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Meet the Judges – IDA ‘Capture the Dark’ Photo Contest

Ancient Stargazers. Photo: Jeff Dai.

In celebration of the night, the International Dark-Sky Association is hosting a  ‘Capture the Dark’ Dark Sky Photography Contest May 8 – May 25, 2020. To judge submissions, IDA has coordinated a panel of astrophotographers from around the world. 

Meet the Judges:


Sergio Emilio Montúfar Codoñer, Guatemala 

Sergio Emilio Montúfar Codoñer is a dedicated science communicator, astrophotographer, and dark sky activist based in Guatemala. He served as the official astrophotographer for Planetario Ciudad de La Plata, Observatorio Nacional de la Facultad de Ciencias Astronómicas y Geosfísicas de La Plata in Argentina and for La Cuenca del Mirador Archaeology Project & Semetabaj Archaeology Project. Sergio is also an International Dark-Sky Association Delegate, FornaxMounts, and Photonightscape Awards Ambassador. As a pioneer in science communication with artworks produced for live exhibitions, planetarium shows, and virtual reality environments, Sergio has been invited by several international private and public institutions to exhibit artworks including the European Space Agency ESA.

Hechicera Galactica Photo: Sergio Emilio Montúfar Codoñer

Mia Stålnacke, Sweden

Fortunate enough to live in the subarctic where the northern lights frequently light up the night, Mia Stålnacke’s photography more often than not features those magical lights in the sky. Her aim is to show the wonders of the night sky accompanied by earthly elements and to get people interested in astronomy and start looking up. She’s written articles for and Swedish astronomy magazine “Populär Astronomi”, been awarded two APOD’s and featured in books and other publications.


Photo: Mia Stålnacke

Jeff Dai, China

Jeff Dai
Jeff Dai is a member of The World At Night project, National Coordinator at Astronomers Without Borders. He was born in China’s “foggy city” Chongqing in 1988. Jeff was not fascinated with the night sky until in 2011, during a mystical starry camping night on a mountain place that completely changed his life. He started to learn how to take nightscape photos and share them with people. Jeff seeks unexplored night scenes, from the remote wilderness of the Himalayas to the still pristine night sky above cultural heritage sites. His long-term project ‘Silk Road at Night’ takes him across the world to photograph and exhibit images. Jeff’s photos were published not only in China’s major media outlets such as CCTV and People’s Daily, but also in international sources such as NASA, National Geographic, PNAS, and Nature magazine. Jeff is also a dark sky activist with IDA Beijing, trying to preserve the remaining natural skies in his home country. 

Airglow ripples over Tibet. Photo: Jeff Dai

Bettymaya Foott, Arizona (U.S.)

Bettymaya Foott is IDA’s Director of Engagement. While off the clock, you can find her hiding from light pollution with her camera under dark skies. Bettymaya has been an astrophotographer since 2015 when she took her first night sky photo documenting sky quality for International Dark Sky Park applications in Utah. She’s been hooked ever since! Bettymaya’s photos have been featured in Sky and Telescope, National Geographic, National Park Service, and the Natural History Museum of Utah.

Lyrids Meteor Shower over Sleeping Ute Mountain. Photo: Bettymaya Foott.


Kerry-Ann Lecky Hepburn, Canada

Kerry-Ann’s interest in astronomy started at a young age. After getting her first telescope at the age of 11 and then her first SLR film camera as a teenager, she began to think of the possibilities of astrophotography. As a Space and Communications Science undergraduate student at York University in Toronto, she worked as a volunteer at the observatory where she aided in tours, observing sessions, and research. Over the course of more than 15 years, she dabbled in astrophotography but it wasn’t until the beginning of 2007 that she came back to the hobby in full force and started to make big strides. She worked hard on her post-processing skills while dealing with light pollution and equipment shortfalls. As a result, her work has ended up winning awards and has been featured in science textbooks, astronomy-related calendars, magazines, and online publications such as Sky & Telescope, Sky News, and NASA APOD.  While enjoying this intensive hobby, Kerry-Ann lives in the Niagara region of Ontario Canada with her family and she works for The Weather Network (a Canadian National TV station) as a senior meteorologist.

Stars and Flowers. Photo: Kerry-Ann Lecky Hepburn.

Mike Shaw, Minnesota (U.S.)

Dr. Mike Shaw is an astrophotographer and the author of “Creative Nightscapes and Time-Lapses,” (2018) and “The Complete Guide to Landscape Astrophotography,” (2017). In addition to his own photography workshops, he creates interactive online lessons for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, he teaches in the online Bryan Peterson School of Photography, offers classes at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and leads an audio Nightscapes Star Party Live weekly on along with the Nightscapes Club. He licenses his work through Science Photo Library in London. He is a Delegate to the International Dark-Sky Association and has just begun a new Resident Artist Research Project at the Bell Museum in Minneapolis that explores novel Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) experiences for making the night sky and the effects of light pollution more accessible to the general public.

Photo: Mike Shaw.


Christy Turner, Canada

Christy Turner is a Brand Ambassador for Tamron Canada, and a freelance photographer/writer who specializes in astrophotography, lifestyle portraits and travel/landscape images. Having traveled extensively through more than 70 countries, her work has been published nationally and internationally. Mostly self-taught, but currently working on a Visual Design Certificate from the University of Calgary, Christy’s work is about conveying a sense of experience through visual storytelling. She currently appears in a Canadian Documentary entitled “Chasing Steve,” and her photos have been seen on CNN, Journal of Geophysical Research Letters, Space Physics, PhotoNews Magazine, Huffington Post, The Weather Network, and more. She has been shortlisted twice for the Wine Photographer of the Year in the Pink Lady Food Photography Competition in 2019/2020 and Cover Winner for Our Canada Magazine’s 2016 winter edition. In addition, she has been commissioned internationally for ongoing photographic contributions towards space weather research with Dr. Stephen Mende at UC Berkeley, Chateau Pontet Canet in Bordeaux, France, and J.Tol in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Turner currently works and resides in Calgary, AB, Canada.

Dinosaur Park at Night. Photo: Christy Turner


IDA is excited to welcome this panel of judges to support our ‘Capture the Dark’ Photography Contest. Contest runs until May 25, 2020 and prizes include being featured on IDA social media and included in our 2021 annual calendar. There are five contest categories to enter. Learn more and enter the contest at