I'm in awe of the night sky

"The best place is that which exists during a power cut."

Khalil Azar; Kfardebian, Lebanon
Khalil Azar; Kfardebian

When I read about astronomy, time flies, but when I observe it, time stands still. 

It stood still when I came across The Night Collective on Facebook. Their name alone gave me chills, and when I clicked from photo to photo, the chills heightened. 

As the name suggests, The Night Collective is a community of photographers who meet up to photograph the beauty of the night.

The Night Collective group photo
Photograph by Gaby Nehme
Within my duration in Lebanon I've seen a few stars here and there. Sadly not much, but I suppose I haven't been venturing beyond the light.

I spoke to one of the organizers, Khalil Azar, about the abyss we call the dark. 

How was The Night Collective founded?

Khalil Azar: The Night Collective, as a night photography group, was founded by a group of Brazilian friends eager to discover the city in 2009. Meetings were often in the streets of the city, shooting cityscapes, portraits of people working late into the night, life outside the glitter of pubs and clubs. We evolved to concentrate on rural scenes as the situation in the city became too tense for night photography in general, security fears by those we shoot being the major pretext. It was a pretty fruitful shift though, the clear night skies in certain parts of Lebanon are pretty unique, and that allowed us to contribute more to documenting celestial events, from a local perspective. It is currently run by Tarek El Wazzi, Karim Bou Karim, Gaby Nehme and Khalil Azar.

Khalil Azar; Jounieh, Lebanon
Khalil Azar; Jounieh
Antoine Faissal, hills of Northern Lebanon
Antoine Faissal; hills of North Lebanon 

Tarek El Wazzi; Zaarour, Lebanon
Tarek El Wazzi; Zaarour 
Elie Nehme; Batroun, Lebanon
Elie Nehme; Batroun

How does daytime photography compare to that of nighttime? 

KA: There is more control in nighttime photography, lighting-wise at least; that larger degree of control leaves ample space for expressing one's self. Night photography is a slower process. Most exposures require multiple trials, sometimes in a scene where your eyes can barely see anything. That allows the picture to be heavier, and maybe more valuable in the eyes of the photographer. The stars, the night sky, are not seen during the day, there is satisfaction in capturing phenomena difficult to shoot normally (e.g. the Milky Way, split-second shooting stars, lightning).

Karim Bechara Photography; Kfardebian, Lebanon
Karim Bechara; Kfardebian 
George Michel Boutros, Bcharre
Karim Boukarim

Do you have sudden meetings depending on celestial events?

KA: We do organize meetings on short notice sometimes. The collective is more than just physical meetings; it's about a network of information exchange, critique, and a shared passion, whether the shootings are done individually or in a group setting.

What's the most remarkable celestial event you've witnessed in Lebanon?

KA: As a collective, one of the most memorable is that of a bright bollide (large and bright meteor) shattering into many pieces above our heads. We were hiking our way to a shooting location on Jabal Moussa, 30 or so photographers, none were able to capture it due to both the unbelief, the sudden nature of the event, and the circumstance - us climbing. It highlighted even more, how difficult it is to get a proper night image, in comparison to that of a day.

Georges Michel Boutros; Bcharre, Lebanon
Georges Michel Boutros; Bcharre 
Khalil Azar
Gaby Nehme; Lebanon
Gaby Nehme

After 5 years of The Night Collective, where have you found to be the best place to observe and photograph the sky, uninterrupted?

KA: Lebanon is graced with a large number of clear nights, but there is no clear awareness about the importance of dark skies; light pollution in and around the city diminish both our enjoyment of the skies, and the quality of the images we can attain. The best place is that which exists during a power cut. An alternative, is Oyoun Orghosh. Impeccable.

Charbel Abi Semaan; Laqlouq
Charbel Abi Semaan; Laqlouq
To shoot with The Night Collective, you can request to join their Facebook Group.

You can also keep up with their Facebook Page. 

All images on Bananapook are copyrighted material and all rights are reserved to the respective artists.


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