Penn College graduate embarks on career as a space photographer | Pennsylvania College of Technology

Williamsport, PA – Christopher J. Herzog began his career as a photographer at Penn College when he took a digital photography course that sparked a passion he never knew he had. Now that passion has taken him to great heights – literally!

Herzog set his sights on the most advanced space telescope in history, an observatory that aims to identify the first stars and galaxies in the universe, according to a press release from Penn College.

Herzog is currently a photographer for Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and defense technology company. For Herzog, the work represents his beginnings at Penn College.

“I’m grateful for this course because without it I would never have discovered my passion,” said Herzog, who graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Information Technology, majoring in networking. “Without this class, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

It sits at a designated historic aerospace site: Northrop Grumman Space Park in Redondo Beach, California. According to the statement, work on the 110-acre complex produced vital contributions to space exploration, from the descent engine to the Apollo lunar excursion module that brought US astronauts down to the moon’s surface to sets. of instruments on Viking landers that performed biological experiments on Mars.

Space Park continues to specialize in innovative and influential aerospace designs, spread over 300,000 square feet – the equivalent of more than five football fields – of high-rise integration and test areas and 100,000 square feet of clean room space, the press release reports.

“It’s exciting to be able to witness all of the great things happening here,” said Herzog. “The first time I walked into the high rise white room, I literally pinched myself. It’s surreal. Every time, it’s the same feeling.

A tour of the huge facility forces Herzog to properly adjust to the task. Protective clothing prevents him from contaminating the environment of his photographic subjects, such as the James Webb Space Telescope.

Northrop Grumman is one of the two main manufacturers of the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. A partnership between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, the Webb Telescope is optimized for infrared wavelengths and tasked with exploring every phase of cosmic history, the statement said.

Herzog’s photos documented the space observatory before it was transported by ship earlier this fall to its launch site in French Guiana, located on the northeast coast of South America. About a month after its launch in December, the Webb telescope is expected to reach its orbital position – 940,000 miles from Earth, the statement said.

“Having the opportunity to photograph one of humanity’s most monumental accomplishments – the culmination of our best technology – was simply inspiring. It was metamorphic, ”Herzog described.

Other photo missions have included elements of high-tech aviation achievements, such as the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, an early warning and control aircraft with in-flight refueling capability, and the F / A -18E / F Super Hornet Block II, a multirole attack fighter.

“Witnessing how all of the pieces come together to create a sophisticated machine is amazing,” Herzog said. “I have nothing but respect for all of our scientists, engineers and employees.”

Growing up, Herzog was an aspiring engineer. He liked to take things apart and try – often unsuccessfully, he admits – to put them back together. In high school, he turned to computers while volunteering for an organization that rebuilt old PCs for people. This led to an associate’s degree in networking from Harrisburg Area Community College.

The allure of a bachelor’s degree in computer science brought him to Penn College.

“The professors offered a lot of valuable professional experience and they sincerely wanted to be involved in the success of their students,” Herzog recalled. “Stephen Cheskiewicz was a great teacher. He was able to give me the confidence to pursue what I wanted and to be aware of the risks. “

The associate professor of computer information technology returned the compliment.

“I have been teaching for almost 20 years and Chris has stood out as one of the most remarkable students I have had in class,” said Cheskiewicz. “He had a level of skill and professionalism that I rarely see, with attention to detail that has helped him produce some of the best work I have ever received from a student in a 400 level course.”

Potential employers were also impressed. A major defense contractor recruited Herzog in his final year of study and hired him as a systems administrator in the King of Prussia to design and develop data centers. In his spare time, Herzog focused on his inspired Penn College interest: photography.

The college requires all students seeking a bachelor’s degree to take an elective course in art. Herzog chose digital photography on his father’s recommendation, the statement said.

“It was a crazy experience to learn something completely new from a completely different approach to IT,” Herzog said. “My teacher, Keith Vanderlin (assistant professor of graphic design), was strict and honest, and I enjoyed that. Most of my photos were bad. I have learned that failure is part of the path to success. I could have taken my failures personally and given up, but I wanted to prove to myself and everyone that I could do it.

Stretching his “creative mind muscle” in this class led Herzog to realize that photography was his true calling.

“It’s capturing a moment and / or creating a moment. You can always learn something new, and there is no end. You can create your own style. You can break the rules without any repercussions. There is a lot to like, ”he explained.

Herzog’s experience with the course illustrates the importance of a general education to complement the strong technical core that students receive at Penn College, according to Bradley M. Webb, dean of engineering technology.

“Mathematics, English and communication lessons strengthen the pedagogical bases of the pupils. Science, history and art classes broaden their perspective, ”he said. Overall, the courses add tremendous value to the specialized hands-on experiences that students receive in their major. And sometimes, like in Christopher’s case, they open future doors you never knew existed. “

The door didn’t open right away for Herzog. IT was his invested career path, and he loved people and his role as a defense contractor. But alongside, he begins to develop a whole collection of photographs, with sections devoted to portraits, landscapes, fashion and architecture.

“I made a medley of everything. Nothing was out of place, ”he said.

A friendship with one of his employer’s photographers introduced him to the impressive opportunities in defense / industrial photography and prompted him to seek a position in the Northrop Grumman photo team. Herzog landed the job in July.

“I work with a team of great people. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and they are all extremely knowledgeable, ”said Herzog. “They taught me a lot and I hope to continue to learn from them.”

Northrop Grumman’s portraits, corporate events, manufacturing processes and the latest examples of aerospace ingenuity fill “the sea of ​​endless photographic opportunities,” Herzog said. His duties encompass the entire photographic workflow – shooting, editing, delivery and archiving. The use of her photos ranges from marketing initiatives to reference materials.

“I am proud of myself for taking the risk of pursuing my passion – something in which I have no in-depth formal education,” Herzog said. “I am a risk averse person, and that alone has been my biggest challenge and my greatest pride. “

A feat that does not surprise his former computer science teacher.

“I had told Chris to find a way to combine his passion for photography with his IT skills,” said Cheskiewicz. “Penn College gave him a forum to develop his incredible technological skills, mentored him to pursue his passion for photography, and helped open the doors that took him to the stars. “

And a vision of history in the making.

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Stewart C. Hartline