Lighting the Sky by Matt Bouch

Welcome to Incredible Photographs, a series of short interviews on South Africa’s very best nature photography. We ask the photographers a set list of questions to gain insight into the previsualization, planning, capture, editing and reflection of their best photographs.



Where was this image taken?

At the Maltese Cross in the Cederberg

Did you plan this image or would you consider it a stroke of luck?

Full disclosure, this image was my good friend, Gerard Jordaan’s vision. We had planned to photograph in the Cederburg, whith astrophotography being the main drawcard. This is a genre I seldom shoot, Gerard on the other hand is passionate about Astro, and planned this shot down to the last detail. It’s his girlfriend, Tracey, who’s holding the lamp.

Was this image inspired by another photographer’s work or a specific image?

As mentioned, this was entirely inspired by another photographer’s vision. On the night, we both photographed the same subject, from slightly varied vantage points. We used PhotoPills to plan the orientation of the stars, and a Slingsby map to make our way to the Maltese Cross.

Is the location physically challenging to access or is it a brief walk from a parking lot? Also, would you consider the location safe to go shooting on your own or should one be cautious?

The location is fairly remote, but in the context of the Cederberg, it’s easily accessible. The hike in takes about 2hours, and with the focus being Astro, we camped there for the night. Permits are required to hike in this location, which can be arranged through Cape Nature.

Did you go out on a whim or was this shoot carefully planned in consideration of weather forecasts?

We spent a week in the area, and chose a night with clear skies to hike up and capture this scene. Any cloud cover would have ruined the image.

How did you feel when you saw the screen light up with that result?

I’m always stoked when I shoot an Astro image, and it comes out as planned. The camera’s ability to reveal parts of the night sky that can’t always be fully seen with the naked eye is incredible. In this case, the process was collaborative, working with another photographer and a model. So it was a feeling of success we all shared.

Let’s discuss the technicalities –

  • Settings - 24mm, F4, 25”, ISO6400
  • Camera and Lens - Sony A7riii, Sony 24-105 (Ideally a faster f2.8 and f1.4 lens would have been better)
  • Tripod - Leofoto LS-2854 + LH-36
  • Filters - None
  • For this image, we used a diffused flash to fill the rock with light and separate it from the background.

Did you edit it the moment you got home or did you leave it in the photo cellar to mature?

I edited this image soon after getting home. Mostly because I was keen to see how my camera would handle the noise, and what the result would be.

Let’s talk about enhancements made in editing – (show RAW file if you don’t mind)

This is a single exposure. Basic WB correction, global exposure and contract adjustments, and then a lot of local highlight and shadow adjustments. It was a back-and-forth process to maintain balance in the image and bring to life a natural looking scene.  


Do you think this image is one of your all-time top 10 photos?

Capturing this image was an adventure, with great friends, so it’s a special shot. But I don’t think it’s one of my top 10.

Do you feel you’ve done the location justice and you can move on now?

I would love to photograph this location at sunrise, under a dramatic sky. So no, I’m not done just yet.

Any advice for someone wanting to capture an image like this?

For these night sky images, you need to do your homework. The season matters, to ensure the milky way will be visible. And then you need to be in the right place at the right time, to align the stars with your subject. Planning these images is part of the fun.

Is this image for sale as a print?

Yes, please checkout where you will find all details about print sales.


A big thank you to Matt Bouch for taking the time to answer our questions and his willingness to share the journey of creation behind the image. Below are the details to all his social media – please give them a like and a follow to show your appreciation. If you’d like to learn from him, check out their workshops and most of all, if you absolutely love this photograph, consider buying a print to support the artists.   

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