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Mount Rainier Forever Stamp
Mount Rainier Forever Stamp. (© 2016 USPS)

A spectacular photograph of the night sky over Washington’s Mount Rainier has been chosen by the U.S. Postal Service for a collection of stamps celebrating the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary. The image, captured by Matt Dieterich of Pittsburgh, is the 13th of 16 Forever Stamps to be revealed.

Dieterich, a dedicated photographer of night skies, told GeekWire Tuesday that having one of his images become a stamp is a real honor and he shared some of the geekier aspects about why he likes starry skies and what it takes to photograph them.

Matt Dieterich
Photographer Matt Dieterich in Pittsburgh. (Via Instagram)

“Never in my wildest dreams did I expect something like this to happen,” Dieterich said. “The goal of my photography is to promote the night skies so folks get outdoors and look ‘up’ at night. I hope this is a step in that direction for inspiring others to enjoy the stars for years to come.”

For anyone who has tried to point a camera phone at the sky and capture something compelling, Dieterich explained how his process was a bit more technical. A close look at the image even reveals the headlamps of mountain climbers illuminating the right side of the volcanic peak.

“To capture this star trails image over Mount Rainier required a DSLR camera, wide angle lens, tripod, and remote shutter release to continuously capture photographs,” Dieterich said. “I used my Nikon D750 and 24mm lens to take 200 exposures that were 8 seconds each. Once they were captured I used Photoshop to combine the images into one main photograph that shows star trails with the aurora.”

Dietrich’s personal website showcases a variety of night and day photography. There’s also some cool time lapse video. The Rainier gallery alone has 18 beautiful images of the mountain and skies overhead. But it’s a long ways away for a guy living in Pittsburgh.

“I frequently consider moving away from Pittsburgh to be closer to Western skies. I have been trying to land the right job in an area such as Denver, because there are very dark night skies within a days drive,” Dietrich said. “For me, there is such a draw of being out under dark skies that are unaffected by bright city lights. Locations for enjoying top-notch night skies are primarily in the Western U.S. since there are less populated cities and the climate produces more clear nights per year.”

"Accending Through Smoke" I captured this Milky Way photo over Mount Rainier on August 11th during the Perseid Meteor shower from Sunrise. This particular night Rainier was blanketed with smoke from neighboring forest fires. The smoke was so intense during the daytime that the sun was blocked out and small bits of soot were raining down. Mountaineers can be seen with their white headlamps working their way to the summit through the dense smoke while I took this mosaic at 2am. The orange/yellow is light pollution reflecting off the smoke. I used my Nikon D750 and 24mm at 1.4 iso 5000 and 15 seconds to capture 4 frames to create a large panorama. #landscape #space #neverstopexploring #ig_exquisite #discoverglobe #artofvisuals #landscape_capture s#rei1440project #wildernessculture #ic_landscapes #exploretocreate #nightphotography #earthpix #awesomeearth #ourplanetdaily #optoutside #nakedplanet #theglobewanderer #fantastic_earth #welivetoexplore #earthfocus #places_wow #ic_longexpo #longexpoelite #ic_adventure #night_shooterz #thatadventurelife #awesomeglobe #ig_nightphotography #universetoday

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A research biologist by day, Dieterich said he studies minerals in sedimentary rocks to see if they can be extracted for economic use. He uses a scanning electron microscope to photograph samples.

“It is amazing being able to capture photos of the objects in a microscope, which is a nice change of pace from capturing the other end of the spectrum of the very large objects in the night sky,” Dieterich said.

"Gazing Up" Here's a shot from Cannon Beach, OR of the Milky Way over Haystack Rock. This was the first time I experienced the Pacific Ocean and wanted to catch the night sky in a memorable way. This shot sums up my experience, pure wonder of this beautiful location. Standing on the beach at night was amazing, folks had fires going and enjoyed the cool breeze. I waited for the Milky Way to rise and reflect in the thin layer of water. Nikon D800 14-24mm 2.8. Captured in July 2015. #astrophotography #space #neverstopexploring #ig_exquisite #discoverglobe #artofvisuals #landscape_captures #artsyheaven #wildernessculture #ic_landscapes #exploretocreate #nightphotography #earthpix #awesomeearth #ourplanetdaily #optoutside #nakedplanet #theglobewanderer #fantastic_earth #welivetoexplore #earthfocus #places_wow #ic_longexpo #longexpoelite #ic_adventure #night_shooterz #thatadventurelife #awesomeglobe #ig_nightphotography #universetoday

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And getting out away from the bright lights of the city goes beyond making compelling photographs. Dieterich lends a bit of astronomical appreciation to his craft and his desire to promote what’s up there.

“I am collecting light that has traveled an incredible distant through space and into the camera lens,” Dieterich said. “Knowing that I collected light from these objects really helps me connect with the night sky. There is a dreamy and thought provoking aspect that keeps drawing me back outside, and I want everyone to experience that same feeling through my photographs. My aim is to inspire others to get out and enjoy this amazing resource we have in the night sky.”

The first-day-of-issue ceremony for the National Parks Forever Stamps will take place at New York City’s Javits Center on June 2 at 11 a.m. as part of the world’s largest stamp show, World Stamp Show-NY 2016. Dedication ceremonies will also take place at or near each of the National Parks depicted on the stamps.

To keep up with Dieterich’s work, check out his Facebook and Instagram pages.

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