How did I manage to develop this new style and continually improve my photography skills in total darkness while also being able to compose a well-balanced landscape shot according to the rules of photography? (which, by the way, is incredibly hard to do). But I need these kinds of extremely challenging tasks to keep my hyperactive creative brain occupied, whether it’s in the desert with the next town 490 km away by car or here in the Netherlands.

Close your eyes. Put your hands over your eyes. See how pitch black dark your sight becomes? That’s how dark the Outback nights are in the Centralian Desert near Alice Springs. The lack of humidity makes it one of the most ideal places on earth to gaze at the stars, according to scientists and professional stargazers. And I was lucky enough to live there for 12 years.


When I migrated to Australia on the 29th of April 2006 for love (now my ex), I had to acclimatize to a completely alien environment compared to where I used to live: the wet, dark, cold Netherlands in the Northern Hemisphere. Everything was literally the other way around: summer is winter and winter is summer (to Holland), day is night, night time is daytime in the NL, wet climate vs dry climate, cold climate in NL vs HOT Climate in the Outback.

The sun rises in the East like in the Netherlands but moves VIA NORTH to WEST. How awkward is that? I studied that phenomena. The moon does the same, planets move from East to North to West in Australia, while in Holland, they move via the South.

I discovered that the MOON is “upside down” (to be precise, turned at 5 pm – 17.00 o’clock, looking at it from the Northern Hemisphere viewpoint). I couldn’t find the grown-up “face in the moon”, I saw a “baby face” in the moon. That’s because I am physically positioned SOUTH of the equator instead of NORTH. I had to learn to think “the other way around”.

After about 3 years of driving on the left side, speaking Australian English, and living in this new environment, my brain had settled there and was thinking the Australian way, nature-wise. When I visited the Netherlands after 3 years, the moon suddenly appeared to be “upside down” to me. I had mentally and physically adapted and acclimatized to my new living habitat. Cool.

Mentally, the hardest thing to do was to adapt my “biological clock” to living without Daylight Savings Time (Summer-winter time) twice a year. It took me approximately 3 years to grasp that concept. The Northern Territory is the only “state” (It is not a state, it is a territory, with a different constitution) and applies no Daylight Savings Time because, for this reason: +/- 30.5% of all Indigenous folks in Australia live in the NT (Northern Territory), and changing clock times twice a year only upsets their natural balance and biological clocks.

So, I familiarized myself with my new living habitat and environment.

I visited every NP (National Park) in the area. I viewed these perfect spots online using Google Earth. I took note of the GPS Coordinates so I could find the exact spot again in total darkness. Very important. I revisited these potential photograph spots to mentally capture the perfect picture for me.


But first, every photograph I take starts with a finished concept in my mind. That’s conceptual thinking, which comes naturally to neurodivergent people like me. The final image/picture/drawing just appears in front of my eyes out of the blue. I could be literally anywhere, like on the toilet, doing the dishes, driving my car, anywhere. This happens only when I see something that piques my interest at that particular moment or earlier that day or weeks back, for example. It can be anything: a building here in Deurne, The Netherlands, or out bush, a specific spot that wowed me so much I had to capture it at night.

Then, when lying in bed or relaxing or meditating, I work out the final image, the concept, into details. I brainstorm the materials needed, the time of executing the shot, weather conditions, composition, which tripod to use, which lens to use, what lighting settings to use. Which light source to use (a torch with warm white light, approximately 5400K daylight in Australia, in the Netherlands it’s 5600 Kelvin because the clouds filter out the red in the white sunlight’s color spectrum and leave green and blue light. Therefore, the Kelvin temperature needs to be set 200 Kelvin warmer to achieve the same color white light as in the Outback in Australia where the sun rays are UV 18 in summer and UV 10 in winter and contain, due to the lack of humidity and clouds, the full 16.7 million colors of the visible color spectrum white light contains. (I learned all these color theories at university for 4 years).

Combined with years of studying composition and 4 years of art history and a naturally conceptual creative right-brained functioning brain, composition comes pretty naturally to me. So all I had to do was be able to blindly navigate my cameras and operate them in the dark. Which became second nature too.


In the meanwhile of adapting to my new habitat (so Darwin’s Theory is proven for me: Human and natural adaptability is real. Survival of the fittest is real. I could run 5 km uphill at 35°C in the end), I taught myself to not be afraid of silence and my own thoughts and of the darkness as I had never seen it before in my life growing up in the Netherlands. Combined with problem-solving skills I naturally have, this enabled me to develop a lighting technique (not captured on camera before taking the final image) to “see” in the dark, compose my perfectly composed images, and focus on the right focal point in the far distance. Just before infinity. That is the only lens setting I am willing to share. It will be the title of my first book.

Before that, I intensely taught myself the fine art of digital photography and how to use a digital SLR instead of shooting with film, as I was used to doing from 2006-2010. Because of the type of brain I have, I am very self-taught and able to teach myself new techniques to achieve my goals. In these years, I studied the phases of the moon with an app, each and every month. I studied the whereabouts of the moon in the sky during winter and summer, observing the positioning of the Milky Way and the Southern Cross constellation that points to perfect south in the sky, which other night photographers make use of to create star trails. I personally am not a huge fan of star trails.

I studied the night sky and the positioning of the moon, planets, and stars (and unfortunately, satellites).

I had a sunrise and sunset app. I had a moonrise and moonset app. I studied when civil sunset and nautical sunset took place every month and made note of the times.

Only then, between nocturnal sunset (when the sun is truly gone and pitch black darkness appears) and moonrise, would I go out bush to take the photograph.


And now, like a lost soul in the Netherlands after 5 years, I am finally capable of capturing the world around me at nighttime – in the dark. As things are too exciting for me during the daytime. There’s too much stimuli for my hyperactive brain. Unfortunately, it looks nothing like the Outback. There are hardly any open skies to see the stars. I discovered that Winter Time is the time to capture stars when temperatures are close to zero degrees. The night skies are open and starry. But the damn moon ruins it all. There’s massive light pollution as well. But because someone dared to say to me that it is impossible to capture the Dutch starry night sky, not dark enough anywhere, I took on this challenge. And see what I showed that person to prove him wrong: 1-0 for Joycie. I think he must have forgotten the 8 years of intense training I gave myself to achieve the level of night photography skills and award-winning shots. Teeheehee.


Totally out of the blue for me, (I had forgotten I had entered the National Geographic Netherlands photo competition in 2020-2021) I saw my photographs of Johnny, the indigenous elder, and us camping out bush being printed and published in the Nat Geo Calendar for 2022. BOOM! That was a pretty sweet surprise. To be honest.

I have only recently woken up from a mentally chemically sedated state and adapted to my new habitat here. I have only just started photographing stars in the Netherlands. I had to adjust all my settings. According to my settings, there is approximately 6x – 8x more light pollution here than in the Outback where I learned this skill. So, practice makes perfect, as the old Australian saying goes…