PHOTOGRAPHER Matt Hale loves the night skies we enjoy in the North-East – and more particularly the heavenly host of stars and planets the black backdrop reveals.

"The dark skies we have here are up there with some of the best in the world," he says.

"Northumberland is littered with icons that are recognisable even by silhouette which give a fantastic point of interest to my photographs. It's great to get shots of the night sky, but when people can relate to where it was taken it can really draw them in."

He's been asked so many times how he gets all the sparkly bits on the photo. "To which I can only reply with a smile and say 'they're the stars'! So many people don't realise what we have on our doorstep. I've been asked if it's glitter, splatted on with a paintbrush, or if I've used Photoshop. It's really stunning when you get right away from any light pollution, and for me, that's only 20 minutes or so. "

But Matt’s path to photography was not a straight one. After studying interior design at university, he realised that an office job didn’t suit his adventurous personality. His gap year soon became a three-year odyssey across the globe. During this time he worked as a ski instructor in New Zealand, Canada and the United States. “Travelling around the world and living in the mountains was probably when I knew that I'd love to become a photographer,” he says. “The scenery I got to see every day was stunning and I wanted to capture it to share with friends and family. Watching numerous glowing sunsets over different terrains was something I didn’t want to forget and I guess is why it’s one of my favourite things to photograph today.”

A serious accident in 2009 forced Matt to move back to the UK, but there was a silver lining. “I had a lot of time on my hands recovering and decided to get out and photograph the region,” he says. "The North-East landscape is stunning and littered with iconic structures that can create a focus for an image. I'm always drawn to St Mary's Lighthouse, but that's probably because it's on my doorstep. Further afield, I love Sycamore Gap and any of the Northumberland Castles.” After selling his work at Tynemouth Market, Matt opened his gallery, Time Freezer, at the Royal Quays in 2012, relocating last summer to Unit 13 of Stack, the creative social hub built of shipping containers, on Pilgrim Street, Newcastle.

Although Matt has six years of experience photographing family portraits, newborns and weddings, his real passion lies with landscape photography. "I just love being outside and not knowing what's going to happen, and the sense of satisfaction you get from capturing something that nobody else has witnessed, or that you’ve been trying to capture for weeks, months, or possibly years”. It’s these images that make up his collection ‘Time Freezer’, as he captures “a moment in time, frozen in a picture forever more that can never be repeated”.

"Sunrise is also a lovely time of day," he says. "The colour that the sky produces at this time, married with the fact that there is generally nobody else around, makes the world appear a completely different place to what it is later in the day.”

Time Freezer Gallery

No 13 The Stack, New Bridge Street West, Newcastle NE1 6AP

T: 0191-257-4829



The Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks together with Howardian Hills and Nidderdale Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are hosting the region’s fourth Dark Skies Festival, from February 15 until March 3.

It’s all about discovering, learning and enjoying the dark and the stars you can see as a result. This could mean getting out for an activity such as cycling, walking, running or caving at night, attending a stargazing party, or taking part in a daytime event, learning more about star constellations or making a rocket. There are events for families, first-time stargazers and those wishing to expand their knowledge or astrophotography skills further.

Programme information and booking details are on the Dark Skies website. Some events are free while others will have a small charge attached.