University of Hawaiʻi photographer R. David Beales won Best in Show at the University Photographers Association of America, or UPAA, competition for his December 2009 image “Mauna Kea Summit,” which features the W. M. Keck Observatory’s laser piercing the Hawaiian night sky.
The Observatory was the first large telescope to apply adaptive optics for obtaining crisp images of celestial objects. The world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics system on the Keck II telescope uses a special purpose laser to excite sodium atoms in Earth’s upper atmosphere, creating a guide star to measure and remove atmospheric blurring effects.
“A thunderstorm was raging in the valley below us,” Beales wrote in the 2009 image caption for the UPAA competition. “Normally, this is a very beautiful place, but the lightning added an extra element to this photo. No Photoshop.”
UPAA was founded in 1961 and is an international organization of college and university photographers “concerned with the application and practice of photography as it relates to the higher education setting.”
Beales’ other image submissions in the 2010 competition won first and second place in the Personal Vision category and third in the Science & Research category.