Ross native’s photo featured in stamp collection
Matt Dieterich wasn’t thinking U.S. Postal Stamp last summer when he captured a series of stunning nighttime images of stars around Mt. Rainier.
Dieterich, 24, who was born and raised in Ross and works as a geologist in Morgantown, W.Va., said he wanted only to grab what he thought was a beautiful shot.
The Postal Service thought so, too, and is featuring Dieterich’s image as part of a 16-stamp sheet commemorating the National Park Service centennial this year. The stamps will be released June 2 in New York City during the World Stamp Show, an exhibition that occurs in the United States once every 10 years.
“I didn’t think much of it, not until now after everything that happened,” Dieterich said Friday. “I just thought it was going to be a great way to show people the night skies. It’s still kind of shocking.”
Dieterich shot 200 eight-second photographs, showing stars in different positions as the Earth was rotating. He photoshopped them into one image that shows “star trails” in a circular pattern around 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier in Washington state with pink and purple shades of northern lights in the background.
Dieterich was working as a National Park Service intern after finishing graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh. His job was to lead night tours for the park’s astronomy program.
The amateur astronomer said he was helping a man shoot a photograph when he noticed the northern lights, also known as aurora borealis. After the tour ended, he drove to Reflection Lake at the foot of Mt. Rainier to photograph the aurora.
That was June. In August, Dieterich’s park service boss told him the postal service was looking for park images and suggested that he submit his shot.
“I just emailed them my gallery of Mt. Rainier photos,” he said. “They picked that one you see.”
The Postal Service receives about 40,000 suggestions for stamps each year, according to spokesman Mark Saunders. A committee reviews the suggestions. Only about 25 make the cut.
“The odds of having your work appear on a stamp are incredibly rare,” Saunders said. “When you look at this star trail photo it’s just unbelievable.”
He said the postal service will print 100 million copies of the park service stamp sheet, including 6.25 million copies of Dieterich’s photo.
Dieterich, a member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh, said he’s been interested in astronomy since childhood and began shooting nighttime images around age 14 through a telescope outside his parents’ home in Ross.
“The goal is just to educate people about the nighttime skies,” he said.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.