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There are a lot of thoughts floating around about the purpose of photography. One fairly common idea is that photography is a way of seeing. We photograph things in order to examine the subtleties of what we see, to think about how we see our surroundings, and ultimately to discover something about our place in the world. That may or may not ring true for all you photographers out there, but it directly applies to the photographic work of Tyler Inman. Through capturing images of the Milky Way Galaxy, Inman is asking big questions about both himself and the universe around him. He’s also finding connection and tranquility in the vastness of the natural world.
Inman has been drawn to the cosmos since he was a child. “I had a constellation globe next to my bed as a night light,” he recalls. “I would stare out the window trying to figure out where the heck we belong in all that mess up there.” Youthful pondering gave way to more concrete issues as Inman began to encounter harsher realities in his adult life, joining the army and serving on several tours in Iraq. After losing multiple friends and nearly his own life, there were forces massive forces in his life and that he struggled to comprehend.
“I turned to science to understand more about life, death and how it relates to the cosmos,” he says. After seeing a long exposure shot in National Geographic, his interest in night sky photography took off, and it wasn’t long before he had acquired some new gear and set off on his first Milky Way shoot. Though he still had a lot to learn about the technical side of shooting distant stars, he was hooked on the adventure, the planning, and the contemplation that went into each photograph. Seeking these immersive, thoughtful journeys into the natural world has led him on all sorts of late night adventures around the coast of Maine.
So has Inman gained some insight into his existential questions? As with many such endeavors, the answers have often tended towards ineffable feelings more than specific thoughts. In his own words: “When I’m under the MW I’m grounded, I’m at peace, I’m in nature, but yet I feel as if I’m nowhere at all. It’s truly humbling; you realize your insignificance real fast, and your ego melts away. A lot of people could use a similar experience.”
Noted. Next time you’re under a clear night sky, remember to look up and just let it wash over you for a moment. Taking a moment to appreciate the vastness of the universe might make you feel a bit more at home in your little corner of it.
Inman’s equipment notes, which he shared freely, saying “ahhhh yes, the golden question everyone wants to know…”:
- Lens: 16mm f2.8 Nikkor “As sharp as possible lens and as wide as possible.”
- Camera: Nikon D500
- Settings: Shutter speed 30 seconds. ISO 3200. Manual mode, shooting RAW files.
- Helpful App: “Sky Guide. It shows the constellations and also a real time interactive image of where the milky way is in the sky. HUGE helper when trying to figure out if a location will work or not.”