A Family Portrait of a Lifetime

An evening of stargazing has left a Morpeth family with a photo which is simply out of this world.

Photo: Copyright Wil Cheung

16 March 2022 | Jessica Stewart  | My Modern Met

A lucky family got the portrait of a lifetime when a shooting star appeared just as photographer Wil Cheung was snapping their photo.

The result is a unique group portrait of the smiling family in the UK’s Northumberland National Park. For Cheung, who was leading a group of stargazers through the park, it was a wonderful way to cap off the evening.

He’d already taken portraits of the other 25 guests when the Swan family stepped up for their turn.

Steve Swan and Louise Redpath with their children Harry and Rose at The Twice Brewed Stargazing event.
Picture: Wil Cheung

As Cheung needed to take a long exposure to get both the family and the night sky, he asked them to hold still for 3 seconds. Then, something magical occurred.

“When I clicked, I had to light them up briefly with a small torch, it was that moment I heard a gasp from everyone and I looked up and saw with my own eyes a bright shooting star streak across,” the photographer tells My Modern Met. “I then looked down at my camera and to my delight, the shooting star was captured!”

Cheung was impressed that the Swans remained so calm and held still even after all of the commotion. After the photo was finished and he told them what had happened, they were delighted. “It was great to see them so happy and excited from what had happened.”

Once Cheung explained to the group that typically he only sees one or two meteors an hour, the rarity of the situation really sunk in.

The evening was made all the more special because the aurora was also visible. It’s something that only happens from September to March and only when both the aurora level is high and the skies are clear.

Overall, it was a one-in-a-million event for Cheung as a photographer and certainly provided the memory of a lifetime for the lucky family.

Shooting star captured for one in a million Northumberland family portrait

An evening of stargazing has left a Morpeth family with a photo which is simply out of this world.

07 March 2022 | Ian Smith | Northumberland Gazette

Steve Swan, his partner Louise Redpath and their children Harry, 13, and Rose, 11, were soaking up the stargazing event at The Twice Brewed Inn, near Hadrian’s Wall, on Saturday night, and jumped at the chance to get a group shot in front of the amazing aurora display they’d been enjoying.

Little did they know they’d be going home with a once-in-a-lifetime photo, taken by The Twice Brewed’s resident stargazer, Wil Cheung and courtesy of the stunning shooting star which took it upon itself to do a spot of photo bombing.

Steve said: “We’d already had a fantastic night, stargazing to the south of the pub and then Wil invited us all to go out to the north side as the aurora was looking so amazing.

“We couldn’t believe it when we saw the photo – ironically, we were the only ones in the group who didn’t get to see the shooting star when it happened – but we have a pretty special photo which captured the moment forever.”

Wil, who heads up the busy stargazing programme at the popular pub and restaurant, which is situated in the heart of the Northumberland Dark Skies Park, said: “I still can’t quite believe the photo caught it so perfectly.

“Getting the aurora in the background; and such a beautiful shooting star travelling across the sky just at the moment the family were posing for a photo – it’s amazing. I know I’ll never take another shot like that again. It’s a real one in a million stuff.”

The photo is already one of the most liked photos on his Facebook photography page, notching up thousands of thumbs ups within a couple of hours of it being posted.

The aurora at The Twice Brewed stargazing event. Picture: Wil Cheung

Steve, whose mum booked the stargazing session for the family as a Christmas present, said they’ll be getting the photo printed, framed and on the wall this week.

“Wil sent us a high resolution picture straight away and will be on the wall soon – it’s a really special family memory to have… and we’ll certainly be going back to do more stargazing. We all had a fantastic time.”

Louise is originally from Warkworth.


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