based in Sunderland. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook, where prints of his images are available to buy. 


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