Most people would think you’d have to take a road trip out of Metro Manila to get a decent shot of the sky. After all, the city lights tend to obscure our view of the stars. In fact, the Philippine Astronomical Society goes all the way to Tanay, Rizal, to hold its meteor shower observation camps.
But photographer John Oranga has proven us all wrong with this stunning shot of the Milky Way over Matteo Ricci Hall, Ateneo de Manila University. It turns out that on a clear night, with the right settings, our cameras can capture what is invisible to the naked eye.
“I had to use large aperture, long exposure, and high ISO—that’s a must for astrophotography,” he explains. “The night before I took this shot, I was in Katipunan and while waiting for my Uber, I noticed the sky was so clear and there was no moon. So I knew that I had to go back the following day and take a photo of it inside the campus, where I can stay from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. with all my gear and without the fear of getting mugged.”
It turns out that Ateneo de Manila is a pretty ideal location for shooting the night sky. While he was in college, Oranga enjoyed taking nighttime strolls around the campus from time to time. On one such night, with a new moon and clear skies, he decided to take a photo of the Church of the Gesù with stars in the background, and was surprised with the result.
However, he clarifies that this is his first time to purposefully “chase the Milky Way,” and that his other shots were unplanned—the stars just happened to be visible outside his hotel room during his travels or late-night walks.
“What I love most about night photography is that you get to take your time and not worry about the moment passing by,” he says. “You wait for the stars or lights to show up and in return, they wait for you to get your shot. Through photography, even with the light pollution from the city, we are able to see the night sky the way our ancestors used to see it.”
While John Oranga holds down a day job working for his family company, he also teaches photography to senior high school students at his high school alma mater, Saint Jude Catholic School. He covers Ateneo UAAP events for Fabilioh (Ateneo Sports Shooters), and, judging by his Instagram, he's also a pretty accomplished photographer.
To see more of John Oranga’s work, check out his Instagram page.