We had the good fortune of connecting with Maggie Martin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maggie, how does your business help the community?
Colorado Astrophotography helps the community by giving back in a variety of ways. With the collective trauma we have all experienced with COVID 19, people are searching for a new experience, or even understanding of the world, now more than ever. Perhaps the most significant impact we have is on the individual through our astrophotography lessons- we provide “awe”. There is a moment when people get out of the car in the darkness and as their eyes focus on the Rocky Mountains against the moon and the stars- there is a gasp, a moment of presence, a moment of “awe”. This has become my fuel and my favorite thing to experience with people. Then we begin taking pictures, and this is where the second moment of “awe” and presence comes- when people capture more stars in the eye of their camera than they can see with their own eye… the second gasp happens and the excitement continues from there. The long twenty second exposure in the chill of night holds your anticipation creating a truly mindful moment of enjoying where you are at and what you are doing. With mindfulness being the core of my own personal healing journey, I find teaching astrophotography is a way to engage others in mindful practice, whether guests are aware of it or not. We have structured our business to be environmentally conscious in our practices by offering ride sharing, using sustainable and eco friendly products and regularly donate to our state and national forest areas and parks. We use a percentage of our art sales to support Invest in Kids which is an organization that works with the social emotional wellness of families and children in their early childhood. We also collaborate with a local rock shop, Natures Own, that helps support non profits such as Idea Wild, Global Greengrants, The Center for Biological diversity, and Wild Earth Guardians. It is our future goal to reach out to underserved youth programs to offer these experiences to marginalized adolescents and get them engaged in healthy, “awe” inspiring activities such as this. Finally, we are working on the SONY Alpha Female Project which is a grant for female photographers who are working with minority or marginalized populations. This project has highlighted a variety of women and their stories from minority populations including race, lbgtq, religion, ethnicity, and SES status. The basis of the project and these women is “how does photography connect you to wellness”. I have found this project continues to grow including: women working with adolescent female rights, animal rights activists, politicians, trans women and women who have recently immigrated. I never knew astrophotography could encompass so many values that are so important to me personally and I am so grateful to have found so many avenues to impact my community and the world at large through such an interesting passion.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Art/photography has always been a passion of mine, but it had always been a hobby or a side thing, something I would do for friends, or for myself. Never in a million years did I ever think being an astrophotographer would be something I could do. I have 2 masters degree’s in Early Childhood Special Education and Educational Psychology and had been a special ed teacher for over 15 years; my college roommate was the photography major, not me. About two years ago I left teaching to pursue a job with a more flexible schedule so that I could make photography more of a priority in my life, so I became a developmental interventionist who worked in the homes with families who had young children with disabilities. When the pandemic hit, I was no longer able to go into homes to provide therapies, so my photography side business became full time. I was teaching astrophotography as well as doing photo shoots of couples and date nights under the stars. It was a COVID friendly way for me to continue working and grow a business amidst the pandemic and since people have been so eager to get out and experience nature differently, this became the perfect opportunity for me to grow this idea. We own the mountains in the night, highly populated areas in the day are vacant at night and you truly have an awareness of the majesty of it all. At the beginning of the pandemic, I signed up for a class offered through Yale University titled The Science of Wellbeing. One assignment was a survey that identified character strengths. My top four character strengths were: Appreciation of Beauty, Curiosity, Creativity, and Humor. This was also around the time that Colorado Astrophotography was a seed that was just starting to germinate. This was the perfect backbone for me to create my mission statement and purpose of Colorado Astrophotography. I get to engage with these character strengths on every experience whether it’s a photo shoot or a lesson and it gives me a feeling of wholeness and purpose and freedom. It needs to be said that the biggest challenge in my photography career has absolutely, undoubtedly been myself and my own thinking of my capacity and abilities. My decision to leave teaching, my degrees and credentials and my imagined life path was not easy, but what was the hardest to understand was that it was also an opportunity. It was an opportunity for me to live more in alignment with my values, my strengths, and my purpose. I am still a fierce advocate for children with disabilities, and my degrees didn’t go to waste, they served a wonderful purpose and who knows what purposes they will fulfill in the future. But now I am no longer limited by my thinking that I can only be a teacher, or I could never make it as a photographer. I can. I am. It fills me with curiosity to wonder what other things I can do? How much farther can this go? I’m pretty sure the universe is infinite so i don’t think I’ll ever run out of curiosities in this industry. I want people to know that pursuing your passion is healing. Doing what you love is rewarding and fulfilling. Colorado Astrophotography is about providing a safe, mindful moment of awe to appreciate this beautiful world and our complete and essential significance amongst our vast and complex insignificance.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
So my favorite cousin has come to town and we begin the evening at Factotum Brewery where some of my art is on display (owned by a fellow Denver Boss Babe). We grab a bite and a brew for her before heading out to Georgetown. We go up Guanella Pass in Georgetown, CO to see some of Colorado’s finest fourteeners in the dark of night. We take pictures of the old loop train track, check out Clear Lake under the stars, and do a short/easy night hike at the trailhead to Mt Bierstadt. (We are not crazy enough to be like the other bad asses who are summiting the 14er in the night, we just go to the river and lake and turn around, but people actually summit this beast in the night to catch the sunrise… life goals)! We would then check out the Guanella Pass Brewery or Cabin Creek Brewery if they are still open. We would then head back and capture the water mill that is lit up with the frozen waterfall in Idaho Springs. Our last stop would be the buffalo overlook on our way back into Denver off Genesee exit. There would be shooting stars or a meteor shower that provided excellent shots!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would love to shout out to Nature’s Own Rock Shop. They provide me with authentic meteorites to give out to guests as my personal gratitude practice for booking the experiences. I would also love to shout out to Niki Mosier Consulting as she has taken incredible care of all aspects of my photography websites, bookings, SEO work- all the technical guts that enable me to do what I do. The Denver Boss Babes Collective has been a tremendously helpful social media network of female entrepreneurs that has supported me in being able to promote myself, ask questions, advice, and seek other local female business owners for trade outs and new services I otherwise may have never known existed.
Photographer: Myself, Maggie Martin Models in photos: Asha Davidson, Candice Morelle, Izzy Baca, Josh Davidson, Sarah Pitkin, Brianne Pittenger, Preston Charmichael