From a degree in Chemical Physics to a career as a chef, Alex Bailey’s orbit has been a curious one, coming full circle when he signed up to study Astronomy at UCL. His sublime photographs of the Moon are achieved with nothing more elaborate than a ten-inch telescope and an iPhone. We caught up with him to talk apertures, Newton and the Lunar terminator.
As part of my Astronomy course I visited the university’s observatory in North London. Using professional telescopes and being shown the night sky by an expert changed everything for me. I decided to buy a telescope. I went for the biggest aperture I could afford – a ten-inch Dobsonian type. The principles of this telescope are very similar to those used by Sir Isaac Newton. Being completely manual, I realised that astro-photography was not going to be an option. The Moon, however, was a different proposition.
I had an iPhone and a steady hand, how hard could it be to capture an image of this object by simply placing the phone against the telescope’s eyepiece? Not as easy as I first thought, it transpired. But with a little perseverance some positive results started to appear. Ultimately, I was able to capture stunning images of the Moon at reasonable magnification, and at no expense.
As the nights progressed, the different phases of the Moon came and went. I thought that it might be a fun project to try to capture the Moon in as many of its phases as weather and time would permit. To see the Moon change from one night to the next as it waxes and wanes, for new lunar landscapes to become clear, was a true delight to observe.
The terminator, the edge of the Moon where the shadow falls, brings the craters, seas and mountains into maximum relief. I don’t really have a favourite phase, but I would like the viewer to be able to get an idea of how the Moon changes and just how many wonders can be seen from one night to the next.
Some of the most challenging pictures to take are of the Moon at its most crescent-shaped. As an object it is incredibly bright against a black background, and the iPhone with a fast lens really struggles to cope with the glare.
For me, the most successful images are those that reveal details I hadn’t even been aware of at the time of taking the photo. I love how sharp and crisp the results can be from using something as humble as a camera phone.