The telescope at her grandfather’s house had a special fascination for Sarah Louise Pickering and she always looked forward to the visits when he would teach her about the bright stars in the night sky.
His enthusiasm inspired her and she grew up with passion for astrology which she now combines with her other great love – photography.
“My grandad had a big map of the stars and he would show me all the constellations. The first one I saw for myself in the sky was the Big W – Cassiopeia and from then on I was hooked,” explained the Buxton-based photographer.
It wasn’t until years later that she discovered that if you knew how, it was possible to capture images of the stars with basic equipment – just a good SLR camera and a tripod.
“I follow a lot of people on social media and, while scrolling through one day, I came across someone who was taking pictures of the night sky. When I saw it I knew straight away astrophotography was something I wanted to try, so I set about finding out how it was done. I couldn’t believe it was possible to combine both my passions.
“Light pollution is obviously a problem with such pictures, which means the Peak District, surrounded as it is by so many cities, is not the best place to try. But I had always wanted to shoot Mam Tor at night with the stars, so one night, when the sky was perfectly clear, I grabbed my camera and headed out.
“Annoyingly by the time I got there the clouds had rolled in and the sky was completely covered. I debated whether to hang around or head home, but thought I might as well sit it out and see what happened. After 30 minutes the sky cleared and I got my shot,” she said clearly still delighted at the memory.
“When I put it up on Facebook the response was amazing with loads of comments and shares. I was thrilled and realised it was something different that was not already being done here.
“I now have astro pictures not just from the Peak District but from various locations around the world including star trails, the Milky Way, the Moon and the Northern Lights.”
Sarah went to school in Buxton and studied advertising and marketing at university, followed by a Masters in graphic design. She works for a graphic design company but is building up her own business, SLP Photography, at weekends and in her spare time.
The 28-year-old describes herself as being passionate about all things photographic, from portraiture and weddings to landscapes. She first got her hands on a DSLR camera six years ago and began to work professionally by offering studio portrait shoots. When word of the quality of her work spread, friends and colleagues started asking her to capture weddings and her business has snowballed from there.
She specialises in creating effects with flash, which is incredibly effective if the wedding day weather is miserable – so as you can imagine her talents are in high demand.
“I have only been building the business properly for the last two years, but I doubled the number of bookings I had for weddings this year which is really encouraging. My style is to be discreet and do my job without being noticed or disturbing the flow of the day. I like to take candid shots rather than staging them,” said Sarah.
It was when she took up landscape photography that she met her partner and fellow lensman James Grant. Together the two of them now blog about their adventures travelling the world in a camper van and wild camping to catch their special landscape shots.
In 2015 James self-published a book Peak District Through The Lens which was the highest rated and reviewed Peak District book on Amazon. The printed edition is now officially sold out but you can still get an e-edition.
Sarah says cheekily that included in the 400-page book is a picture of the Milky Way taken at Arbor Low which was inspired by her work. “He won’t mind me saying that,” she said with a grin.