Working the Dream

October 27, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

As I mentioned somewhere on the site, I found a social media article asking what Job did you wanted to do as a kid, when you grew up? When I sat back and thought about that question I realised it was quite simple, either an Astronomer or a Photographer. As luck would have it I have made a name for myself in Astronomy and get paid to photograph weddings and events. I even get paid to teach photography. Exactly what my younger self wanted.

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When I was 8 I fell in with Astronomy. One evening I saw a bright star next to the Moon and wondered what it was. My brother had received a telescope for Christmas the year before and while I wasn't allowed to use it, He wasn't there to say no. I set the scope up and after a while hunting I found the Moon and it looked amazing. The surface was pockmarked with craters of various sizes spaced between large flat slightly darker regions. One bright crater with lines running away from it really caught my eye. Most of the craters were found near the spot where the Moon appeared to "stop". I couldn't see the rest of the disk of the Moon but I do remember seeing a few bright stars just beyond the Moon. I now know this is called the terminator, the region where night and day meet.

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Over the course of the Lunar cycle, you can watch this line move night to night with the eye. Once I had my fill of the Moon I wanted to see what that bright star looked like. It took me some time to find it, but once I did I was hooked. The star turned out to be Saturn, the sight of that planet amazed and enthralled me. You could see the rings quite clearly as well as a small star right next to it. At the time I didn't know it but that star was one of Saturn's satellites, Titan. From then on everything was about Astronomy, age 8 and I knew that the stars were like out Sun just much further away. I found I could see the 2 main cloud belts of Jupiter, its 4 moons and an occasional glimpse of the enigmatic red spot. Now some 45 years later and I can still spend an evening just lying back and staring up at the stars. My knowledge and understanding of our place in the Universe may have improved but my sense of awe and wonder hasn't changed. A lot has changed over the 45 years, I purchased my first large scope in 1991, a 20" Galaxy mirror which took about 3 months to build the scope around the optics. More recently I became the custodian of an 18 and 25" Dobsonian scopes for 3 Rivers Foundation Australia. In 2007 I received one of the highest honours in amateur astronomy circles, The Lone Star Observers award at the prestigious Texas Star Party. I have watched 2 Solar Eclipses, seen the Mushroom cloud from a comet that crashed into Jupiter, and been among the first people to see the light from a Qasar about 10 Billion Lightyears away. My main achievement is the discovery of a Planetary Nebula, Murrell 1 or Mu1 in the constellation of Lupus in 2004. One of only a few people to have their name associated with an astronomical object. With the discovery of Mu1 my first childhood dream had been achieved, a discovery with my name on it.

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By the age of 13 not only was I heavily into Astronomy but had taken an interest in Photography. My sister Kerrie was doing a diploma in the arts which included a Photography component. She had a Cosina CT1 for her course which she had by then completed and was looking to purchase her first serious camera, a Nikon. I inherited the Cosina from my sister and started to try and learn everything I could. It didn't take long for me to combine my love of Photography and Astronomy, first taking star trail images in long exposures and finally graduating to bolting the camera to the side of my telescope and hand guiding the telescope and camera for guided wide-field exposures of the Milky Way.

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With help from my sister and a local Pro Photographer, Laurie Andrews, I started to learn how to capture images with varying success. Laurie suggested I write the settings as I take the images in a notebook for later reference, marking which images I liked with a tick. After a while, I started to see a correlation between how changing the aperture and shutter affected the image. Laurie also taught me how to develop and print my own B&W images. I purchased my first Nikon an EM in 1987 and have shot Nikon ever since. I stayed with film till 2005 when I purchased my first DSLR the Nikon D70. In Early 2010 I purchased my first D3s, a Pro body DSLR and the first camera I could finally catch a nightscape shot with the Milky Way. I had already started to shoot Weddings with my D300 but the D3s seemed to open the door to working with a camera. Not long after purchasing the camera, I started to shoot the entertainment images for Harrigans Irish Pub and the Hunter Valley Gardens. Weddings started to take off and by 2013 I was able to start making Andrew Murrell Photography my full-time work. I left Winning Appliances after 21 years in September 2013 and started Andrew Murrell Photography full time on the 6th of October 2013. As many of you know I started to shoot sunrise every day and by October 2020 I have caught over 2,500 sunrises.

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In 2015 I found that I needed a little more human interaction. Photography is a lot of sitting in front of a computer. After speaking to my Miriam my wife, I decided to look for a few hours of work where I would have interactions with people. At that time John called me from John Ralph Camera House asking if I would be interested in a few days of work selling. I jumped at the chance. Not only do I help people make great choices with their own gear, I get to play with the new camera's and Lenses as they come in. In 2018 I won the Camera House photographer of the year competition.

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My weddings number in the 100's with locations ranging from Paraonella Park in North Queensland, Gundagai NSW, The Hunter Valley and even Parramatta Gaol.

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I can say after 15 years of shooting weddings and nearly 7 years full time I still love what I do. I couldn't think of doing another job and I think my teenage self would approve. 

Now in 2020, I run a series of Workshops aimed at combining Photography with Astronomy. I am being paid to do the things I love the most with people who have a similar urge to learn that drove me all those years ago.

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What could be better? 


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