Stars, storms and Sean Parker

Local astrophotographer shows work, tells stories at Flandrau

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Madeleine Viceconte | The Daily Wildcat Sean Parker, world-renowned astrophotographer, answers questions from a curious audience after the first part of his event "Sean Parker’s Universe" at Flandrau Science Center on Dec.6. Many of the audience members were friends, fans and people who had done workshops with him.

Sean Parker, Tucsonan and internationally recognized astrophotographer, has aurora borealis socks. The green socks act as a lucky charm to help him capture the photos he’s known for. 

That inside joke was just one thing Parker shared with a nearly full house on the evening of Dec. 6 at Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium. Over 100 people turned out to view some of Parker’s time lapse videos and photographs of the night sky, as well as hear him talk about what goes into each image, at the Sean Parker’s Universe event.

The discussion was facilitated by Shipherd Reed, associate director of communications at Flandrau. The event was put on with the help of Bear Essentials News.

“There’s a great connection between the art of astrophotography and the science of astronomy, and of course the [University of Arizona] is a world leader in astronomy,” Reed said. “Flandrau is excited to be partnering with Sean, and it’s a great way to use the capabilities of the planetarium theater and projection system.”


Parker got his start in astrophotography nearly by accident, and he rose to fame through social media. He told the crowd that he had gone to Sky Bar in 2012 with friends and an astronomer there showed him how to take a photo with his phone through the telescope.

“It wasn't until I stumbled into Sky Bar and took that first picture that it really opened my eyes,” Parker said. “After that, it just went from there. I borrowed my friend Jordan’s Canon 40D … I borrowed it for a whole year. It blew me away.”

The astronomer, Robby Tackett, continued to mentor Parker. Parker said the pair would go our every weekend and shoot photos. Tackett attended the event and said he was proud of what Parker had done.

“I remember when I met Sean. He was working for a computer store here in town and clearly hated his job,” Tackett said. “He’s now doing what he loves for a living, and he’s playing to a packed house at the planetarium, in just five years. It’s amazing.”

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Sean Parker, left, world renowned astrophotographer, is interviewed by Shipherd Reed, right, associate director of communications at Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium, at the "Sean Parker’s Universe" event on Dec. 6. Reed asked Parker questions about his career as a photographer while a slideshow of Parker’s photos were projected on the planetarium roof. 

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Currently, Parker holds workshops around the world, including Iceland and Norway, and his work has been featured in a variety of local magazines as well as in the New York Times. He’s also shot some time lapses for movies. 

Even now, Parker said he’s got plenty of goals left to accomplish. 

“I want to get into bigger films, documentaries,” Parker said. “BBC, "Planet Earth," those kinds of films.”

Several people who had taken Parker’s workshops attended the event, and in the Q&A that followed, Parker answered questions that ranged from technical photography questions to giving advice to new photographers.

“Patience. You really have to get though all these hurdles,” Parker said. “I would come home with a lot of photos that were slightly out of focus … Just keep trying. Don’t stop. There are a lot of resources now. Look it up on YouTube, or take a workshop.” 

Not all those who attended were familiar with Parker’s work prior to the event. 

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Dani Racelis, a first-year aerospace engineering graduate student, and Namrah Habib, a fifth-year undergraduate honors aerospace engineering and chemical engineering major, attended because Racelis's future mother-in-law loves Parker’s work and called Racelis and told her she should go. 

“My future mother-in-law is obsessed with Sean Parker, she lives in Florida, but I was told by her to go to this because I would love it,” Racelis said.

As for Habib, she said she first heard Parker’s name when Racelis called her a few hours before and asked if she wanted to come along.

“It was really neat,” Habib said. “A lot of his time lapse videos were heartwarming, and I’ve definitely seen some of his photos around.”

Overall, Reed said the event was a success. Flandrau had never done an event like this one, but Reed said he hopes to continue doing these kinds of events.

As for Parker, he said he’s going to continue exactly what he’s doing, and he’ll continue to be based out of Tucson.

“I’ve lived in the same place for five years, and I hope to never move,” Parker said. “I love everything about Tucson.” 

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