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She’s just a cosmic girl

Chinadaily / Ye Ziyi [Photo provided to China Daily] Award-winning photographer, Ye Ziyi, travels to some of the planet’s most remote areas to capture stunning images of the cosmos. Xing Wen reports.

“Look at the stars, see how they shine for you,” Coldplay once sang, describing the ease with which most casual stargazers can enjoy the night sky. However, for Ye Ziyi, a 28-year-old Beijing native, it is an altogether more involved process, as she shoulders her heavy photographic equipment and travels around the world to capture beautiful images of the sparkling firmament.

It’s worth it, however, because in 2016, she won the Beauty of the Night Sky category of the International Earth & Sky Photo Contest (TWAN).

Ye says she participated in the competition not just for herself, but for the other photography enthusiasts in China who devote themselves to the medium.

“There are a lot of outstanding photographers in China,” she observes, “but the language barriers and insufficient opportunities make it harder for them to be seen or heard by the outside world.

“These awards allow me to meet more foreign photographers and learn from them, as well as acquaint foreign media and audiences with the work that Chinese photographers are producing.”

About a year after scooping the award, her photo, Luminous Salar de Uyuni, was selected by NASA as its Astronomy Picture of the Day on April 15, 2017.

The picture depicts bright stars in the constellation of Orion the Hunter, and Aldebaran, eye of Taurus the Bull, hanging in the night sky over Bolivia. Below, the faintly luminous edges of patterns in the mineral-crusted mud of the Uyuni Salt Flat in southwest Bolivia can be traced to the horizon.

“Anyway, my efforts received the recognition they deserved and I am so happy about that. A dream of mine came true,” proclaims Ye.

Her love of the stars, aurorae and solar eclipses all began at her high school astronomy club.

[Photo provided to China Daily] When she was 15 years old, her geography teacher gave her the opportunity to view the night sky, studded with billions of bright stars, using an astronomical telescope.

She was understandably awestruck by the boundlessness of it all.

“It was incredibly wonderful,” she recalls, “and as time went by, I got to know stars better.

“My curiosity about the sky and stars has spurred me to travel huge distances, with or without companions.”

Since 2009, in order to shoot a total solar eclipse, she made five separate trips to Shanghai, Kenya, the Arctic Ocean, Indonesia and the United States.

A total solar eclipse can last for several hours, while totality can range from just a few seconds to 7.5 minutes. Recording a total solar eclipse requires not only the photographer’s patience but also a bit of luck.

“The first two trips were fruitless because of unfavorable weather conditions on the day of the eclipse,” Ye explains.

It took packing nearly her own body weight in equipment, several ferries, trains and planes and a five-hour wait in freezing weather on the snow-covered Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean in March 2015 before she successfully witnessed a total solar eclipse.

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