Luke Vadekar is a very impressive young person. At just 18 years old, he has an magnificent portfolio of photographic work that combines his love of the art form with his fascination with astronomy. With a mind that works differently to others, his ability to communicate through images is powerful. Here, in his own words, is Luke’s story…
“For as long as I can remember, I have always been a bit of a shutterbug. I first started when I got my own phone and I was largely taking photos of nature like trees, flowers and sometimes insects. But I was always fascinated by the sky and loved looking at clouds. When I got a Huawei phone which had good low light capability, I started Astro photography. I was fascinated by what my camera could capture that the naked eye could not. I got a new camera for my 17th birthday and got really serious since then.
I’m on the spectrum with Autism, Aspergers and ADHD. My mind works differently to others; I tend to see things that people who aren’t on the spectrum don’t see, although it’s impossible for me to explain… I also find it difficult to communicate with people and start conversations.
For those who don’t know about autism, it is a very wide spectrum and also manifests in different ways. In my case, my condition makes me very passionate about my specific interests. My photography hobby has had a positive effect on my condition because I am able to create something with my passion. I definitely think that my condition makes me very focused on this hobby so I spend a lot of time studying it and trying to get even better at it. I wish my passion for photography could turn into a career in the future. My mum says I need to start earning money for my expensive hobby!
I remember the night that I got hooked on astronomy. It was on a school camping trip when I saw the Milky Way for the very first time in the dark skies of Tallong. What is most inspiring about astronomy is the knowledge that the universe is infinite and limited only by our own imaginations. For thousands of years, our ancestors looked to the sky to help make sense of the world. For example, it was through the study of our sky that our concept of time was invented. That it took about 365 days for the earth to rotate around the sun. Or that it took 30 days for the moon to orbit the earth, or that first explorers looked at the stars to navigate the seas.
I was also inspired into deep sky photography by a Professor of Astronomy who I met when I was hanging out at Barrenjoey one night. It was then that I started noticing stars and galaxies and constellations. I was looking at the sky so frequently that I even noticed changes to a particular star in Orion called Betelgeuse. I then checked with my professor friend and was surprised that I was right in that something was happening to that star.
I once spent four nights in a row at Barrenjoey Lighthouse to capture the stars in my photographs. Some say I’m crazy. Others say it’s dedication. I guess its a bit of both. The reason I go to Barrenjoey is it is the closest spot near me that is dark enough to be able take astro photos. Light pollution unfortunately makes it harder to find good spots like this.
At the moment, I am transitioning out of school and hope to find a part time job soon and maybe complete some TAFE courses in the second semester of this year. I do some dog photography and dog walking work once a week for a local St Ives based business called Hounds on Heels, a dog walking and pet services business.
We are very lucky to live in this part of Sydney, with all the bush land and also being relatively close to the ocean and Barrenjoey of course. I really enjoy the people in my local community. I spend a lot of time at the St Ives Skatepark and have gotten to know many of the kids and their parents. I feel safe here.”