Astronomy and Photography in The Maldives by Stefano Perrone
Stefano Perrone was born in 1978 in Italy and is a researcher, now based in The Maldives, specialising in Natural Sciences and Astronomy, or more precisely, Cosmology. Fuelled by a lifelong love of nature, Stefano soon found his second passion in life; photography. Absolute Maldives met with the islands’ infamous star-gazer to learn, in his own words, how his journey began and what is written in the stars,
‘Personally I think that photography is something metaphysical. It is the ability to immortalise a moment in time that makes it magical and one of the most beautiful forms of art and science, fused together. For over twenty years I worked around the world in areas so remote that sometimes they didn’t even appear on the maps. It wasn’t until December 2017, when conducting some personal research and photographic material collection, I arrived on the island of Dhiggiri, one of four islands owned by the same company. I had discovered a real piece of paradise. Tropical palm trees, beautiful plants and flowers surrounded snow-white sand, enveloped by waters so blue that they appeared almost unreal. Hiding below these glistening waters were coral reefs, teaming with life. It was as if I was in a utopian fantasy, with each day starting with a breathtaking sunrise. The sun looked so big and intense that you could feel the radiation upon your skin. Endless colours swept through the island every evening, like the scene in the most beautiful of dreams. When the night comes, the sky and all its stars performed a show that was so incredible, I couldn’t begin to find the words to describe it. It was for that reason that I decided to photograph them, to show this phenomenon to the rest of the world.
I decided to embark upon creating the first ever photographic archive of the Maldivian night sky. At the time, I remember being blown away that this didn’t already exist and so with a bit of audacity and a lot of patience, I proposed the project to the scientific community and owners of NAKAI. This is the company that own the islands Dhiggiri Resorts, Alimatha Resort, Maayafushi Resort and Ara Resort. They immediately supported me 100%, especially as the owner and General Manager, Mr. Marco Mingoli, is a nature-loving person with a deep knowledge of it here in The Maldives, plus an interest in science. In the end, they took me on as an official astronomer in Dhiggiri, where we are now the only island in the Maldives to offer guests exclusive evenings dedicated entirely to astronomy. Guests set sail on a boat trip, guided by myself, to discover the stars and other incredible phenomena observable only at night, here in the magical world of The Maldives.
The rest of the time, amongst other thing, I dedicate to the collection of photographic material at night. Thanks to the island’s absence of light pollution, it allows incredible visibility, surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. It is this that makes it a highly recommended destination for astrophotographers, hunting for stars. All year round you can see the arc of the Milky Way with the naked eye, continuously crossed with shooting stars.
After only three months of launching my project, the photographs I have taken have aroused the interest of various scientific communities and other companies in the sector. I have had the privilege of visiting and experiencing some extraordinary places in my life, but The Maldives are simply magical. It is unique with its diverse landscapes, it’s ocean with a thousand shades of blue dance softly and the nocturnal phenomena of the nightly bioluminiscence. When sailing upon a boat in the middle warm, calm waters within the Maldivian coral reefs, the bioluminiscence is so intense you cannot distinguish between the lights in the water and the stars in the sky. Sunrise after sunrise, sunset after sunset, night after night, my reflexes and I are always there to capture the succession of shows that nature offers.
As a documentarian (specialising in technical support) I have worked all around world from the mountains to deep underwater caves. I have worked in Antartica, Brazil, Costa Rica, Africa, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Nicaragua and Zanzibar, together with most of the top international TV brands and universities. The Maldives is already a well-known photography destination for it’s underwater world, but now as we start to look at sky day and night, the work I do here is creating an astrophoto archive that the international scientific community and wide sectors can use to study and gain a better understanding of this paradise called The Maldives. I have no doubt that these beautiful islands will see the photography tourism market that I have started continue to grow and grow.’