Photo enthusiast chases down Comet NEOWISE


Heather Tianen has turned a hobby into a passion for photography

At first, her hobby took her to the sideline of a football game.

Now, it has taken Heather Tianen out of this world.

Known around Union High School as the school’s unofficial, official sports photographer, Heather Tianen has been taking online courses, trying to improve her skills.

Heather Tianen just wanted to take good sports photos. Now, she has turned a photo hobby into a quest to take better photos in all walks of life. Photo courtesy Heather Tianen
Heather Tianen just wanted to take good sports photos. Now, she has turned a photo hobby into a quest to take better photos in all walks of life. Photo courtesy Heather Tianen

Her talent was on display Tuesday night when she captured Comet NEOWISE along with the famous Vista House in Corbett, Ore., in the Columbia River Gorge.

“Photo rush!” she described it.

“I saw it. Oh, this is the one.”

Heather Tianen, who turned her photography hobby into a passion, took this shot of Comet NEOWISE on Tuesday at Vista House in Corbett, Ore., the first night she had ever seen a comet. Photo by Heather Tianen
Heather Tianen, who turned her photography hobby into a passion, took this shot of Comet NEOWISE on Tuesday at Vista House in Corbett, Ore., the first night she had ever seen a comet. Photo by Heather Tianen

It has been a wild July for Tianen. She took a vacation to national parks Yellowstone and Grand Teton. She has shared a few of her photos on her facebook page, including a shot she took of the Grand Prismatic Spring.

“It was so amazing,” she said of the largest hot spring in the United States. “I knew that is what I wanted to go see.”

Heather Tianen said she just had to see the Grand Prismatic Spring in person. Then she took this picture. Photo by Heather Tianen
Heather Tianen said she just had to see the Grand Prismatic Spring in person. Then she took this picture. Photo by Heather Tianen
Heather Tianen has only had a chance to look at a few of her photographs from her recent trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Photo by Heather Tianen
Heather Tianen has only had a chance to look at a few of her photographs from her recent trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Photo by Heather Tianen

Four days at Yellowstone, and a couple days at Grand Teton.

“I really wish we had more time there. The mountains are so spectacular,” Tianen said. “I have so many photos. I haven’t even looked at (most of) them. Non-stop go, and taking photos, then we came home and went back to work.”

Heather Tianen said she wished she had more time in Grand Teton National Park. Tianen has turned a hobby into something much bigger, with sports photography and now landscapes and more. Photo by Heather Tianen
Heather Tianen said she wished she had more time in Grand Teton National Park. Tianen has turned a hobby into something much bigger, with sports photography and now landscapes and more. Photo by Heather Tianen

A couple days later, she went about chasing a comet. Her son, Ethan, drove her to Vista House on Tuesday. As soon as she got her perfect shot, she wanted a different angle. It was around midnight.

“Take me to Battle Ground,” she told her son.

“No Mom. You said I only had to take you to Vista House,” was the reply.

Heather Tianen and those just like her, photography and/or astronomy buffs, have a few more nights to get a view of NEOWISE. Experts say an hour or so after sunset is a good time to start looking into the Northwestern sky, low on the horizon.

While it can be spotted from Vancouver, it is recommended to get away from city lights.

The Comet NEOWISE, taken from the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint in Corbett. Photo by Heather Tianen
The Comet NEOWISE, taken from the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint in Corbett. Photo by Heather Tianen

Tianen will keep looking up until she can look at sports through her camera lens again. She is hoping for a football season. That is how she got her start, after all. Interested in photography, but never serious about it, she was in awe of great sports photos.

“So I studied, got better, got a different camera, and got a sports lens,” Tianen said. “Each year, I feel like I’ve gotten a little better.”

Heather Tianen took the close-up shot of NEOWISE, a comet recently discovered. Once it goes away from Earth, NEOWISE is not expected to return for thousands of years. Photo by Heather Tianen
Heather Tianen took the close-up shot of NEOWISE, a comet recently discovered. Once it goes away from Earth, NEOWISE is not expected to return for thousands of years. Photo by Heather Tianen

She became such a constant at her son’s games. Plus, she was giving away her photos of other athletes.

“I just wanted the kids to have cool memories,” she said. “I love it. It’s a hobby for me. I get off work, and I get to go have fun. It’s fun for me.”

That fun led her to being on the sideline in the fall of 2018 when the Union Titans won the Class 4A state football championship.

Heather Tianen returned to Vista House on Wednesday to capture this shot of the comet. Photo by Heather Tianen
Heather Tianen returned to Vista House on Wednesday to capture this shot of the comet. Photo by Heather Tianen

From sports, to mountains, to the stars, her focus changes, yet stays the same: She just wants to keep improving.

Which is why she is proud of her NEOWISE photo with the Vista House. She said it was about a 15-second exposure.

“You’ve got to know what you’re doing to get it the way you want it to be,” Tianen said.

About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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