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  • Earth's Shadow
    Earth's Shadow photo by Kent Reinhard  
  • Kent Reinhard

    Kent Reinhard, Astronomy and Physics InstructorKentReinhard-web

    Kent is a master photographer of natural phenomena with photos featured in both Volume 16 and the upcoming Volume 17. As an Astronomy and Physics Instructor would, Kent offers us thorough and rational explanations for his crazy fun talent.

    Illuminations: You have a talent for photography. How have you nurtured this talent over the years?

    Kent: I first became interested in photography when I was a little kid and saw pictures of the night sky or astronomical objects. I soon realized I was hooked on astrophotography. I picked up my first 35 mm camera in graduate school along with a set of instructional photography books at a garage sale. Since that time, I have collected three sets of photographic encyclopedias, eight books on astrophotography, and six different cameras. With the development of electronic cameras, I have been able to experiment much more and hone the skills of taking photographs. I always try to carry some sort of camera with me and take advantage of events that just happen. I pay close attention to how images are composed when I see them posted on the Internet, in books, and in National Geographic. Each year, I try different techniques to see what works and what doesn’t, and I frame each picture with that information.

    I:  A wonderfully disciplined way to learn your craft! As an Astronomy and Physics Instructor, some of your favorite photographic subjects feature weather and atmosphere. Why is it important to you to capture nature’s phenomena in photos?

    K:  Most visual astronomy requires clear viewing conditions, so it’s important to monitor the sky conditions. As I continually watch the sky, I become more aware of how the atmosphere is in continuous motion and always changing. I have always been interested in severe or odd weather conditions. I enjoy trying to capture these fleeting events, as some of them last only minutes; I’ve found that people are interested in seeing these images, so I’ve begun to share them.

    I:  Your “Lunar Eclipse,” featured in Vol. 16, was an example of a time lapse photograph. Tell me how you went about creating this image.

    K:  The “Lunar Eclipse” image is a collection of three different images taken over a period of two hours. To get these images, I had to remove my telescope from its tracking mount and replace it with a large telephoto lens. The telescope drive allows me to take a longer exposure without smearing the image of the Moon. When the Moon goes into the shadow, it gets very dim, which requires tracking with the drive, and this allows the image to draw out the red color of the Moon. After taking many images, I reassembled three of them onto one image with each one being in their correct relative position. This combined image helped outline the Earth’s shadow that the Moon was passing into and out of for the eclipse.

    I:  Well, thanks for that explanation, but I think we’ll leave the time lapse photography to you! Is there something you’ve always wanted to photograph that you haven’t been able to?

    K:  I have always wanted to photograph aurora. I have seen them quite a few times but never had a camera with me that would pick them up. Living this far south of the main area where aurora are visible makes it harder to catch them. I have also wanted to do some time lapse images of the night sky and turn them into a short movie. I am currently in the process of trying to photograph a good meteor shower, so I hope to be successful with that soon.

    I:  How exciting! It’s interesting—many people don’t equate science with creativity. How does practicing creativity as a photographer enhance your roles as teacher and scientist?

    K:  To be a good scientist and educator, you have to be very creative. Creativity expresses itself differently depending on what you are trying to accomplish, but it usually requires a common process. Experts who study what creativity requires have learned that no matter how it is eventually expressed, in science or art, the entire brain is used when you are being creative. It is very hard to distinguish between a scientist’s and an artist’s creativity when you start looking at what is actually involved. You will often find scientists who do highly creative tasks in their spare time.

    I:  Good to know, Kent! What advice would you give other photographers who would like to capture natural phenomena?

    K:  It seems with today’s technology, it is more difficult to be aware of your surroundings. Many times, I see people walking along looking at their phones and missing what is going on around them. I have been outside photographing cloud events at school, and people have had no idea what was going on. They did not look up until they were ready to run into me, and then they looked surprised that anything was happening. I would encourage people to become aware of their surroundings as they live the day.

    I:  Excellent advice for all of us. Speaking of creativity, why do you think a publication like Illuminations matters to a college like SCC?

    K:  This is a wonderful opportunity for people to share their talents with others. There are different outlets that people use to share their talents, but to have it published in a book is a rare opportunity. The books are always done well and printed in a professional way that makes the work more special. The quality of the book’s content says great things about the people who contribute and the college that supports it.

    I:  Agreed! And finally, the silly question of the day: What strange phobia do you have?

    K:  This is one I have to think about…. The answer is that I have none. I remember growing up and watching the original Star Trek television series with the Vulcan character Spock. I think it would be interesting to see how he would approach the irrational fear of something. I have always tried to think through the process of things and live my life with the outcome. Somehow, I have been able to get rid of the irrational fear of things. When I was in high school, I was involved in a large gasoline explosion that put me in the hospital for four weeks. When I arrived home, I went into the house, took out the trash, and started it on fire so I would not be afraid of it. That is how I try to treat phobias. Maybe the closest thing I have to a phobia is the fear of having to watch eight continuous hours of Dora the Explorer with my niece.

    I:  Hah! Spoken like a true scientist. Thanks, Kent!