Travel trend: Why Astro Tourism is growing among domestic travellers in India? | Travel

Travel enthusiasts, who crave a holistic astronomy experience to give voice to their curiosity about the vast skies beyond our stratosphere, can gain an integrated astronomy experience through Astro Tourism, a trend that has seen an increasing number of travellers who are keen to get to experience activities such as stargazing, sun observations, stargazing parties with friends, experiential science activities and much more. The spike in Astro Tourism could be a result of the post pandemic world where many people are looking for less crowded and nature driven experiences or the offer of a sense of discovery as when you look up at the sky, you may see a big white moon or two bright stars that never twinkle but when you look at them through the telescope, the moon suddenly has massive features (craters, flat grey surfaces, highlands, etc.) of varied colours and the two bright stars are no longer stars – one is Jupiter, a big disc with a giant red dot on it (which in itself is a storm three times the size of the Earth) and the other is Saturn, with many rings around it.

You literally cannot believe your eyes and you realise that the universe is so much more complex than what you see, with so much left to discover hence, a number of resorts and hotel chains are now offering stargazing as one of the activities for their guests to treat them to a flashback to their childhood. For a large number of people, the last time they looked at the skies and enjoyed the stars was when they were kids and ever since they turned into adults, they moved to a city and neither got the opportunity nor the time to experience the cosmos but looking up at the skies lets them relive their childhood.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Paul Savio, CEO and Co-Founder of Starscapes, revealed that Astro Tourism is seeing a spurt for three reasons:

(1) With higher disposable incomes and a more liberal view of living a wholesome life, people are on the lookout for new and exciting experiences that are beyond the usual offerings available. Anything new piques a huge interest, and today people are more willing to try them out than before.

(2) Millennials have, due to access to the internet in their formative years, a much more global exposure to life and career than previous generations. As parents, this demographic is open to encouraging their kids to look at radical career options, and therefore get exposed to such experiences that could kindle an interest in the kids becoming astrophysicists, aerospace engineers or even astronauts.

(3) Space is in the news, with NASA going back to the moon (Artemis), India sending humans to space (Gaganyaan) and space tourism kicking off with private enterprise (SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin). So it is currently top of mind.

He shared, “Lots of people, especially in metros, are beginning to step out to nearby dark sky locations to get a glimpse of the starry sky. Apart from the usual suspects (Ladakh, Spiti, Kodaikanal, Kutch, Coorg, Jaisalmer, etc.), myriad sites exist within 2 hours of all metros which can give a great dark sky experience. However, daytime astronomy as a concept is slowly picking up too.”

According to Neeraj Ladia, CEO of Space Arcade, there is a lot of interest in Astro tourism all over India. He said, “One major reason is social media. More and more people are showing people where they can travel. Places which were accessible for very few people earlier, like mountaineering and trekking, are now common among people. There are videos, reels on social media accounts where there is a lot of conversation around offbeat activities such as astro tourism. People have become more aware of these kinds of things. Astro tourism has gained more popularity post lockdown mainly because people want to be closer to nature and want to do something new and offbeat. Similarly, like wildlife photography/nature photography, people are developing an interest in astro photography too.”

Talking about some of the common activities under astro tourism, Paul Savio highlighted stargazing, sun observation, astrophotography (where you learn how to photograph the night sky and even deep sky objects using different cameras and mounts), astro tours (trips to dark sky locations for an enhanced night sky experience), workshops and activities to understand different phenomena associated with astrophysics and space exploration.

For a person who has never experienced astro tourism, Neeraj Ladia suggested stargazing as one of the most exciting activities to do. Secondly, he recommended, “If it is a starry clear night, guided telescope view of planets and deep sky objects along with an astrophotography session can be quite exciting. With astro tourism, people have an opportunity to see and learn the names of the stars and constellations. They can also go much deeper into understanding these concepts.”

Paul Savio concluded, “Astro Tourism is the sunrise segment of the experiential tourism industry. Massive interest is being shown by luxury resorts across India to incorporate astro-experiences in the bouquet of offerings for their guests. Today, the customer base is overwhelmingly of people who are looking for a new experience and not necessarily an astronomy experience. We expect this to flip in the next 3 years – people will travel with an intent to have an astronomy experience. This will be driven by the springing up of dark sky parks (the astronomy equivalent of national parks) and other dark sky places equipped to service this interest.”

British Ecological Society photography competition 2022 announces winners

A close-up of pink-tipped daisy petals, a terrestrial hermit crab using a plastic bottle cap as its new home and a steenbok’s desperate battle for survival were among the winning and highly commended images in the individual categories.

Roberto Garcia Roa, a conservation photographer and evolutionary biologist, took the winning photo of a tree frog and spoke about the threats the animal faces.

“This image reveals the beauty of nature hidden in Tambopata, (Peru), a region that is currently threatened by gold mining,” he said in a news release. “It is paradoxical to see the eyes of this frog as small golden pearls, because in reality, the true treasure lies in ensuring the protection of this area and its inhabitants.”

All the winning and highly commended images “celebrate the diversity of ecology, capturing flora and fauna from across the globe,” the news release said.

The photographs display each of nature’s many faces — some photos are tranquil, some restless, some wild, some entangled with the human world.

“Locking eyes with this year’s winning image, I’m impressed by how it captures in such exquisite detail the sometimes-otherworldly beauty of life on Earth,” Yadvinder Malhi, president of the British Ecological Society, said in the news release.

“Altogether, these photographs display the incredible breadth and beauty of biodiversity. The winners have done an excellent job of capturing ecology in intriguing and thoughtful ways, presenting a powerful reminder of the many joys and intricacies of nature.”

A selection of the winning and highly commended images can be viewed in the gallery above.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award 2022 shortlisted images

(CNN) — A playful polar bear cub, two nuzzling red foxes and golden snub-nosed monkeys huddled together are among the shortlisted images for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award 2022.

The pictures “spotlight important stories of nature from across the globe” and were chosen from 38,575 entries across 93 countries, according to a news release from London’s Natural History Museum, which runs the annual competition.

Through powerful photography, the museum hopes to inspire people to engage with nature and help to protect the planet.

Some photos in the shortlist highlight the threats to wildlife, such as one taken by Eladio Fernandez of fishermen in the Dominican Republic catching endangered glass eels during the night.

Another of golden snub-nosed monkeys huddling together in extreme winter cold in China raises awareness of the endangered species threatened by deforestation.

Dutch photographer Auke-Florian Hiemstra was shortlisted for his image showing a fish trapped in a discarded rubber glove, found in the canals of Leiden.

“The photo confronts us with our throw-away society,” Hiemstra told CNN on Wednesday. “I would like to dedicate this photo to all our clean-up volunteers and litter pickers worldwide, who try to prevent the impact of plastic on our wildlife.”

“Humanity is addicted to plastic, but animals have to face the consequences,” he added. “Hopefully, the image makes people think about their own behavior.”

Members of the public can vote for their favorite of the 25 images using interactive screens at an exhibition at the museum. The top five will be displayed online, alongside category winners from the competition that were chosen by judges and announced earlier this year.

“Voters will have a challenge to choose from this stunning range of photographs which tell vital stories and connect people to issues across the planet,” said Douglas Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum, in the news release.

Voting is open until February 2 and the winner will be part of an exhibition that closes on July 2.

I’ve discovered how to have a luxury holiday without the guilt

One minute you’re at Inverlochy Castle, guzzling fizz beneath crystal chandeliers and eating dishes devised by Michel Roux Jr on furniture gifted by the former king of Norway. The next, you’re e-biking into a soggy smirr, trying to work out where Ben Nevis has gone. Yes, this was a trip of contrasts, but – surprisingly – no compromises.

Five-star travel can come with a high price tag, for both you and the environment, so for some time I’d wondered whether I could have a luxurious holiday without totally blowing my carbon budget. Scotland seemed an obvious choice if I was going to put my plan into action: in 2021, VisitScotland became the world’s first national tourist board to sign up to the Tourism Declares climate initiative, and the country is gunning for net-zero by 2045. 

Furthermore, my tailor-made, carefully thought-out small-group trip, organised by Wilderness Scotland, would combine castle stays and gourmet dinners as well as activities designed to connect with nature; it would also have an accurate carbon score, worked out via the company’s robust labelling scheme, with the impact offset via carbon mitigation projects.

My mission began aboard the Caledonian Sleeper. I didn’t sleep much, but didn’t care, happily cocooned in my cabin, snug and eco-smug as half of Britain slipped by outside. We rolled into Perth and, soon after, into Murrayshall Hotel. This baronial stone pile, dating to 1664, emerged beyond towering trees and golf tees in the mist-hung November dawn. 

The 10 best compact cameras, according to National Geographic

The OM System (aka Olympus cameras) just released the flagship OM-1 camera, a major upgrade from the beloved Olympus E-M1 series.   

The OM-1 has a similar layout to the E-M1 series but it packs a super fast stacked sensor for high-speed stills shooting at up to 10 FPS mechanical and a blazing 120 FPS electronic. An updated sensor brings better low light performance and subject detection autofocus algorithms that can detect cars, planes, animals, and humans.  

This model also has hand-held high-res shooting (you can take 50 MP images out of a burst of 16 frames) and the Live-ND filter, which simulates a neutral-density filter. In addition, computational photography for handheld shooting emulates some tripod-based long exposure shooting (for example, a blurred waterfall). The pro line lenses have a high-quality build, integrated lens hoods, smooth zoom and focus rings, and round bokeh visualization (background blur). 

The OM-1’s lens options make it ideal for birders and wildlife watchers. The new 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO gives you a lightweight 300-800mm range and an integrated teleconverter up to 1000mm handheld. Tom tested this lens/camera combo and had a blast photographing birds in his neighbourhood without his arms getting too tired. For more: OM Systems  

Tip: The best lenses include the Olympus 12-100mm F/4 IS PRO (24-200mm), 12-24mm f/2.8 II PRO (24-80mm f/2.8 equivalent), 40-150mm F/2.8 PRO (80-300mm pro zoom), 7-14mm PRO (wide-angle zoom), 300mm F/4 IS PRO (600mm F4 equivalent), 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO (300-800mm f/4.5).

Fujifilm X-S10  

The Masterclasses 2022: 10 practical tips to help you succeed as a travel photographer

7. Do your preparation and research to line up the best shots

Our experts agreed that great travel photography normally needs hours of research and preparation ahead of a trip, whether you’re looking for the best locations or trying to secure an all-important interview.

“For magic to happen, most of the time we need to be in the right place at the right time with the right contact,” explained Yulia. “There’s a lot of research that goes into that, as well as logistical elements like setting up interviews,” she said. “That’s where tourism boards can be very helpful, because they’re the people who are most knowledgeable about a given area.”

8. Deliver a well-presented final product

For our panellists, much of the hard work comes at the end of a trip. From editing images to ensuring you’ve met your client’s brief, it’s important to think how you can create a final product that really stands out.

“You want to keep your final board [of images] very tight — think about what will catch the eye and stand out,” said Francesco. “[Aim for] 15 to 20 pictures, up to a maximum of 30, and put these all together in one single file — ideally a PDF. Make sure you start well and finish well, with dynamic presentation that will keep the interest of the editor.”

9. Stay humble and keep learning

A recurring theme across each travel photography session was the need to keep learning and developing your skills. “Be humble,” advised Lauryn. “There’s always someone doing better work than you, and you should always keep learning. The most important thing for me in the past decade is to keep learning on the job.”

Annapurna echoed Lauryn’s advice: “If you are passionate about photography, you naturally look at a lot of other people’s work,” she said. “It’s really nice to get ideas about different ways to use light and different ways to shoot stories.”

10. Be persistent and never give up

Finally, our experts emphasised the need to be persistent and patient as you build your travel photography career.

“This can be a really long game — you have to be patient,” said Yulia. “People often start pitching and stop when they don’t see immediate results. Those of us who are still in the industry are here because we didn’t stop pitching our stories and sharing our pictures. If we can do it, you can, too. If this is your passion, you just have to keep going.”

The Masterclasses by National Geographic Traveller (UK) will return in 2023.

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A passion for photography and flight

Perth aviation photographer Richard Kreider has taken a stunning image of a Qantas 787 after lift-off from Perth on its non-stop journey to London.

The Qantas 787, VH-ZND “Emily” operated QF9 from Perth to London on October 29.

Born at a US Air Force base in France during the Cold War years, Mr Kreider jokes that his first breath probably had a liberal dose of fumes from aircraft engines.

And that exposure continued, living under the flight path to Heathrow in his teenage years and he joined the Air Training Corps.

Camera IconCathay Pacific A350 lands through fog at Perth Airport. Credit: RICHARD KREIDER

Aviation lives alongside his passion for soccer — he is a member of the Football Hall of Fame WA and part of the FFA National Panel of Football Historians.

Mr Kreider says that night flight photography is a real adventure.

“It’s the thrill of the chase and the accounting for the contrasting weather conditions such as rain and fog,” he says.

Camera IconEmirates 777 about to land in Perth as an almost full moon seemingly looks on. Credit: Richard Kreider

Resolving the technical issues of correct lighting, focus and framing are testing factors of this challenging photography.

“When all of these factors align and a great shot is achieved, then getting up at 2am is worthwhile,” he says.

The results are more than worthwhile, with many of Mr Kreider’s night pictures being used across the globe.

Some of Mr Kreider’s most popular images are of an Emirates Boeing 777 framed by the moon, a Virgin Australia Regional Airlines Fokker 100 landing in rain and a Cathay Pacific Airways A350-900 landing in fog.

Perth Airport is also helping aviation enthusiasts with more viewing areas planned in conjunction with the building on the new parallel runway expected later this decade.

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