THE gruelling 13-hour drive to Parkes, NSW, was well worth it for Maroochydore's Troy Caswell as he lived out his astronomical boyhood dream on Saturday.
Mr Caswell was presented as the overall winner at the 2015 David Malin Awards - Australia's premier astrophotography awards.
As a 10-year-old boy, Mr Caswell never missed his monthly copy of his favourite astronomy magazine, but it wasn't until 10 years ago that he took up astrophotography as a hobby.
A structural engineer by trade, Mr Caswell never thought his work would be the centre of attention at Australia's moonwalking capital, and the home of The Dish.
Although, he wasn't treated like a galah as he accepted the prestigious award.
Judged by Mr Malin himself, Mr Caswell said it was an absolute privilege to receive the award from the prolific photographer.
"It's a huge honour," he said.
"It's become more than just a hobby, it's a passion of mine.
The next morning at the grand opening of the travelling gallery he indulged in some amateur photography before heading home.
"It was actually at the Parkes observatory.
"I got a couple of selfies in front of the dish with the girlfriend.
"It was pretty cool."
Mr Caswell may have earned himself a rank among the prestigious, but there is nothing prestigious about the equipment he used to capture the magnificent award-winning photo.
Mr Caswell uses the fairly standard Canon 6D, but removed its UV-blocking filter to extend its infrared sensitivity and get a hydrogen alpha response. Essentially it allows him to capture the stars and the milkiness surrounding them.
He also uses an Astrotrac which does exactly what its name says - it tracks the stars for him.
Mr Caswell said professional photography was a difficult industry to break into and that young aspiring photographers must be persistent.
"You can get good results with basic gear, but you need to keep pushing yourself and experimenting," he said.
Troy Caswell's award winning settings
Canon 6D (full spectrum), Zeiss 135mm f2.0
4x3s, 4x8s, 4x30s & 4x90s at ISO3200, f2.5 for each panel.
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