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A Journey With Santa Fe: Capturing The Night Sky

The night sky, which only seems black, is actually colorful. This is because the celestial bodies, such as the stars and the moon, light up the night sky by revealing their own individuality in different colors.

Have you ever looked up at the night sky? The dark night sky has a variety of looks beyond your imagination. It is thanks to the moon, stars, and the Milky Way that color the night sky with their hues and lights. There is a man who embraces the charm of the night sky while living a busy life. Here’s the story of Cho Nam-Woong, taking pictures of the night sky.

Cho Nam-Woong, a software developer, takes pictures as a hobby. What he captures with his camera is none other than celestial objects such as stars, moons, and the Milky Way. It was a long time ago that he became interested in the stars. “When I was in my second year of middle school, I saw a picture of Saturn in a science magazine. They say that you can see Saturn directly from Earth through a telescope. This led to my dream of becoming an astronomer. Although my dreams at the time were not fulfilled, I enjoy a hobby of taking pictures of the stars with my daughter who is also interested in space like myself.”

You have to get out of the city center for taking pictures of the night sky. You can take pictures of the bright full moon in the city center, but the stars are much more visible when there is less light around you. When the weather is clear, Cho Nam-Woong drives Santa Fe and heads to the suburbs to take astronomy photographs. You may bet tired because it is not a short distance driving to the shooting location, but Santa Fe provides a comfortable ride.

Of course, you have to prepare everything before you hit the road. The whole trip would be meaningless if you forget to bring your telescope, camera, lenses, and tripods per one person; sometimes his daughter tags along. Although she is one of the infamous teenagers, she usually goes with him because she also loves watching stars. So, there is always basic camping equipment in the trunk of his car such as electric travel blankets, blankets, and cushions.

“I often go camping with my family. When choosing a campsite, I always check if I could see the stars on that day. This is why I recently changed my car to Santa Fe; I had to bring camping equipment and cameras together, but my old car was not spacious enough.”

Santa Fe was born as an urban SUV, but it can easily drive off-road. It houses the all-wheel-drive system and terrain mode behind its simple and neat looks. In particular, Terrain Mode provides optimized driving performance for various ground conditions such as snow and mud. This is one of the reasons Cho Nam-Woong chose Santa Fe. “If you want to take pictures of the stars, you need to find a place with little light interference; and most of these places are in the mountains. Because of this, we often climb a hill off-road; I often use the Terrain Mode in such cases.”

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the weather is everything in astrophotography. Of course, the sky must be clear, and among the celestial bodies, the smaller the moon, the better the stars. Taking all the conditions into account, there are not many opportunities to take pictures. So, Cho Nam-Woong often goes out even on weekdays. And he usually looks for places close to his home in order not to disturb his work life too much. The Gudun Station, a closed railway station in Yangpyeong, is a famous place for taking pictures of the night sky.

Of course, he does not go to the same place every time. Sometimes he finds an unknown place. “Taking photos of the stars is good, but I got into photography because of my enthusiasm for the night sky in the first place, so I often leave without any equipment. In this case, I head to the place I have never been to. I’m trying to find a new place with little or no light interference.”

It is always nervous to be in an unfamiliar place because there’s no information about any obstacle around the car. But I never worry when I am in Santa Fe. It provides a surround-view monitor that allows you to look around the car through a wide 10.25-inch screen. Four high-definition cameras show blind spots in the front, back, and sides, as well as a 360-degree top view. This allows you to accurately determine the surroundings of the car even in rough terrain.

Taking pictures of the night sky is a harder job than you think; just like all elements of nature, the stars and the moon are not things that move according to our will. We must wait earnestly with a humble heart. Cho Nam-Woong likes to take the trajectory of stars (circumferential motion) especially. Stars seem like they move because of the Earth’s rotation, and that is what he likes to photograph. He also brings two cameras each time to shoot a circular movement. It is the basics of astrophotography, but it takes a long time to get beautiful results.

“When photo shooting star trajectories, I usually wait in a car for about two hours. On clear days, I sit on my camping chair and just look up at the night sky, but these days I usually stay inside my car in this cold weather. Drinking hot coffee and listening to songs make me feel cozy and comfortable.”

The dawn comes; it’s time to go home now. Finding Santa Fe in the utter darkness is not that difficult. Press the door open button of the digital key, and a T-shaped daytime running light illuminates to indicate its location. It is a moment where you can feel safe around Santa Fe, shining in the dark. He carefully packs his equipment and uses the car lights as a guide to move around.

No matter how much you like it, taking pictures until dawn makes him tired as ever. However, Cho Nam-Woong does not worry about heading home. “My favorite feature of Santa Fe is the Smart Cruise Control. It is not easy to drive in the dawn on my way home after photo shooting. Smart Cruise Control helps you drive by automatically adjusting your speed according to the distance from the vehicle in front of you, reducing driving fatigue.”

Cho Nam-Woong has a small dream; he is an amateur astrophotographer, and he wants more people to appreciate the preciousness of the night sky through his photos. Tonight, he goes a long way with Santa Fe to press the shutter button while looking at the night sky filled with stars.

Photography by Choi Jin-ho