Something wonderful has happened in photography: Ordinary people can now photograph the universe.
Standing beneath the Milky Way has always been a beautiful sight, if you were lucky enough to find dark skies on a dark night. But the revelation of recent advances in digital photography is that the dim ribbon of silvery light we see with our naked eyes is actually a glorious, stupendous galaxy.
For me the revelation came the first time I took a photograph of that galaxy and realized that just because the visible universe is so far away didn’t mean I needed a big telescope to photograph it. No, what I needed was a wide-angle lens because it is so huge—and we live in the middle of it.
When I show young people my first published picture of the Milky Way I like to point out that this is their home. Earth lies about a third of the way out on one of those vast spiral arms of stars and dust clouds. Being able to take a snapshot of that universe is something new under the sun. And it’s great fun too.
Jim Richardson has been a National Geographic photographer for over three decades, documenting landscapes and cultures around the world. You can see more of Richardson's work on his website and follow him on Instagram.