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A starry sky above a darkened landscape with tents

Kavan Chay’s internationally recognised photo featuring the Milky Way is attracting plenty of attention.

Kavan Chay’s stunning nightscape photos don’t tend to stay in the dark.

The Otago Medical School Teaching Fellow has had one of his images recognised in the 2024 Milky Way Photographer of the Year competition. This annual competition, run by travel photography blog ‘Capture the Atlas’, features images of the galaxy taken from around the world.

Kavan Chay profile
Kavan Chay, a Teaching Fellow at the Otago Medical School, says nightscapes provide space for reflection.

This year, judges chose 25 images from more than 5,000 entrants – including Kavan’s ‘Starlight Therapy’, taken in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in February.

A keen hiker, Kavan says his ascent to the Sefton Bivouac hut in the park was a struggle with 20-25kg of gear, but he managed a respectable time and enjoyed some great daylight views. After a “breathtaking” night under the stars, he took the featured photo around 5am.

One of three Kiwi showcased in the competition, he is thrilled to have the photo recognised globally – it has also appeared on a wide range of websites including the BBC, Daily Mail and Forbes.

He didn’t take the photo with the competition in mind, but says, “It’s really cool being on the world stage with a lot of your peers who you look up to because you love their work.”

It’s not the first time Kavan’s work has been recognised globally – he has also featured in other photography competitions, including Capture the Atlas’s 2022 Northern Lights Photographer of the Year.

Kavan says he’s not a professional photographer, but he started taking his hobby more seriously a couple of years ago. He then realised he had “accidentally fallen into a niche area” and that nightscape photography was his passion.

Kavan says he is drawn to nightscapes because “they really help you scale things down”.

“It’s a really reflective space, without the noise and chatter. It’s a quiet time, which I really enjoy. In terms of pace, everything slows down.”

He says night photography is possibly a more technical genre than some other areas of photography, with a lot of post-processing, but there is a common skillset.

Kavan says Aotearoa New Zealand’s dark skies, particularly in the South Island, are the envy of many international nightscape photographers.

-  Kōrero by Andrea Jones, Team Leader, Divisional Communications

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