Roaming through the darkest spots in Sabah, a group of "nocturnal photographers" are capturing some fantastic shots of the night sky.
A crazy bunch
"We're crazy. We go out after dinner to pitch dark places, lie on the ground and take pictures of the stars and the night sky.
"Sometimes we're out there until 4am. And then we come home, have breakfast and sleep," said Emma Zulaiha Zulkifli.
A former Physics student from USM, Emma is currently an astronomy communicator and also the official spokesperson for NGO Sabah Stargazers.
"The pictures are amazing but why do they look fake?" asked this writer sheepishly.
After laughing a bit, Emma explained that the hidden colours in the sky is often revealed through pictures.
"It's not that you cannot see it with your naked eye when you're here. It's pitch black. And when your eyes get accustomed to the darkness, you can see all sorts of colours. The camera just picks it all up better," she said.
Emma added that of course, some photos of the night sky are edited a little but you definitely will not be able to get pictures like this in Kuala Lumpur where there is a lot of light pollution.
Here's an example of a before and after. This photo was taken by Sabah Stargazer Harris Jeffrey - one of the friendliest persons to speak to about the technical aspects of astrophotography.
For you photo enthusiasts, Harris told this writer that he used a D750 to shoot the picture. He said that he compensated the "exposure value as max as 3EV".
Visitors from around the globe
"We (Sabah Stargazers) have unofficially been doing this since 2013. We're basically a group of photographers that gathered to take pictures of the stars."
"In fact, I actually moved here from Selangor after being captivated by the night sky. I came once on a tour, and after that, I kept returning every month until one day, I just decided to move here," said Emma.
Emma explained that the NGO has now grown quite a bit.
"We now have our own company called Dark Sky which creates awareness about astrophotography, light pollution and we also provide consultation to the Sabah government on astro tourism," she said.
The group also arrange night sky tours, telescope viewing of the stars from their observatory and short photography classes.
"We've got visitors from all over. Sabah, Brunei, Singapore and even South Korea who join our tours including our popular yearly tour called Hunt for Sabah Milkyway," she said.
Appreciating the beauty of the night sky
"More than anything, we want to try to get more people to actually look and appreciate the night sky. It's not something that you need to travel overseas to appreciate. It's right here in Malaysia."
"All you need to do is head to a place with minimal light pollution," she said.
In Sabah, it's places like Kudat, Kota Belud, Kundasang and Semporna.
In Peninsular Malaysia, it's places like Kuala Gandah, Belum or Mersing.
"Do you actually need a super canggih
camera to capture the stars?" questioned this clueless writer.
"No lah. Handphones have amazing technology these days."
"With the right settings, you can capture it on your Huawei or iPhone or other phones with fairly good cameras," said Emma who added that those who wanted to learn more could follow their posts on Facebook, Instagram or even join them on one of their tours once the MCO is over.
We don't know about you guys, but we're already dreaming of a trip to Sabah soon.