Local photographer Norberto Nunes now has an international award to his credit.

Nunes won second place in the Paris, France Photo Nightscape Awards with an image titled “Bridgeton Mill and Bridge.”

He and his wife moved to Brown County a little over two years ago. He is a member of the Brown County Photography Club.

In 2016, he also won Best Overall Photo in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ photo competition.

We caught up with Nunes to ask him about his passion for photography.

Norberto Nunes
Norberto Nunes

Q: What was your reaction to winning second place in the Photo Nightscape Awards?

A: Absolutely stunned. This contest is an international contest. Naturally, the bar is raised higher. There are so many talented photographers and beautiful places in the world, just an honorable mention would have been an honor. To make things more challenging, this particular contest only took one photo per category, so picking just one photo is very difficult.

Q: How long have you been a photographer?

A: Approximately 19 years I’ve had a camera in my hands, though in the last year I’ve gotten a bit more serious at really making time and being dedicated.

Q: How did you get started in photography?

A: My father is a photographer and my mother is a ceramist. Art has always been in our household. But I took my first photography class in high school and was hooked. Back then we still had film and a dark room. As much as I enjoy digital photography now, I am glad I was able to learn the basics. I took a bit of a hiatus until digital cameras had ironed out the technology.

Q: Is this your full-time job? If not, what is your “day job”?

A: I am a mechanical engineer by day, which is a bit liberating from a photography standpoint, as it is not my primary income.

Q: What are some tips for shooting photos at night? What kind of equipment does that require?

A: While it is somewhat complicated, like anything, it’s not impossible if you’re dedicated and are willing to learn. I am, for the most part, self-taught, there is a lot of information on the web. But some of the basic equipment would be:

A camera capable of 1600 or higher ISO.

A tripod. These exposures cannot be handheld, as the shutter is open very long. It needs to be very sturdy. Not all tripods are created equal.

Most kit lenses will do pretty well, but only go down to F3.5 f-stop. The bigger the aperture, the better. Also, you will want a wide angle lens.

The key thing to remember is that Earth is spinning. If you have a wide lens, 18mm or wider, you have up to 30 seconds to get crisp stars. Any longer and the stars will have trails on them (will look like streaks rather than specs), so that is where all of the specialized tools come into play. You only have a relatively short period of time to capture the stars fixed, so the higher ISO and large aperture give you the maximum amount of light.

Planning is critical. I spend much more time planning shots than I do taking them. The moon is bright enough that it hides the stars, so you have to plan when the timing is either a new moon or get your shot before or after the moon is in the sky. Also, light pollution is a challenge anywhere east of Kansas. Most places I photograph require visiting three times — once in the daytime to check out the scenery and to see where the celestial bodies will line up, then any regular night to see if there are any street lights or anything that will ruin the shot. The third time is when you get lucky and the sky is clear and timing works out, so when I do get the opportunity to go out, I know exactly what time I need to go and where.

There are several phone apps that help with planning. I personally use Plan it! but I hear Photo Pills is great for Apple users. There are may more details that go into it, but this is a good start.

Q: Do you shoot photos only at night? What’s your preferred setting?

A: I shoot photos all the time, but nightscapes have captivated me. The challenge behind getting the shot makes the final image incredibly rewarding. It’s something so beautiful that most people don’t see. In terms of the foreground, I just look for interesting structures and landscapes. It’s really amazing to see people’s reaction to a scene they’ve seen thousands of times and bring a completely different spin to it. The photo of the covered bridge that got second place in this contest is a prime example of that.

Q: Where can people see your work? Do you have any for sale?

A: I have a website, norberto.nunes.pixels.com (direct URL: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/norberto-nunes.html?tab=artwork), where folks can scroll through my work — yes, even photos in daylight — and order prints or framed pieces. Also, I’ll post photos and updates on my Facebook page: Norberto Nunes Photography.

Q: What would be your advice to a photographer who is just beginning?

A: 1. Capture images in RAW format. There is a lot of information stored in the file which you lose with compressed formats (.jpg).

2. With a camera in hand, the rest is practice. With new digital cameras it’s essentially free. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Learning your camera and your capabilities will ensure that if you are lucky to be in a position to get a great shot, you won’t miss it because you’re still trying to learn how to operate the camera. There are plenty of ways to miss a shot; prevent yourself from being that reason.

3. Don’t get caught up in “keeping up with the Joneses” with camera equipment. Even entry-level cameras now are phenomenal.

4. Get a tripod you will actually carry. It does no good at home.

5. Pick your lenses wisely. Camera bodies wear out, lenses seldom do, so you will have them for a while.

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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers business, cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.