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Be inspired every day with Living North
Starry sky at the coast Wil Cheung
March 2023
Reading time 3 Minutes

With a passion for astronomy and space, Newcastle-born Wil Cheung took up photography so he could share nature's beauty shining bright even when the sun goes down

As a young boy Wil developed a fascination with astronomy and everything involving space. 'I was around 13 years old when I visited the school's careers advisor but when I shared my interest with her, she told me to pick something else as there was "no money in astronomy". I was sad but believed she knew what was best for me, so I ended up studying business,' Wil explains.
sycamore gap at dusk and dark

After graduating with a business degree Wil worked in his family’s restaurant, something he wasn’t truly passionate about but nevertheless enjoyed. ‘After many years I ended up volunteering at an observatory which massively reignited my passion for space. During a solar eclipse trip to Iceland in 2015, where by coincidence the strongest aurora storm in years occurred, I was with some astrophysicists and we were lying on the snowy ground experiencing the most amazing Northern Lights display right in front of us. I thought to myself “it’s such a shame others are missing out on this”, so as a result I decided to learn photography so I could take photos and show others the beauty of the world even at night.’

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Returning home, Wil started a Facebook page with the aim of sharing his photography journey, and with persistence and by simply sharing his passion for astronomy, he has built up a loyal following of more than 100,000 followers. ‘Although taking photos of the night skies, the Milky Way, aurora and shooting stars has been my main interest, I’ve found I really enjoy photographing sunsets, puffins, wildlife and general landscapes too,’ he says. ‘I do feel that working on different genres helps make you a better photographer and I also do a few weddings every year as well – they’re very challenging but also very rewarding,’ he adds.

Angel of the North at Night

Wil tries to get out to take photographs every few days to have new material to post on social media, but most of his photography requires a lot of planning. ‘It’s working out the orientation of the Milky Way, or where the moon is rising. Working out where the darkest skies are, or checking out the weather,’ he explains. ‘With the aurora, planning includes working out when the aurora will be active and finding a dark sky location, so there is a lot of work behind some of my photos and lots and lots of attempts in some cases.

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‘By far my favourite thing to photograph is the aurora – it’s also what I am most passionate about. I take groups to Iceland chasing them and have been lucky enough to have seen them over 100 times now both in Iceland and Northumberland,’ he says. One of Wil’s most famous photographs was of the International Space Station passing in front of the sun. ‘It took me over a year of many attempts, driving hundreds of miles, trying to get the exact moment and needing a lot of luck with weather,’ he says. ‘However that photo has reached many, many millions and was featured in the news around the world.’

 ‘It took me over a year of many attempts,
driving hundreds of miles, trying to get the exact moment
and needing a lot of luck with weather,’

Sharing his passion with other astronomy enthusiasts, Wil has been running stargazing events at The Twice Brewed Inn for the last three years. ‘We have more than 20 telescopes and our guests can book to stargaze, have dinner and experience our full stay-over package too. I also host astrophotography workshops and photography classes and we are very excited to have opened our new 40-capacity immersive planetarium, which means our guests will see stars whatever the weather.’

As well as the stargazing events in Northumberland, Wil works with Serenity Boats organising trips to the Farne Islands to see the puffins and (although not always visible) the dolphins. ‘I’ve never entered any major competitions for my photography but my goal is to win an award,’ he says. ‘I try to inspire others to look up more and appreciate nature.’

To find out more about Wil and his photography events visit his website or find him on Facebook @wilphotographer.

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