I'm Peter Zelinka, an avid photographer, adventurer, and astrophotographer.  My photography journey began in 2014 when I purchased my first DSLR camera.  Within 24 hours I had taken over 1,000 photos (most of them blurry) in the backyard with a macro lens.  This excitement and passion for photography continued for 6 years and has completely changed my life.

Winds of Change:

In December 2014 I graduated from Youngstown State University, and within a month I was working full-time at the local newspaper.  Most of my day was spent sitting alone in a gray, windowless server room, waiting for employees to call up with computer problems.  By May 2016 I knew I had to make a radical change.  On June 24th, 2016 I loaded up a 2004 Chevy Classic with my backpacking gear and camera equipment and headed West.  I didn't know where I would go, or when I'd return. 

I spent the next 4 months living out of my car, visiting the most stunning landscapes from Colorado to Washington and down to California.  Life wasn't easy, especially sleeping in the front seat of my car for so many nights, but it was an incredible experience.  This adventure allowed me to capture a nice portfolio of landscape and wildlife images, and meet some interesting people along the way.  You can read about my journey on my blog. 

By November I was running out of money, and the long, cold nights made everything more difficult.  I returned to Ohio and began working at a local camera shop - YM Camera.  While I wasn't exactly a good salesman, I did learn a lot about cameras, lenses, and more.  

To make a long story short, I enjoyed a fun lifestyle from 2017 - 2020.  I would work throughout the winter, saving up as much money as possible, then in April/May I would start another 4-6 month photography roadtrip.  This was much easier now that I had a Honda CR-V as well, no more sleeping in the front seat!
 

Astrophotography:

One of the perks of being a homeless wanderer is that you can find dark skies very easily and stay as long as you want!  As I began to get more interested in the night sky, I found myself spending much more time in the desert.  The blistering heat and endless sun were a problem, but the local libraries often provided relief (and an opportunity to edit my photos).  

Each night I'd head out into the desert to see what I could capture with my DSLR and star tracker.  This combo was perfect for wide-angle Milky Way photos!  This eventually led to my obsession with deep space astrophotography.  I wasn't getting the best images, but it was fun to see what was possible with a modest setup.

In 2018 I created the first editions of my astrophotography courses, which were designed for the average person with minimal gear.  These were a big hit!  Over the years I've continued to refine the courses with new techniques, better software and hardware, and more streamlined workflows.  I'm happy to report that quite a few of my students have been featured on APOD!  

 

Settling Down:

On January 3rd, 2020 I embarked on my final roadtrip.  I was moving to Kanab Utah, one of the best spots for astrophotography in the country.  After arriving in town, my first destination was the local rental agency.  (Of course I hadn't planned ahead, I was used to improvising after 4 years on the road.)  To my surprise, only 2 houses were available to rent and neither was great.  "I guess this will have to do..." 

In hindsight, it's good I moved when I did.  By March 2020 the world was going crazy, and a small desert community was the ideal spot to get away from everything.  This turn of events killed my business plans though, no more astrophotography workshops for the foreseeable future.

By the summer of 2021 I was reaching my breaking point in the desert.  The house had no AC and minimal ventilation, the average daily temperature was 90-100F, and the astro opportunities were not as frequent as I expected.  (There's a lot of strong wind gusts throughout the night in Kanab)

I needed a change of pace, and the Pacific Northwest sounded like paradise!  In September 2021 I moved to Port Angeles, Washington.  We don't exactly get many clear nights up in the PNW, but it is a nice change from the desert.  Looking ahead to 2024, I don't know where I'll end up next, but it should be a fun adventure either way!

Thank you for stopping by and getting to know a bit about me. I hope my work resonates with you, and I look forward to sharing more adventures, stories, and captivating images in the future. Stay inspired, stay curious, and let's embark on this creative journey together!

To see even more photos head over to Instagram and YouTube