Jay Ouellet’s Moon photo has gone mega-viral

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Photo: by Shirley Nadeau

No bones about it... a chiropractor by day, Jay Ouellet practises his astronomical photography craft by night.

The photo of the conjuncture of the Moon with Venus and Mars over Quebec City featured by the QCT on the front page of the February 25, 2015, issue has gone mega-viral. The photo, taken by Jay Ouellet, was the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) on the U.S. government's National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) site, with over one million visits alone on February 28, the first day it was posted.   

Ouellet said, "This was my sixth photo published on the APOD-NASA website. Hundreds of millions have seen it by now. When I said ‘one million per day,' that was for the U.S. only, and only on the first day." 

Ouellet has had many of his works featured in Astronomy magazine, including photos of solar and lunar eclipses on the cover of the November 2000 edition. His photo of "Ground Zero" in New York City appeared in the June 2009 National Geographic. One of his photos was exhibited at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. 

Ouellet's architectural photography book, Quebec by Night, was a best-seller in 2008. Published by Les Éditions de l'Homme, Quebec's largest publisher, the book was presented to visiting VIPs by Mayor Labeaume during Quebec City's 400th anniversary celebrations. Ouellet said, "It takes a lot of time and effort to produce something like that, but if it touches people's lives in a wonderful way, that in itself is the reward." 

Ouellet grew up in Quebec City and attended St. Lawrence High School (before it became a CÉGEP) and went on to study at McGill and Université Laval. After qualifying to become a chiropractor, he opened his office on Chemin Sainte-Foy in 1982. 

But it is his love of the heavens and of photography that really makes him tick, or ... click. "My father gave me a telescope when I was 10 years old," said Ouellet, "I bought my first camera when I was 13, with money I earned by cutting grass." In his teens, after seeing the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and visiting the Montreal Planetarium, he decided he wanted to photograph the stars and planets. He also took wedding photos, and developed the prints himself in a home darkroom. 

For his 40th birthday, Ouellet treated himself to a "really serious" telescope. His camera attaches to it with an adaptor and the telescope becomes a telephoto lens. Since the advent of digital photography, he likes to keep things simple, with a Canon camera and a telephoto lens. He is self-taught, learning from photography magazines.

Ouellet has been a guest photographer for the QCT for the past 10 or 12 years, although he submitted his first astronomy photo to the paper 20 years ago. "It was published by then editor Karen Macdonald," he said. "It was a snapshot of the Hale-Bopp comet in 1995. The comet appeared as a faint fuzzy blob among a few stars. It was no Pulitzer, yet I was very happy... my first published astrophoto! In truth, I believe Karen printed it as favour to my Mom, as they were good friends." 

Jay's mother, Jo (née Quart) Ouellet, for many years contributed Wonderword puzzles to the QCT and other newspapers. Syndicated in 1970, it is called "the world's greatest word search puzzle." After her untimely death in 1997, Jay's brother David, who had been co-authoring puzzles since the 1980s, continued the feature, which appears in some 225 newspapers around the world in several languages. Jay's brother Gary, who died in 2002, was a renowned magician, television producer, lawyer and government lobbyist. 

The Ouellet brothers' maternal grandparents were the Honourable Josie Dinan Quart, Senator, and Harry S. Quart of Quebec City. In 1937, Harry was part-owner of the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph in partnership with Gwyllym Dunn, J.S. O'Meara and the Price family.

Besides astrophotos, Jay Ouellet likes taking action shots at sports and entertainment events. He turns up regularly at Rouge et Or football games and the Festival d'Été concerts on the Plains of Abraham. He's had the chance to meet many stars (the human kind), and has even treated some of them for their aches and pains! His office wall is covered with autographed photos of entertainers such as magician David Copperfield, singers Bon Jovi and Phil Collins, and a number of groups like Kiss, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and the Backstreet Boys.  

His family background also includes his brother, Gary Ouellet, who after leaving the political scene in Canada followed his passion for all things "magical" - a passion he develop as a young lad. His first magic shows were in the basement of the William Street home. He became a renown producer of magic shows in the USA. Josie (known as Tootsie) could be proud of her accomplished sons!
Gary died in 2002.